For a very long time I walked the earth as a black man without knowing that by virtue of having a penis, I was special. No, not in some sick and twisted Mandingo worship sort of way — please believe, the myth about black men is just that: a myth.
Of course this penile sense of entitlement never has put me on equal footing with white men. At the end of the day, I am still a black man living in a cruel cold world that’s not-so-friendly to folks like myself afflicted with melanin.
So for a long time I ran around with my unknown sense of entitlement. And, aside from the fact that I knew that I was special in the eyes of my mother, I figured that like her and all black women, we’re all in this struggle against white supremacy together. I mean, after all, there’s really no difference between being a black man and being a black woman other than having different sex organs, right?
As a down-ass brother for the cause ,yself, quite naturally I thought we were all in this fight for equality together. It wasn’t until several years ago when I became the father of a third daughter that I started to pay attention. Of course having a site such as this opens you up to countless stories of people of color in the struggle. As such, I began to see that patriarchy and male privilege is very real.
Since social status is conferred in many different ways — everything from race to geography to class — all people are both privileged and non-privileged in certain aspects of their life. Furthermore, since dynamics of social status are highly dependent on situation, a person can benefit from privilege in one situation while not benefiting from it in another. It is also possible to have a situation in which a person simultaneously is the beneficiary of privilege while also being the recipient of discrimination in an area which they do not benefit from privilege.
Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class. While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being read as male by society, benefits from male privilege. (source)
Plainly speaking, we live in a male dominated society, and even as a black man, I do benefit from said privilege. And of course who feels the weight of second class status as a result of said privilege are in fact women of color. It took me a while to acknowledge this reality, and prior to, sadly I was as clueless as this brother. But hey, what else can we expect from an older dude indoctrinated to believe that women are “less than” him?
I’m not trying to call out Tariq Nasheed for who he is or what he does. In truth, black male privilege as an issue to be acknowledged much like we do white privilege, goes well beyond one man. Nasheed, however, is just one example of how said privilege works against women. Why? Because as a self-appointed “mack” and master of “the game” Nasheed profits from the exploitation of women (listen to this). What’s sad is that he doesn’t even realize this as I’m sure he posits what he does as a service to men. The double standard as black male privilege would have it, would be a woman doing the very same thing as Nasheed and being viewed widely in the black community as a tramp. Why? Because patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism often intersect. As such, the framework for the marginalization through the lens of women of color being “less than” stays intact.
Case in point, have you noticed the new movement sp save black men and boys in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequemnt acquittal of George Zimmerman? Oh yeah, Ebony Magazine has even cashed in on said movement in the most egregiously capitalist manner. In September, they will showcase five different covers of the magazine, four of which depict very prominent black men with their sons. The idea here, is that just like regular folk, their sons too can become victims to racial profiling much like Trayvon Martin. I don’t want to get into talking about why that premise is bullshit — no seriously, it really is.
(Seriously, when will Dwayne Wade’s son have to stand on a street waiting for a bus; or maybe Spike Lee’s son have to contend with walking to a corner store to buy Skittles and Ice Tea ever to be exposed to unwarranted scrutiny from the police?). But, while we’re on this “save the black boys” kick, quite noticeable is the lack of any mention of young black girls and women being victims of violence. Which is bullshit when you consider that more times than not, black women fall victim to crimes at the hands of black men (Real talk, my wife got a call last night about the sister of a very close friend of the family being killed by her boyfriend). But that aside, when it comes to issues affecting women of color — you know, like justice — where are all the black men who claim to love our sisters as much as they do?
I don’t know if I can properly explain the concept of black male privilege any better than I have. However, thanks to the #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen hashtag trending on Twitter a conversation is sparked. How well the concept is communicated all depends on the messengers and naturally the individuals receiving the message. Personally, it took me a while to come around to it, but without an open mind I would not be where I am today in my growth on the subject. For the sake of my four daughters and my nieces, my hope is for more black men to acknowledge said privilege and work with our sisters to make things better. At the end of the day, there’s no progress unless we all benefit.
Checkout some of the tweets below: