Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Notes on Black Male Privilege x Towards a New Black Masculinity


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via New Model Minority by Renina on 8/3/10

Robert Johnson, Blues Musician This post is for my nephew, who inspires me to this work.

Black Mothers Raise Their Daughters and Love Their Sons ~Saying I/we have heard

…The oppression of women is a difficult issue for our community partly because it is such a personal one. It is passed on to us through media, schools, religious institutions, friends and families. Although it has been said that Black women are held in held in high regard by the black community, the reality is that black women are either denigrated as whores or enemies or are placed on a confining pedestal as superwomen….~Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism

The act of simply being willing to question masculinity and learn about it threatens how society is organized. #ummhmm. Peace to the men and women who are willing to learn ~nains

Yesterdays post on Black male privilege was a hot one.

I received mostly positive ones and a few angry ones that were unpublished because they were anonymous and were more interested in being angry than listening and reflecting. Disagreeing with me is one thing. Thats fine. I have been trained to argue, I am  good at it. But coming at me sideways because you think I  "keeping the Black man down." Puhlees. Last time I checked, Black women didn't run the country, the Courts , probation, the Federal government, Fox news, Goldman Sachs etc.

People tend to react strongly when I write personal and they should.   The intensity that I receive when I write about dating a giver, or about misogyny  in hip hop or about the consequences of Black boys not being raised to feel their feelings is the similar to me because it comes from the same place.

In this post I am going to respond to some of the comments yesterday, discuss some more ideas around Black Male Privilege and talk about what a new Black masculinity may look like.

I laid these out as notes  number 1-4.

Note #1

The post was guided, perhaps unconsciously as I have reread it 5 times this month, David Ikard's essay "Like a Butterfly in a Hurricane, Reconceptualizing Gendered Resistance in Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned." Like a Butterfly is significant because takes it to the gut around Black anger, Black gender relationships and a new Black masculinity.

Ikard On Black Anger Quoting Walter Mosely

The anger that Blacks harbor towards whites stifles Black social and economic potential.

When I read this, I couldn't believe it because I KNOW how draining anger can be, but I never thought of how our collective anger towards white folks could harm our ability to do MORE with and for ourselves, collectively.

Ikard on Black Honesty

Mosely asserts that ….if we Love each other…and our race, then we have to be critical of ourselves and honest.

Critical and honest and Loving. Trust. I wouldn't spend the time if it didn't come from a place of Love.

Note # 2

Black Male Privilege, the premises

These three factors lay the foundation for the existence of Black Male Privilege.

-Black women are raised to take shit from, Love and take care of and tolerate Black men. This means we tend to put ourselves last.

-Many Black mothers raise their daughters and Love their sons (however we also raise our boys NOT to feel, which creates men who don't know how to Love, mindboggling, I know!) Read the comments here.

-This is a society organized by and for men.

Is Black Male privilege a term that I am going to stick by forever? I don't know. What I do know is that unless we name it, we can't do anything about it.

@tkoed reminded me repeatedly that this term may alienate more people than it enlightens.

I'm sure people said the same thing to Malcolm, Zora and Barbara, all three of whom inspire me.  #ummhmm.

I get his point, however, until I find another term that gets at what I am talking about,  what we are discussing, I am sticking to this.

Talking about violence IS painful, and it does anger folks, but more than anger we need to find the language to learn how to grieve the losses that have occurred because of the violence that has happened between Black men and Women. #ummhmm. That Black men have done to Black women, Women to Men, Women to Women, and Men to Men. #nohetero.

Beyond anger is an awesome title, #ummhmm.

Note # 3

Some Black Male Privileges

There are three that come to mind. First, the physical  and verbal violence that Black men commit against Black women tends to not be taken seriously by Black men and Black women for that matter.

Second. The privilege of being sexual without being rendered all purpose ho's (more on this saying in another post.) Many of us suppress our desires because of what I call our internal "ho tape." The tape that dictates who we are sexually, largely defined by our families, and broader communities schools, churches, the media from childhood on. Josephine has written about the ho tape and desire  here, recently.

Third, Black women are socialized to, are expected to and receive pressure to date and marry Black men only. If we choose to date a non Black man, or a woman for that matter, all hell breaks loose.

Socially, it is as if the "Health of Black American Communities" rests on who we date.  Black men get way more leeway in this area.

Its also as if the crack epidemic related violence, crack cocaine sentencing disparities didn't have a profound impact  our ability to sustain healthy heterosexual relationships. As if the lack of a state and federal commitment to live up to its civil rights promises of decent housing, schools and jobs has not created the conditions under which we date.

Jewel Woods offers:

1. I don't have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.

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.

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.

48. I have the privilege of believing that black women are different sexually than other women and judging them negatively based on this belief.
34. I can hear and use language bitches and hoes that demean women, with virtually no opposition from men.

82. I have the privilege of having not been raised with domestic responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and washing that takes up disproportionately more time as adults.

85. I do not have to worry about being considered a traitor to my race if I call the police on a member of the opposite sex.

Let me know what you all think about this list. I'm SURE you have things to say.

Note #4

Towards a Feminist Black Masculinity

Folks seemed to want to engage in this conversation and I am excited. I think that a conversation about a New Black Masculinity, or Manhood is needed and many ways it has already begun. I think what is new on this blog is that it is happening online and within the context of privileges.

There are several scholars who have written about this such as the above mentioned David Ikard, as well as Mark Anthony Neal and bell hooks.

In a blog post on Tea Cake as an Imagined Black Feminist Manhood, Mark Anthony Neal casts Tea Cake Black male feminist  work in progress.

"Janie saw beyond Tea Cake's youth, lack of money and cavalier attitude (perhaps best captured by his gambling addiction or hustle, depending on your vantage), in large part because of Tea Cake's ability to be attentive—not simply in the way that one is attentive to someone that they are attracted to—but attentive to the womanist reality that was Janie's life. To that point there's a simply lovely passage in the novel where Janie wakes from a nap as Tea Cake combs her hair and she ask "Whut good do combin' mah hair do you?" and Tea Cake responds "It's mine too…it feels jus' lak underneath uh dove's wing next to mah face" (103)"

But for Tea Cakes violence, given how he BEAT Janie, he does in fact represent a work in progress towards a new Black manhood.

In my post,{ Black} Masculinity: Fragile and Illusive I discussed this using Harry Broads text.

In my post Black Men x Love x Domination I used bell hooks to discuss how when we raise our boys to suppress their feelings we end up with men who don't know how to Love. #ummhmm. Read those comments too.

I will close with David Ikard's words. In the conclusion of the book "Breaking Silence, Towards a Black Male Feminist Criticism" he says,

The black male feminist project is most useful because it strives to establish visble notions of black malehood are not premised on black female subjugation…Identigying the underlying problems of black male identity is necessary for a productive approach to the problem…it is equally important to esablish alternative models for Black manhood to offset conventional ones.

A new Black manhood and for that matter womanhood entails recognizing that we don't have the language to grieve the violence that we commit against one another and that we  need such a language in order to heal from it.

Black men need to take the verbal violence that we endure on the streets seriously and understand that we are dominated because of our skin color and because of what is between our legs. In 1969 Black feminist Frances Beal called this double jeopardy.

Black Women heterosexual, lesbian and queer need to understand the importance of working with men to create the spaces in our lives for boys and men to be able to simply feel.

While looking for an image to accompany this post. I found it hard to settle one one. First was The Mack film poster (not visionary enough), then a photo of Alice and John Coltrane (too hetero), Just Another Girl on the IRT film poster (not broad enough), and then something told me the Blues!

I don't think it is a coincidence that I thought of the blues. Blues music is a place where historically Black men were able to, encourage to, and appreciated for feeling their feelings publicly. Maybe, just maybe the Blues may be able to tell us something about what we are grappling with here.

What does a new Black manhood look like to you?

What do you think of the Black Male Privilege List?

What are some of the ways, where are some of the spaces where we can engage each other and start to unlearn this shit so we can learn some new?

Related posts:

  1. Black Male Privilege x Male Privilege
  2. On (Black) Masculinity: It's Fragile + Illusive
  3. Thinking about Tea Cake + Violence


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