Are we there yet? Can we get there? How can we do this on our own terms?
We are shaped by our own world view, which may be as different as any other race on Earth. As we have been oppressed, we are also our own oppressors, but is this how we define our Black male privilege?
Dr. L'Heureux Dumi Lewis shares a healthy perspective on his views of the Black male privilege, which is based on his experience as a student at Morehouse College. His speech occured during an event for The Morehouse Research Institute, which is an annual symposium that brings together thought leaders to review current thinking in today's urban diaspora. Dr. Lewis began the process of impacting the crisis narrative of Black men. He shares (in summary):
Black male privilege, as a working definition, is a system of built and in often overlooked systematic advantages that center the experience and concerns of Black men, while minimizing the power that Black males hold. This is important because:
1. We must think of the invisible sets of privilege as accumulating and impacting our lives.
2. The black male privilege makes experiences and issues of black men central and paramount in our discussion of community change.
3. (In emphasizing the crisis of the Black male) It continues to disempower Black men and block healthy engagement in the social problems that we face (domestic violence, absence in rearing children).
The conditions of the Black male is not so good right now - let's face it. The impression that others have of Black men is also damaging. As much as we are celebrated for our athletic prowess, we are equally undermined as leaders in our community because we are often classified (or lead lives) as violent, irrational, uneducated, and/or chauvinistic individuals.
As leadership roles often rest in the laps of the working single Moms, the black male privilege is either absent, or it is used as a weapon that ultimately brings pain and decisiveness in our families and our communities.
Not to mention, as we are target marketed as consumers of our own poison (sex, drugs/alcohol and violence), ultimately we become the victim of our own circumstance. This is a vicious cycle that continues to transfer itself to the next generation of Black children and men, affecting our relationships, our communities, and our well beings.
Interpersonal relationships have meaning, but we have built too much trust in a societal system that is broken, and only serves to distance us as a cohesive system. This system can and must be challenged by a centralized set of beliefs and standards that should serve to typify the true dynamics of the Black family, the Black community, and thus, our Black male privilege.
I will use Faith as an example. A strong belief system can be based upon our personal relationship with God, but can be strengthened and enhanced as we devote time together as a family in fellowship and using Faith as a basis for establishing cohesiveness and purpose.
We also need to seriously interrogate the complicated ways that we are positioned as the oppressors and the oppressed, before the same cycles of community failure continue to get worse.
We are privileged and we are greater than we will ever realize. We are also thought leaders, but we must challenge ourselves to build value and appreciation for this. Completing college should be valued and celebrated as passionately as we do when our favorite athlete scores a touchdown. Simply put, we need to challenge ourselves by redefining our value system. In defining who we really are, we can truly understand and build upon our purpose.
In his speech, Dr. Lewis suggested a few insightful ways in which we can confront black male privilege, which includes:
- The need for male studies, i.e. 'What does it take to be a man?' or 'Why do we value violence?'
- Teach our men from methodologically, theoretical and sophisticated ways; don't follow the deficit model - we are not on the bottom of any list. We come from a rich tradition of engaging problems and transforming them. Challenge us - it is healthy.
- We must acknowledge (as Black men) that we are both oppressed and oppressors to our Black Sistas. Stop the assaults that occur in our streets first by stopping the violence (physical, psychological and emotional) that occurs with our Black women.
- Elevate our voices. We must get together to lift our voices, after all, a closed mouth doesn't eat.
Thank you Dr. Lewis for sharing your thesis.
What are your thoughts?
I would like to personally thank Tavis Smiley as well as Tamika Thompson for working with me - I am honored to be a guest blogger for Tavis this week, sharing my post titled, 'Race Relations: Are They Getting Better? Worse?'
In short, I shared a story about how racism impacted me as a youngster and how our youth may be subjected to this on a much deeper level.