Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Black Men, You are Privileged." Really?

"What I did not yet know so intensely was the hatred of the white American for the black, a hatred so deep that I wonder if every white man in this country, when he plants a tree, doesn't see Negroes hanging from its branches."
-- Jean Genet
"For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed? "
--Bell Hooks

Gina over at
whataboutourdaughters, one of my favorite blogs, is facilitating a discussion about "Black male privilege." The daddy thinks the discussion is overdue. The discussion hinges around what is called a "Black male checklist," which includes a list of "privileges" that black males have over black women. Gina says that this checklist was created by Jewel Woods and she quotes him as saying that, in his experience, black males seem to have the most problem relating to the idea of male privilege. No kidding? Here's the list and the daddy's open letter to Jewel.

The Black Male Privileges Checklist
Leadership & Politics

1. I don't have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.
2. When I read African American History textbooks, I will learn mainly about black men.
3. When I learn about the Civil Rights Movement & the Black Power Movements, most of the leaders that I will learn about will be black men.
4. I can rely on the fact that in the near 100-year history of national civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, virtually all of the executive directors have been male.
5. I will be taken more seriously as a political leader than black women.
6. Despite the substantial role that black women played in the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, currently there is no black female that is considered a "race leader".
7. I can live my life without ever having read black feminist authors, or knowing about black women's history, or black women's issues.
8. I can be a part of a black liberation organization like the Black Panther Party where an "out" rapist Eldridge Cleaver can assume leadership position.
9. I will make more money than black women at equal levels of education and occupation.
10. Most of the national "opinion framers" in Black America including talk show hosts and politicians are men.

Dear Mr. Woods:

The daddy is aware that there are more examples of this so-called black male privilege on your list, but these 10 give me a good sense of where you're coming from. Let's look at checklist #7, about men going through life without knowing about black women's history. True, but black women can, and do, go through life without knowing anything about black women's history, or women history, or worker's history, or African history, all of which is part of world history. Is that about black female privilege? No, it's about a white male-run system historically set up by white men but maintained by white men, white women and a few people of color to keep not only black males but white America ignorant of its true history.

Take checklist #2 about reading history and only learning about black men. This is supposed to be an example of black male privilege.

Are you kidding me? Let's think this through. While it may be true that people read in their textbooks primarily about a few black men (usually black ministers and a couple of scientists), take it from a black guy who has taught in school: much of it is negative and depressing. In textbooks, black men are viewed as cotton picking slaves in general, or rebellious slaves ala Nat Turner, lynched black or imprisoned black men (Scottsborough boys, Hubie Leadbetter) accused of murder or rape, murdered black men (Emmit Till, Medgar Evers, Dr. King Jr., etc.) women-hating, women-raping black male prisoners (Eldridge Cleaver, e.g.), violent black male militants (Huey P. Newton, e.g.), violent black male crazies (Robert Williams, e.g.), bu k-eyed, face-painted, tap dancing and singing, happy-go-lucky steppenfetchits good for a lull in an action movie or comedic relief (Thanks, Hollywood). Want to know why black kids, male of female, hate to study or talk about black people in school? Because it depresses and humiliates them! Black privilege, huh?

I could go on forever, but the point is that the fact that a few black men are mentioned in textbooks should not in any suggest black privilege or the notion that black men are in lock-step with white males to control black or any other women. Black men were, and still are, viewed in negative, disparaging terms: criminals or potential criminals, terrorists and walking phallic symbols waiting for the chance to "deflower" somebody's white daughter-- even if he is a happily married black guy with a resume that includes a Harvard law degree, even if he is running for president of the United States! That's not about black male privilege; That's about using the negative perception of black male criminality and savagery to keep whites and blacks from joining hands to improve conditions for all Americans. That's about the maintenance of white male supremacy.

Mr. Wood
s, if you're going to have a discussion about black men and black women, here's what the daddy suggests:

1. Scrap the term privilege. It's a divisive, loaded term that distracts black men and black women from having a quality discussion.

2. Scrap the male patriarchy paradigm. It's inaccurate, outdated and divisive. It's inaccurate because it puts black males, even working class males, on the same par with rich white male corporate owners and worldrunners who pit black and whites against each other in this country, and American workers against third world workers in third world workers abroad.
3. Come up with a different paradigm, a paradigm that allows for historical advantages that have been accrued to black males over black females but, at the same, allows for disadvantages for black men as well. Presently, the daddy is looking into the concept of kyriarchy, which he got from Tami over at whattamisaid. Tami describes kyriarchy as "...the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it's more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they're not the ones I find most dangerous. There's a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down."

4. If you're going to include a checklist about so-called black male privileges, include the disadvantages as well. Want to start a checklist for that? Let me help you: Black men are the most hated group of individuals in America. Black men are the least likely to be hired for a job in this country, even if they have no jail record, even if they are as qualified as a white guy or a black woman. Black men are the most likely to be denied housing. Black men are the most likely to be stopped by cops (caretakers for a corporate state), beaten, arrested, hauled off to jail, and made to serve jail or prison terms that is disproportionate to the so-called crime.

Let's be clear: Including any checklist about some so-called black male privilege without so much as a bow to the disadvantages of the most hated group of people in the United States is intellectually dishonest and culturally divisive.

If the daddy had any illusions of privilege, they went out of the window on that fateful night when, as a youth counselor taking some kids home, white cops surrounded his SUV, called him a nigger and a monkey and dared him to do something about it.

Now Mr. Woods, does that sound like privilege to you?


Mac Walton, aka, the daddy


Anonymous said...

Oh Daddy, this one hurts bad! I've been to Jewel's blog. He has about 75 of these "privileges" and so many seem off-base. Hope you've posted your letter on his site. Love this post and look forward to the discussion.

rainywalker said...

Educational, learning, passion. I used to often listen to Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Bobby Seals and some of the other Black Panthers on KGO in San Francisco [late night] when I came back from Vietnam in 69. We left one place where we were all brothers and came back to someplace we still don't understand. I believe its the same sadness that plagued Lincoln at Gettysburg.

Anonymous said...

A black man? Hmmm. Maybe he's married to Gloria Steinem.

Somebodies Friend said...

You are right on as usual Daddy. Isn't it about time us brothers stood up for ourselves and took back what is ours.

The right to have the same things everyone else has!

Oh, and Daddy, I checked out the site "what about our daughters' great stuff.

The post that especially caught my eye was The one about that Beatty gal in Detroit. Boy I hadn't heard about all that, seems like see's in a lick of trouble. Can't wait to see what happens as that one unfolds, even though I do kinda feel for her!

Tami said...

Love the post, Daddy. One fix, though. That quote belongs to Sudy at A Woman's Ecdysis. I was just passing it along.

Link to Sudy's article on kyriarchy:

Tami said...

Hey there!

This is very men are the MOST despised in this country...there is open season on black electrocutions of black men...and they are saying black men are PRIVILEGED?? Black men are the most vulnerable and the most endangered.

I am stunned by this checklist....


Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

*Send me an email so I can add you to the invitees of my blog. I have set it to private for a week or two.

R. Lee Gordon said...

We Shall Overcome.

When we achieve a revolution in education to achieve an evolution for our youth . . .

We Shall Overcome.

When today’s young generation better understands the significance and value of our history, heritage and culture.

We Shall Overcome.

When we all work together to uplift our children and teens so they soar to new heights, and lead us to a brighter future and better planet . . .

We Shall Overcome. Some Day.

When we encourage others to actively participate in improving the quality of life and learning for our youth.

We Shall Overcome.

When, together, we show the world how beautiful, smart and special our children really are.

R. Lee Gordon
President / Executive Director
UniTee Design, Inc. / The Better Detroit Youth Movement / /
Toll Free: 888.OUR.RBG.TEES / Phone: 313.516.8384 / Fax: 313.342.6324

CurvyGurl said...

They know not what they say, MacDaddy. Good post :).

MacDaddy said...

anon: 75 privileges? Wow, with all those privileges, I should have a mansion on a hill and millions in myn bank account, and Barack and Michelle Obama should be looking at drapes for the White House.
rainywalker: Two of my favorite "militant" black guy from that era were Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson. As you probably know, Jackson educated himself in prison and became a "jailhouse" lawyer for other prisoners. Cleaver educated himself in prison as well and, in the process, became a very good writer and an insightful social critic of American society.
somebodiesfriend: I don't think we need to stand up for ourselves so much as men but redouble our efforts to stand up for our families and our communities, thereby reclaiming our roles as protectors of family and community.
Tami: Thanks for correcting me. I hope people will check out Sudy's article. I know I will.
Lisa: You're right. It is hilarious. Weird even, because, if what Mr. Woods say is true, I may be the most privileged oppressed person in history. Crazy...Thanks for your work at blackwomenblowthetrumpet. Luv u.

MacDaddy said...

Gordon: Welcome. And thanks for the insight. Come again.
CurvyGurl: Thanks for your support and I'm coming to your blog to see how you're doing on day 4. Still with you.

Somebodies Friend said...

When I said stand up for ourselves, I meant for our families and communities.

It isn't just all about me there MacDaddy, everyone benefits.

MacDaddy said...

somebodiesfriend: Thanks for the clarification.

nicki nicki tembo said...

Got around to the post late but what an awesome topic as usual. I find it ironic that anyone could string black male and privilege together. It's almost an oxymoron. With that being said, we have to cease being stunned, shocked and put off by this type of foolishness. Not enough parents being passionate enough when it comes to raising these babies.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them" - Frederick Douglas 1857

SagaciousHillbilly said...

MacD, Thanks for your insight and perspective.
When I hear the term "privilege" used in such cases it always annoys me a bit, be it "white privilege" or whatever. We could make a list of things that any group has over another if we really wanted to, but so often, these lists imply something that ought to be taken away from some group or another rather than as civil rights that should be assured for everyone. Instead of standing there and saying 'you get to do this and I don't and it's not fair,' we should be simply saying 'why can't I do that? What are the social mechanisms that prevent ME from having or doing that and what can we do to change those conditions?'
Most of the things people talk about in these lists aren't actually privileges, but rights in a free society.

Once again I will say, in the long run, good comprehensive education for everyone will assure us equal rights for everyone.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

one of my favorite plays is the blacks - a clown show by Jean Genet. You know he was the minister of information for the black panter party of self defence in France

have a great weekend

patti t said...

Thanks for writing from a deep passionate place--it's one of the reasons I appreciate your writing and the blog.

I'd like to think it takes a lot to surprise me, but someone making a case of how black men are privileged, stuns me...

Laura J. said...

I read the list of Terri Woods privileges. I am a long time feminist and I always been well aware of the concept of privilege. People throw around the term and do not understand the concepts and mechanics behind word.

Privilege should be viewed in the context of hegemony (the power structure in all its manifestation). Privilege is always protected. Those who have privileges are protected as an identified group. By saying that black men have privilege you are saying there is institutional protection of them thus they use privilege for their own protection as an identified group. In this context to have privilege is to be protected. From the list that I read, I do not see any protection.

Let me give you a example of privilege and the institutional protect.

Heterosexual privilege -- I can visit my husband in a hospital and make medical decisions for him.
For long term same sex relationship, one partner can not do that for another partner.

White female privilege -- I have a confrontation with a white woman. All she has to say is "I feel threatened" and someone will come to her rescue. She can call the cops on me and I am done. Period. I can call the cops on her and will still be done because all she has to do is play a victim. I see that happen all the time.

White male privilege --God, too many privileges to choose from.

Do not confuse sexism/misogyny with privilege. Privilege comes with institutional protection that maintains a particular kind of hegemony. More over the ideology and mechanism that reinforce that power dynamic is frame by those being privileged.

Implicit in the idea of Black Male privilege is that it is the same or an extension of White Male privilege. Socially, historically and economically shows that does not exist.

I think we have to find another way of defining the sexism and other gendered destructive elements within the Black community without resorting to concepts that do not incorporate our experience in its definitions.

MacDaddy said...

Laura: You are amazing. You explain concepts very well. Thank you so much. I also wish that you would send your comments to Gina over at whataboutourdaughters, which is one of my favorite blogs. I think it would be a welcomed contribution to the discussion. Thanks and please come again.

LorMarie said...

This is one powerful response. I also agree that the checklist is way off base...ridiculous even.