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Editorial Staff

How Do Black Women Respond When Someone “Pulls Rank”?

iStock_000014196028XSmallThis post is a bit tricky because it deals with the issue of  intersectionality. I strongly suggest people read up on the term and who is impacted. I say this because intersectionality is something that smacks black women upside the head from many angles depending on who they are, and how many different levels of privilege work for or against them.


It also helps black women be wise when knowing when and how to pick their battles or allies. ESPECIALLY when confronted with a would-be ally or another individual who pulls rank.


What do I mean by “pull rank”? I mean that the person uses their position of privilege in a way that suggests:

– They are better than you

– They and their concerns are more important than you and your concerns

– You are obligated to follow them because of where they stand in a particular hierarchy

– You are to sacrifice your best interests and roll under the bus willingly


This thought came about thanks to the  recent discussion on Jason Collins. I do not know whether or not he personally intended to pull rank, but that’s pretty much what happened.

That’s why his ex-gf was thrown under the bus. That’s why so many openly gay women athletes were thrown under the bus. In the hierarchy, man trumps gay and it trumps woman. So people thinking GLBT rights is a completely united front where everyone’s best interest are given equal weight might want to keep that nugget at the back of their mind. This is often the case with movements that claim to be about everyone, but are really about who has the highest rank and how to expand their privileges moreso than everyone else’s.


Black women experience this from various movements and individuals thanks to intersectionality. It may be overt and direct, like a conversation with your boss. It could be subtle or indirect as well. In fact, many attempts to pull rank on black women are just that: Subtle and indirect.


Someone is always looking to tell black women how to think and feel about themselves, and if black women think and feel too much about themselves, here comes the rank-pull.


There are two situations where this happens.


The Sacrificial Lamb

There is a reason I do not like the “victim narrative” when it comes to certain ostracized and discriminated groups seeking rights (or just expanding what privileges they have that others don’t). It is a narrative that often requires sacrifice to get what is wanted. And what is often sacrificed is the image, happiness, and finances of black women.

Despite the fact that black women have marched, picketed, and paid dues on behalf of various groups, you will be hard pressed to find one where a black woman is the face of that group.

When you are giving so much to a cause that will not acknowledge you as an equal partner, you have been made the sacrificial lamb.

Or, if there is a situation where someone has a chance to garner positive attention for themselves or their cause and they can’t risk looking bad or getting hurt, they will stick the sacrificial lamb out front to take the hits. In Chess, the least important piece is the pawn. Yes, a pawn can win a Chess game, but not before so many of them have been sacrificed for victory.

A willing pawn is someone who accepts their lack of worth as it relates to someone who out-ranks them. These willing pawns offer themselves up as sacrifices so that the other person or group may benefit. And the hilarious part? The person benefitting a lot of the time won’t even acknowledge or thank the willing pawn.  Their privileged point of view tells them that it’s the natural course of action that the lesser lay down for their better.

Black women, so long as you have options and a functioning brain, it should be clear for you to see why you don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for anyone else. Get as far way from individuals and groups looking to use you rather than try and better you.

It’s not Easter and you aren’t Jesus: Let somebody else pay it all!

The Ego-Boost

There is a lot of push-back from different people regarding an increasing number of black women realizing their worth and getting their life: They are losing a means of inflating their sad little ego.

For the insecure nobodies of the world, black women have often served as a quick way of feeling good about themselves. You will often find people eager to discuss why black women are undesirable, uneducated, etc. because it gives them a chance to ignore how lacking they are as individuals. It doesn’t matter what the race or gender is: People are ALWAYS looking to throw salt in the game of people they feel better than (INTERSECTIONALITY IS A HELL OF A DRUG). Which is why you have to pay close attention to the individual, what their motives are, and whether their actions say that they are for you or against you.

Many people who get an ego-boost through holding you back will try and pull-rank to remind you and others that they have something over you. This ego-boost is about them and not you. Just the same, you have to be careful because some people are so insecure that a failure to gain the appropriate response or a response that crushes their limited ego will lead to them trying to hurt or undermine you in anyway that they can. Which is why you need to STOP worrying about people who aren’t for you and limit your contact with such persons. The less is better and no, trying to put out feelers and build bridges isn’t going to work. You’re wasting valuable time.

People who pull rank to boost their egos are not looking to be your friend and ally: They are looking to ASSERT THEIR DOMINANCE OVER YOU.

When it comes to these people, you have to look at the situation, who they are, how they impact your life and what your options are. And move forward with the amount of care relevant to the impact this person can have on you. Try and judge your response according to your best interest, make a mental note of the type of person you are dealing with, and then simply limit your interaction with that person as much as possible if not entirely. Because they aren’t going to change and their opinion of your relevance to their ego isn’t going to change either. So why should you care? Worry about yourself and your best interests and do what you can to protect yourself from any fallout.


Situations where rank is pulled on black women vary. What are some appropriate responses to dealing with people who “pull rank”? And bear in mind that there ARE situations where a black woman can’t just walk away…

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