Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Examining black male privilege

Keep an eye on What About Our Daughters over the next few days. Gina is going to be dissecting Jewel Woods' Black Male Privilege List, which is based on Barry Deutsch's Male Privilege Checklist. Woods' list includes the following gems:

I don't have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.
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.
I can live my life without ever having read black feminist authors, or knowing about black women's history, or black women's issues.
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.
I will make more money than black women at equal levels of education and occupation.
Most of the national "opinion framers" in Black America including talk show hosts and politicians are men.
Ya'll know Gina's 'bout to bring it!


Anonymous said...

You are braver than brave Tami!! I've wondered about this stuff for years.

But I must admit, I hear the least amount of sexist comments coming from black men.

Overall, the idea that women matter is so radical, that often all of these "facts" get overlooked by brothers.

I always thought of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam's treatment of women. Or the fact that he never even noticed gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia on his Mecca journey.

It's why racism persists, because sexism persists. The two are linked and neither one will go away without the eradication of the other. Hard to get, when there is the temptation of men to always want to dominate or rule over SOMEBODY!

So much to say about this, but it really needs to be said by other men to each other. The facts are too damning, and men get upset to see all of this listed no doubt.

Just keep this powerful writing coming! It always makes my day!

MacDaddy said...

I just wrote on her blog about this, saying that, if we're going to have a serious discussion about it, we need to remove the inaccurate, outdated term privilege; that African American men, historically, have had some advantages over black women but disadvantages as well; and that, unless we view take this discussion out of the outdated white upper class women prism of white male patriarchy, it will ultimately prove to be fruitless, divisive discussion.

Tami said...


I don't think it is wrong to use privilege in this case. Most of us are privileged in one way or another. I have middle class privilege, for example. I also have the privilege of the educated. At the same time, I don't have the privilege of a white man. And, in this country at least, right gender plus right race equals supreme privilege. That's why I like Sudy's term kyriarchy. She writes:

Patriarchy, for me, doesn't cut it. It cuts it to gender. As you can see, I'm not that simple. Kyriarchy is a term I adopted four years ago and I feel now it's time to show my true colors of what I think of patriarchy. Two words: old skool.

Kyriarchy - a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for "lord" or "master" (kyrios) and "to rule or dominate" (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination...Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.

Patriarchy - Literally means the rule of the father and is generally understood within feminist discourses in a dualistic sense as asserting the domination of all men over all women in equal terms. The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men to not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves).

- Glossary, Wisdom Ways, Orbis Books New York 2001

Let me break this down for you. When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination -- they're talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that's kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that's kyriarchy. It's about 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.

Read the whole post:

I'm really interested to hear what you (and everyone else) think about this notion vs. patriarchy.

MacDaddy said...

Tami, I have to give it more thought, but, so far, I like it over the concept of patriarchy. I think the only other time I've heard the concept was by Bell Hooks during a question and answer period. I remember responding to a white woman grouping black men with white men and I told her I resented-- that I don't control a damn thing and that her white ass was going to leave that college hall and go to her nice suburban home or apartment and I was going to drive home, hoping that a bunch of cops won't stop me that this black man in a nice SUV could be a drug dealer and possibly whip my ass and does that sound like I have some control to you?

Then Hooks spoke about kyriarchy but I was too angry to remember what she said. What I remember is that them white women jumped all over her. They don't want to hear anybody questioning the concept of patriarchy.

Ana said...

I am curious and wanted to ask are you then suporting Sara Palin since she is a Women trying to break the glass celing as it were. A women I might add quite that to many seams mmore experienced then was Hillary even though I like Hillary. I mean I am curious because I am a white 57 year old male trying to get my head arround a few issues that quite frankly I can not begain to understand one because I am white and also because I am not a woman. So obviously I can not know what it means or feels like to be either black or a women. I watch some women viciously attack Sar palin and I can't quite understand what the problem is. I watch many blacks supporting Barack Obama and I know some of that is pride because surely the black population must be as deversed as the white pouplation. I mean they can't really all agree that Barack is the best man. So I am tying to learn in an honest way who thinks what and why in hopes that this 57 year old white man might understand both groups a little better. By the way I thought your peice was very good.

Tami said...


No I am not supporting John McCain and his running mate for president. You can find some of my reasons here:

and here:

This is not to say that my entire focus is on so-called "women's issues." The economy, education, healthcare and our stature abroad are also important issues. In general, I think Republican idealogy is bad for the country, as the last eight years show. I am not signing on for more of this. (Though I didn't sign on for the first eight either.)

Also, most black people are not voting for Barack Obama because he is black, just as most white women did not vote for Hillary Clinton because she looked like them. Black people are voting for Barack Obama, in part, because we are loyal Democrats. Al Gore received 90 percent of the black vote. Kerry and Bill Clinton similar numbers. You will also note that black people did not support previous black presidential candidates (Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or Carol Moseley Braun)in significant numbers. Also note that until the South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton had most of the black vote.

I am not voting for Barack Obama because he is black. My first choice in the primary was actually John Edwards, though it was tough to pick between the two. I landed with John Edwards because of his stance on poverty.

I guess I'm saying that making history is great, but not the most important thing.

Anonymous said...

We can come up with a variety of words to describe oppression and how it operates.

I've always loved bell hooks, and she's one of the few people out there who puts all the isms together, and explains how they work in tandem.

Patriarchy is a perfectly good word and more widely understood than Kiriyarchy. Although Kiriyarchy might be confused with the Greek Kiros or Kiriye elaison :-) You may not have black male "patriarchy" in America, because black men aren't the owning or rule making class, but what happens when you go to Ethiopia, Sudan or Ghana, where women are still second class citizens and where black men rule?

The international quality of male supremacy reveals this as you travel the world. So while black men are definitely far from being a ruling class here, this doesn't mean that other countries aren't equally about male supremacy.

I think it is useful to identify exactly what priviledge truly is, and these lists, while not perfect, are quite thought provoking. It must be scary for men to confront this stuff and see the lists. We didn't even have lists early on in the feminist movement, and I like it that men are doing their own research on this.

I'm very impressed with all the work Tami-- from fashion to patriarchy all in a week :-)

Jill said...

Tami- I am so glad I read your blog. What a great new pair of glasses to help understand a culture all around me but not one I'm in but should work to understand. Just wow reading some of it already. Will keep an eye on Gina's blog.

Also - I'd like to add that I bet if you looked at some other minority groups you would find some similarities - for example, in many but not all Jewish organizations, there's been a pattern of who is at the top, whose voice gets heard and followed and so on - it's most often been men at the top - my own synagogue? More than 100 years old? One one women president, ever. We've been working hard at having leadership institutes and putting more women on the board and the executive committee that makes the decisions.

But again - I bet that there are other systems or claches we could look at where the men are still the ones who have that edge of privilege.

Fascinating way to look at it - thank you again.

Jill said...

Ok - and I have to confess - I have read bell hooks' name several times over the last several months and I've not ever heard of her before. I have to read bell hooks. Now.

Thanks, again. ;)

Brother OMi said...

every male, black, white, or whatever, should read bell hooks.

life altering stuff right there.

I don't agree with Jewel Woods and his latest book but he is spot on about black male patriarchy.


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