That Awkward Privilege: Invisible Irony — The Mixed Power Status of Black Men

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Ever wanted to demonstrate the paradox of Black Male [Mixed] Privilege by systematically illustrating how male privilege is fully analogous to White privilege? Perhaps this post will be helpful.

This essay is based on a long comment I wrote almost 2 years ago on a post in “A Belle in Brooklyn” about the sexual politics between Black men & women. I have edited it slightly, but it is essentially the same. Belle’s post and especially the 125 comments by both men & women are quite good. You can see it all here:

From the Comments: He Said/ She Said

Here goes:

Okay, some real talk about relationship markets.

I’m going in. This is going to be an aggressive comment. Most of the men, and some of the women [at Belle's blog] are not going to like it.

 

WHITE PRIVILEGE

This part will be easy, obvious, and seemingly pointless, but stay with me.

To avoid unnecessary clutter, I’m going to ignore other races, and just talk about White & Black.

  1. In America, and perhaps all of the world, ALL White individuals are privileged with respect to otherwise similar Black individuals, essentially everywhere and at all times. You can come up with exotic exceptions, but nothing serious to challenge this paradigm. Perhaps some day this will dissolve, as I would wish, but none of us will see that in our lifetimes.
  2. Those with the privilege benefit from it, rarely acknowledge it, never see all of it, usually believe they deserve it, and are not motivated to mitigate it. Endless rationalization is employed (sometimes self-righteously) by most of the privileged to deny or justify this privilege. Even theology is put to this task.
  3. This situation is wholly a product of history, with no basis in essential differences between the two groups. The unequal relationship is maintained by control of the institutions and culture by the dominating group, which feels entitled to its power.
  4. In addition, the dominating group has the natural advantage of numbers. There are MORE of them, enhancing the alliance opportunities of each individual.

 

INTERLUDE

Pay attention to the underlined bold words in the WHITE PRIVILEGE section above and the MALE PRIVILEGE section below, they highlight the differences between the two sections. The words that are not underlined and not bold (most words) are the same in both sections. Notice that paragraph #2 is exactly the same in both sections.

 

MALE PRIVILEGE

This part will be more uncomfortable and controversial, but still familiar.

To avoid unnecessary clutter, I’m going to ignore other genders, and just talk about Female & Male.

  1. In America, and perhaps all of the world, ALL Male individuals are privileged with respect to otherwise similar Female individuals, essentially everywhere and at all times. You can come up with some exceptions, but for the most part there is not much to challenge this paradigm. I want symmetry to prevail eventually, but I doubt it ever quite will.
  2. Those with the privilege benefit from it, rarely acknowledge it, never see all of it, usually believe they deserve it, and are not motivated to mitigate it. Endless rationalization is employed (sometimes self-righteously) by most of the privileged to deny or justify this privilege. Even theology is put to this task.
  3. This situation is mostly a product of history, with some basis in essential differences between the two groups due to biology and psychobiology. The unequal relationship is maintained by control of the institutions and culture by the dominating group, which feels entitled to its power, aided a little by greater physical strength and less capacity for empathy.
  4. In addition, the dominating group has the natural advantage of numbers. There are FEWER of them, enhancing the market value of each individual. This numerical disparity between the genders is much more enhanced amongst Blacks compared to Whites.

 

SYNTHESIS

Now I bring the fire.

Black men are in the complex position of being quite privileged in one sphere of human activity — romantic relationships — while being quite disempowered in all other spheres of human activity. As ever with any human being, privilege is hardly acknowledged, while disempowerment is appropriately and loudly resented. But even if we give fair weights to both conditions, any Black man can honestly point out that that bit of privilege is clearly outweighed by the burden of disempowerment.

True statement … but not a valid excuse.

Because the victims of that privilege are the most disadvantaged, burdened, and unfulfilled sub-group of all — Black women.

So … what’s a girl to do? Well a little of everything, including some of the suggestions upthread [in the comments of Belle's blog]. But one powerful option to obviate the Black man’s romantic market advantage has not been explored [in Belle's blog, obviously you all are aware]. Black women can enhance their value not only by trying to “unionize” (one way of looking at holding out for more reciprocity) or dropping out, but also by partially or mostly breaking out of the closed relationship market.

In other words, open up some consideration of non-Black men alongside the pool of Black men. I make no claim that non-Black men are better than Black men. They aren’t. Neither do I claim they are the same as Black men. Their issues are different. But by being open, even with reservations, to such men, Black women’s opportunities definitely increase. And besides, if enough of them do so, their market position relative to the Black men will improve [the same point made by R. R. Banks in his book].

White men have their own good reasons for considering this too. Their market is much more tight as far as available women. Those men that are marriage material and open to crossing over will find more quality available in the cross-market.

And men, don’t be coming at me with “White men taking OUR women!” I’m not having it. You can’t own what you don’t claim. If it’s supposed to be yours, put a ring on it.

 

A couple of other good references on Black Male Privilege:

Yes Virginia, There is Black Male Privilege, by L’Heureux Dumi Lewis

An Answer to Black Male Privilege, by Dr. Lester K. Spence