-- 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? "
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. Woods, 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