BLINDSPOT: The Difficulty Of Recognizing Black Man Privilege Among Black Men

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priv·i·lege

/ˈpriv(ə)lij/

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noun

  1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

The ability to identify white privilege is a universal moment for black people. Speaking on the advantages of whiteness over the societal disadvantages of being black is causal in every woke convo circle, office water fountain hangout, and simple on-the-street universal black person head nod exchange. However, whenever the topic of Black male privilege over Black women brought to light, the community becomes divided into a verbal civil war.

Black men (myself included) have long been aware that their Blackness is a target in America. Random police harassment, mass incarceration, and various personal undealt issues are some of the small doses of trauma that has the average everyday black man walk the line of rage from feeling self-control and self-contained.

Racism systemically forces Black men to develop for their protection, an inner force field that also serves as a wall that blocks them from seeing how they also have benefited from the same oppressed system over the black woman.

America may be the home of various religions. Still, it’s historical DNA make-up is white Christianity, which promotes a patriarchal ideal that the male (primarily white) is head by right, the only qualification being his assigned birth gender. The male is to provide while the female must nurture. The Black man who within American society is at a constant fight against the negative stereotypes such as being an absent father, a criminal, and an all-around low-level human being (sub)consciously seeks the same respect and admiration of the white Christian male. Black men who overcome hardship and live the positive path unintentionally develop a sense of entitlement that their mere presence is of value simply because they exceeded passed society’s low expectancy bar of them. Like the white Christian male, we as Black men were conditioned to believe that since we carry the most significant burden that in return, we should receive the more substantial reward that the world has to offer. 

The same as white men, we as Black men, our sexual activity is treated often like an appetite. As young boys, we are frequently pushed prematurely into engagements with young girls and celebrated afterward as if it is a rite of passage into manhood.  As a former high school counselor, I witnessed a teenage couple who were caught alone in a classroom closet deal with two different aftermaths. The Black male student once an outcast was now praised and now adored by Black girls who once ignored him. The Black female student once-popular was now often publicly ridiculed by the Black males and treated as pariah amongst the Black girls. Neither the boy nor girl was ever seen speaking to each other again.

I admit that I did not always see my privilege as a Black man over a Black woman. Like most Black men, I associated privilege with whiteness because, since birth, I had to ignore the consistent forced American message that my Blackness was an evil. In various college conversations, I spoke genuinely that we, as Black men, carry a heavy burden that the Black women fail to recognize. And although there may have been substantial truth in that argument, what I lacked was empathy because of my resistance to listening was overshadowed by my desire to be heard. My evolution of thought only began to take place once I was able to draw parallels of the racism I always endured with the added sexism the Black women in my life faced. The same negative light that judged a Black woman from her shape in clothes as sexual was the same scope that deemed me as a threat whenever I wore a hoodie in public.

Because we lacked the opportunities of white men, we as Black men groomed from childhood with the best intentions from our surroundings and families that strength was the greatest weapon to fight against a cruel unequal world. Black fathers who lacked financial wealth could only take pride in passing down the moral codes they valued. Black mothers forever sacrificed their sense of self by putting their son’s needs before their own, creating an impossible standard for any black woman to duplicate. Each Black parent did their part to teach their sons a generational Black lesson: Survival. Still, a true testament of knowledge is one’s ability to unlearn what is no longer useful.

Black men often fail to understand that our trauma does nor never did exclude us from having blindspots of the Black woman’s struggle beyond racism. Black men hold on to the teachings of past loved ones to heart, ignoring their human flaws and prevent a chance for real growth. Because to acknowledge our Black man privilege amongst ourselves is not a threat of our value, but an additional strength of Black greatness as a collective with the Black woman.

j hall

@jhallradio