Let’s start with a disclaimer: racism and sexism are not equivalents. However, both racism and sexism are a result of cyclically and generationally recreated hierarchical systems– White supremacy and patriarchy– that govern the way we interact with one another. In these systems, a race or gender is relegated in society by a dominating population that uses misinformation, stereotypes and even propaganda to excuse their dominance.
It is possible to compare the arguments posed by White people who attempt to derail discussions about racism with those posed by Black men who attempt to divert discussions about sexism in the Black community, because people in both of those groups are a part of a dominant social group – White or male. Both parties unknowingly negate the existence of “isms”, in attempts to maintain the status quo and the power of their position in eerily similar ways.
This piece is working off the premise that readers have already acquainted themselves with the reasons Why Black Women Are Not More Privileged Than Black Men, which explores the harsh realities of sexism and patriarchy in the Black community in-depth. This list is merely an exploration of arguments posed by Black men who object to the reality of male privilege. It is not meant to prove the existence of said privilege. So without further a do:
1. There is no such thing as Black male privilege = There is no such thing as White privilege.
Despite the prevalence of outright and obvious sexism in Black community displayed in hip-hop music, domestic abuse statistics and the prevalence of street harassment, Black men tend to disregard the reality of Black male privilege on the grounds that they are also disenfranchised. This similar type of argument is especially frequent in poor White circles when discussions about White privilege arise. In the minds of these individuals, how can someone have privilege if they are also struggling to get by and society is beating them down?
“Privilege” simply means society has a preference for a group in which an individual may occupy. In order to explore and understand “privilege”, one must look at the macro not micro picture. In that macro picture, all people and genders are stacked above or below one another on a social ladder based on rules implemented and believed by dominant society. Though any individual may find themselves at any point on the social ladder, most people are clustered in a particular position based on race and/or gender.
That is because the United States was founded upon the tenets of not only White supremacy, but also patriarchy. Its social ladder looks very male and/or White at the top while all other races and females vie for position or power beneath. And like White supremacy, patriarchy is a system that cyclically recreates power structures and dynamics, except it deals with the relationship between men and women of any race, not simply Whites compared to non-Whites. Based on this structure, the masculine is far more prized and respected than the feminine, even in the Black community.
2. Black women are illogical, angry, emotional [or any other stereotype]= black men are violent, “thugs”.
Since society’s social hierarchy is typically reinforced or explained by stereotypes, those that dominate rely on them to excuse the power structure when challenged. These are– to put it simply– sexist or racist arguments that are completely unfounded, but extremely powerful because they have been used so frequently, dating back to when the systems of patriarchy and White supremacy were first put in place.
3. Black men are treated worse than Black women in modern society = White people are the one’s being discriminated against today.
Whenever there is a change in power structures or dynamics, those that are forced to give up the rights of privilege of their dominance always tend to feel victimized or short-changed. Many Whites blame the Civil Right’s Movement and affirmative action for their inability to gain access to employment or education. In their opinion, “all of the minorities have society’s preference,” and thus are given more opportunity. Despite the reality that such measures were taken to offset and combat inequality, not perpetuate it, those are the sentiments. Similarly, many Black men feel slighted Feminism and Black female progress. “Black women got stronger and the men got weaker,” such people argue, as if female progress somehow must come at the expense of male achievement. In both of these cases, the feelings of resentment stirred up by the loss of control or power is quite evident.
4. The Black community is in shambles because of strong, independent Black women= America is falling apart because of Obama.
When things start to crumble, those at the highest rungs of society and their community, always need a scapegoat to explain away the reasons why things are not working in anyone’s favor. Who better to blame than the individuals who only recently stole some power back for themselves? In modern America where banks and poor regulatory practices, brought the country to an all time low, White people excitedly and willingly have a non-White individual to blame, castigate and place all their fears on: President Barack Obama. He is blamed for everything from the terrible economy, to Ebola, because it allows the White populous to avoid culpability and place the burden on an already vulnerable target. Such misperceptions are also often fueled by the media.
This particular move is an attempt to belittle a recently empowered populous by saying: “see, we told you that you are too weak or stupid to have any power: Look what you’ve done to all of us!” The Black male population uses a similar tactic to target and blame black women for all of the woes of the Black community, in attempts to deflect or avoid responsibility.
5. All men are not sexist or all men do not participate in [ fill in some sexist act or another] = All White people aren’t racist.
There is no argument more infuriating posed by White people who attempt to disregard the existence of racism than the “not all White people” argument. It is equally angering when used by Black men to diminish the role they play in Black female oppression.
In reality, all White people were not slave owners. All White police officers are not bad. All white people did not enact or agree with Jim Crow legislation. However, a large majority did and those who did not passively condoned the system by not doing anything to stop it. It is like watching someone else be bullied and not doing anything about it.
The same goes for Black men. All Black men do not have to actively participate in Black female oppression; they can merely idly permit it, which is just as bad.