Is Black Male Privilege A Real Issue in Our Community?

By Gus T. Renegade, atlantablackstar.com

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Eric Garner being choked to death by New York City Police in July 2014.

Days after New York City police officers choked an unarmed Black man to death in the summer of 2014, ForHarriet.com founder and editor Kimberly Foster declared she would “not march for Eric Garner.” Foster described “watching Black men show up for Garner after seeing so many derail conversations about Black women’s well-being leaves me with little more than a sinking feeling of despair.”

The perception that sympathy and political mobilization are unequally reserved for Black males has been gaining traction for well over a decade in intellectual circles. Sociologist L’Heureux Lewis and others describe this as “Black male privilege.” Lewis and others don’t suggest Black males are on the brink or world domination, but they do posit that in relation to Black females, Black males often enjoy greater access to resources and/or attention to their accomplishments and grievances. Speaking with journalist Michel Martin, Lewis, a Black man, explained, “There are actually spaces where Black men are advantaged and often sometimes dominate a dialogue,” often to the detriment of Black women.

In a 2016 report, Lewis corroborates the disparities that pained Foster, adding that when we seriously access the problems facing Black people, we “are most commonly raised and framed in terms of the crisis of Black males.” Using our framework of mass incarceration to demonstrate, Lewis observes Black males are the default representation of the prison’s consumption of Black bodies. This helps conceal the rising number Black female incarceration….Curry submits that the gawking and attention to Black males, framed by some as “Black male privilege,” are often little more than dehumanizing stares at Black corpses. After the dying moments of Eric Garner and Philando Castile accumulate millions of views, Curry writes, “Black men are rarely thought of beyond their dead bodies.” Recognizing the humanity of Black males and seeing that no more Castiles or Garners meet the same fate has proven impossible.

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The title of sociologist Becky Pettit’s 2012 book “Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress” challenges multiple facets of the view that Black males hog the attention related to racism. Because the prison system is disproportionately Black and male, Pettit believes large numbers of Black males are unseen. If these ignored inmates were included in our overall assessment of African-American advances, Pettit senses celebrations of Black progress would be greatly muted. With more than two million U.S. inmates at the time of Obama’s 2008 election, Pettit writes turning a blind eye to this large population of Black males distorts “the establishment of social facts” and “conceals inequality.”…

Curry asks: “If the effect of racism is such that the alleged advantages of men disappear in most of the things that we value, like work or life expectancy or home ownership, why make the leap” to insist Black males benefit from or exercise privilege?

Legions of Black males and a growing number of Black women are incarcerated because of white power, not Black privilege. Searching for “privileged” Black people can sidetrack Black males and females from producing the Black power needed to establish justice.

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In the Turmoil Over Race and Policing, Children Pay a Steep Emotional Price

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Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

In the past week alone, there was the 4-year-old girl in Falcon Heights, Minn., who was captured on video consoling her mother after they watched a police officer shoot the mother’s boyfriend through the window of a car. And there was the 15-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, La., who sobbed uncontrollably in front of television cameras after the similar shooting death of his father.

Then there were the four brothers, ages 12 to 17, whose mother was shot by the sniper who opened fire on officers in Dallas on Thursday night while the family was protesting police violence against blacks. The mother, who survived, threw herself atop one boy, as the others ran for their lives.

Again and again, children are finding themselves enmeshed in the country’s roiling debate over police treatment of African-Americans. The close-up views of violence, obviously traumatizing, are giving rise to a generation of young people who distrust authority, grow up well before their time and suffer nightmares that seem too real.

“As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” said Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of the boy in Louisiana who sobbed over the death of his father, Alton Sterling. “That I can’t take away from him.”

While adults around them protest and demand criminal justice reform, young witnesses of the carnage are reeling from their losses and harboring pent-up depression that often comes pouring out in panic attacks and breakdowns, relatives say.

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

The list of young people burdened by these tumultuous times includes Tamir Rice’s teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after watching the police shoot him in 2014; the daughter of Oscar Grant III, killed by a transit officer while lying down on a California train platform in 2009, who as a 5-year-old would ask playmates to duck when she saw the police; and the 9-year-old nephew of Sandra Bland, who began sleeping in his mother’s room after Ms. Bland’s death last year in a jail cell.

“They are aware of what’s going in the world, of how you can leave your house and you can very well end up in a body bag,” said a sister of Ms. Bland’s, Shante Needham, whose four children continue to struggle with the death of their aunt. “They watch the news. They see all the stuff going on on Facebook. And it’s sad that kids even have to think like that, that if I get stopped by the police, I may not make it home.”…

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