“I was Black. I was female. And I was out – out – by any construct wherever the power lay.” ― Audre Lorde
Two days ago Damon Young from Very Smart Brothas published a piece entitled “Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People.” As soon as I read the title, my brain was like. "Yes, let’s talk about it." After reading the piece, I thought Damon did an excellent job tackling a difficult and complicated issue, and I was happy that he used his male privilege to help tell our stories.
Black women have not been allowed to be both Black and female. Historically, we have had to choose our race over our gender, and we have not had the space to express the challenges we face as women. We have not talked about our pain in order to protect our Black men's dignity. We have not been able to be truly feminist, for fear that it disregards, or contradicts, our shared Blackness. We are so worried about the repercussions of discussing our issues with toxic masculinity that we ignore them. So when I saw this piece, I thought maybe, just maybe, that space was being created for Black women to be both Black and female. But my God, after reading the comments, I realized how far we still have to go. So, let me try to break some things down. Y'all know I like lists, so here we go:
“Yes, I agree that Black men have privilege but the white analogy is divisive, separatist, and hurtful.”
I disagree, this analogy is perfect. Absolutely perfect. And let’s talk about white privilege for a minute, and I will let you draw your own conclusions. When we try to have conversations around white privilege, a few things happen. First, white people deflect, suggesting that talking about white privilege is separatist because we all have different privileges. Why call out white privilege? All lives matter, right? Second, they discuss struggles they have had as a white person. "I grew up in a single-family home, I am poor, I was bullied as a kid." Somehow, they believe that experiencing adversity takes away their white privilege. And lastly, they say, "Yes, I have privilege, but that isn’t my fault. I didn’t choose to be white, why do I have to pay the price? Why do I have to carry the burden of privilege?" Now, go back above and replace "white" with "male." Privilege is a special advantage available to a group of people. I hear our Black men giving the same excuses as white folks, and that is why this analogy works. We have all gotten these tired responses when discussing white privilege, and it is frustrating. So, do you see how ironic it is when you give us the same excuses? Do you see how you are being the “white people” of Black people? To push it a step further, I have even heard men say, "Yes this is a problem, but this isn't the way to express it." What is the right way to express it then? Does this not sound eerily similar to white people's critique of the way in which people of color protest, appeal, and organize?
“Black men have it bad in this country. Give us a break.”
Yes, you absolutely do. And Damon made that clear in the beginning of the article. He writes that “In America, we are near or at the bottom in every relevant metric determining quality of life. Our arrest and incarceration rates, our likelihood of dying a violent death, our likelihood of graduating high school and attending college, our employment rates, our average net worth, our likelihood of surviving past 70.” We know this, we acknowledge this, and we fight for you. We march for you. We support you. We do not try to argue that this doesn’t exist. However, we will not "give you a break." You are not absolved of the responsibility of both acknowledging and uplifting your Black women. Black men have a heavy burden to bear, and you have been taught and conditioned that it is somehow acceptable to dump that burden on Black women. Black men have historically only had power over Black women, so you've made us suffer to help ease your pain. You have disrespected us, you have degraded us, you have silenced us. Yes, slavery, oppression, colonization, and dehumanization can take its toll on your psychological well-being. We get that you are in pain, we are too, and we want to support you. But being in pain is not an excuse to cause pain; we must stop the cycle of abuse.
“This is propaganda to divide the Black man and woman.”
I am all for calling out propaganda when I see it. But this, beloved, is real. How I wish it was just propaganda. According to a 2017 CDC report, Black women are four times more likely to be murdered than white women. Homicides are the second leading cause of death and over 50 percent of female homicides are committed by intimate partners. In D.C., there has been a string of Black women getting murdered by Black men with no outcry from our Black brothers. But this is just one statistic. Black women are often harassed on the street by Black men who objectify our bodies, and we are taught to be polite and smile to ensure our safety from a young age. We are taught victim blaming, we internalize it, and we try to dress a certain way because only “respectable” women deserve respect. I am sorry, Damon’s piece is not dividing Black men and women; Black men are dividing us with their own actions, of their own accord. They are doing that when they refuse to date Black women. They are doing it when they call us aggressive, argumentative, or a feminist (which is apparently a bad word) for talking about these issues. And they are doing it when they refuse to acknowledge the role they have played in creating a system that disregards Black women.
“Not all Black men are like this.”
You are right, not all Black men are misogynists. Just like not all white people are racists. But despite this, we still exist in a system that is built on patriarchy, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. And you benefit from this system. So even if you are not engaging in harmful behaviors, if you are not calling them out, you are implicitly guilty. If this is hard for you to understand, think about how you explain a white ally's role in racism. You explain that they benefit from our racially unjust system, and simply not being overtly racist isn’t enough. If they accept the benefits of the unjust system and do not try to dismantle it, then they are in turn part of the problem. Again, that is why this white analogy is so perfect.
“How does this actually drive change? There were no solutions in the piece.”
I would agree with this critique. He did not provide any solutions because it is complicated as hell. Black men were raised and benefit from a patriarchal structure. Dismantling this is going to be hard. But here are some things you can do. Listen to Black women and don't call us aggressive or combative when we tell you about our experiences. Acknowledge our pain, and use your privilege to help us dismantle it. Don't allow people to talk derogatorily about women in your presence. Treat people you date with dignity and respect. This means do not cheat, lie, or steal. Be honest and impeccable with your word. And check your friends when you see them slipping. Make sure you get consent before (and while) engaging in sex. When you see a Black woman being disrespected, defend her. When you hear a story of a Black man beating, cheating, or raping a Black woman, denounce him and his actions clearly. Show us that you support us. Be honest and not defensive. Do some self-evaluation and see how you may be playing out toxic masculinity, and stop. If every Black man made these commitments, we could collectively change this narrative.
Originally Published at www.DrKristianH.com