The Black Male Privileges Checklist
Submitted by Jewel on Mon, 08/11/2008 - 04:08.
The Black Male Privileges Checklist
By Jewel Woods
© Renaissance Male Project (2008)
What does "privilege" have to do with Black men? We understand some
kinds of privilege. The privilege to call a black man "Boy", even if
that black man happens to be 60 years old or older. The privilege to
drive a car and never have to worry that the police will racially
profile you. Privileges that have nothing to do with what a person has
earned, but rather are based entirely on who a person is, or what color
As African Americans, we have the ability to critique and condemn
these types of "unearned assets" because we recognize that these
privileges come largely at our expense. We have also learned from social
and political movements that have sought to redress these privileges,
and academic disciplines that have provided us with the tools to
critically examine and explore them.
However, there is another type of privilege that has caused untold
harm to both black men and women but has not had the benefit of being
challenged by a social and political movement within our community, nor
given adequate attention within our own academic community. The
privilege that I am referring to is male privilege.
Male privilege is more than just a "double standard", because it is
based on attitudes or actions that come at the expense of women. Just
as white privilege comes at the expense of African Americans and other
people of color, gender double standards come at the expense of women.
Given the devastating history of racism in this country, it is
understandable that getting black men to identify with the concept of
male privilege isn't easy! For many black men, the phrase "black male
privilege" seems like an oxymoron -- three words that simply do not go
While it is understandable that black men are hesitant or reluctant
to examine the concept of male privilege, the African American community
will never be able to overcome the serious issues that we face if we as
black men do not confront our role in promoting and sustaining male
supremacist attitudes and actions.
Inviting black men and boys into a conversation about male privilege
does not deny centuries of discrimination or the burden of racism that
we continue to suffer from today. As long as a black man can be
tasered 9 times in 14 minutes, shot at 50 times on the morning of his
wedding night, or receive less call-backs for a job than a white man
with a felony record, we know that racist sexism that targets black men
is alive and kicking.
Examining black male privileges offers black men and boys an
opportunity to go beyond old arguments of "personal responsibility" or
"blaming the man" to gain a deeper level of insight into how issues of
class and race are influenced by gender. Gender is one of the most
important tools in the production and reproduction of power because it
relies on consent and not just coercion.
The items represented on the Black Male Privileges Checklist reflect
aspects of Black men's lives that we take for granted, which appear to
be "double standards," but in fact are male privileges that come at the
expense of women in general and African American women in particular.
I offer this checklist based on years of experience working with men,
and with the faith that we as men have far more to gain than we have to
lose by challenging the privileges that we take for granted.
I believe that there are more similarities between men than there are
differences. Therefore, many items on the Black Male Privilege
Checklist apply to men generally. However, because of the specific
privileges that black men have in relationship to black women; there are
specific items that apply only to black men. I will leave it up to you
to determine which items apply only to black men, and which items apply
to men in general.
The Black Male Privileges Checklist
Leadership & Politics
1. I don't have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.
2. When I read African American History textbooks, I will learn mainly about black men.
3. When I learn about the Civil Rights Movement & the Black Power
Movements, most of the leaders that I will learn about will be black
4. 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.
5. I will be taken more seriously as a political leader than black women.
6. Despite the substantial role that black women played in the Civil
Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, currently there is no black
female that is considered a "race leader".
7. I can live my life without ever having read black feminist authors,
or knowing about black women's history, or black women's issues.
8. I can be a part of a black liberation organization like the Black
Panther Party where an "out" rapist Eldridge Cleaver can assume
9. I will make more money than black women at equal levels of education and occupation.
10. Most of the national "opinion framers" in Black America including talk show hosts and politicians are men.
11. I have the ability to define black women's beauty by European
standards in terms of skin tone, hair, and body size. In comparison,
black women rarely define me by European standards of beauty in terms of
skin tone, hair, or body size.
12. I do not have to worry about the daily hassles of having my hair
conforming to any standard image of beauty the way black women do.
13. I do not have to worry about the daily hassles of being terrorized
by the fear of gaining weight. In fact, in many instances bigger is
better for my sex.
14. My looks will not be the central standard by which my worth is valued by members of the opposite sex.
Sex & Sexuality
15. I can purchase pornography that typically shows men defile women by the common practice of the "money shot.”
16. I can believe that causing pain during sex is connected with a woman's pleasure without ever asking her.
17. I have the privilege of not wanting to be a virgin, but preferring that my wife or significant other be a virgin.
18. When it comes to sex if I say "No", chances are that it will not be mistaken for “Yes".
19. If I am raped, no one will assume that "I should have known better"
or suggest that my being raped had something to do with how I was
20. I can use sexist language like bonin’, laying the pipe, hittin-it,
and banging that convey images of sexual acts based on dominance and
21. I can live in a world where polygamy is still an option for men in the United States as well as around the world.
22. In general, I prefer being involved with younger women socially and sexually
23. In general, the more sexual partners that I have the more stature I receive among my peers.
24. I have easy access to pornography that involves virtually any category of sex where men degrade women, often young women.
25. I have the privilege of being a part of a sex where "purity balls" apply to girls but not to boys.
26. When I consume pornography, I can gain pleasure from images and sounds of men causing women pain.
27. I come from a tradition of humor that is based largely on insulting and disrespecting women; especially mothers.
28. I have the privilege of not having black women, dress up and play
funny characters- often overweight- that are supposed to look like me
for the entire nation to laugh.
29. When I go to the movies, I know that most of the leads in black
films are men. I also know that all of the action heroes in black film
30. I can easily imagine that most of the artists in Hip Hop are members of my sex.
31. I can easily imagine that most of the women that appear in Hip Hop videos are there solely to please men
32. Most of lyrics I listen to in hip-hop perpetuate the ideas of males dominating women, sexually and socially.
33. I have the privilege of consuming and popularizing the word pimp,
which is based on the exploitation of women with virtually no opposition
from other men.
34. I can hear and use language bitches and hoes that demean women, with virtually no opposition from men.
35. I can wear a shirt that others and I commonly refer to as a "wife beater" and never have the language challenged.
36. Many of my favorite movies include images of strength that do not
include members of the opposite sex and often are based on violence.
37. Many of my favorite genres of films, such as martial arts, are based on violence.
38. I have the privilege of popularizing or consuming the idea of a
thug, which is based on the violence and victimization of others with
virtually no opposition from other men.
39. I have the privilege to define black women as having "an attitude"
without referencing the range of attitudes that black women have.
40. I have the privilege of defining black women's attitudes without defining my attitudes as a black man.
41. I can believe that the success of the black family is dependent on
returning men to their historical place within the family, rather than
in promoting policies that strengthen black women's independence, or
that provide social benefits to black children.
42. I have the privilege of believing that a woman cannot raise a son to be a man.
43. I have the privilege of believing that a woman must submit to her man.
44. I have the privilege of believing that before slavery gender relationships between black men and women were perfect.
45. I have the privilege of believing that feminism is anti-black.
46. I have the privilege of believing that the failure of the black family is due to the black matriarchy.
47. I have the privilege of believing that household responsibilities are women's roles.
48. I have the privilege of believing that black women are different
sexually than other women and judging them negatively based on this
49. I will make significantly more money as a professional athlete than members of the opposite sex will.
50. In school, girls are cheerleaders for male athletes, but there is no such role for males to cheerlead for women athletes.
51. My financial success or popularity as a professional athlete will not be associated with my looks.
52. I can talk about sports or spend large portions of the day playing
video games while women are most likely involved with household or
53. I can spend endless hours watching sports TV and have it considered natural.
54. I can touch, hug, or be emotionally expressive with other men while
watching sports without observers perceiving this behavior as sexual.
55. I know that most sports analysts are male.
56. If I am a coach, I can motivate, punish, or embarrass a player by saying that the player plays like a girl.
57. Most sports talk show hosts that are members of my race are men.
58. I can rest assured that most of the coaches -even in predominately-female sports within my race are male.
59. I am able to play sports outside without my shirt on and it not be considered a problem.
60. I am essentially able to do anything inside or outside without my shirt on, whereas women are always required to cover up.
61. I have the privilege of being a part of a sex where the mutilation
and disfigurement of a girl’s genitalia is used to deny her sexual
sensations or to protect her virginity for males.
62. I have the privilege of not having rape be used as a primary tactic
or tool to terrorize my sex during war and times of conflict.
63. I have the privilege of not being able to name one female leader in
Africa or Asia, past or present, that I pay homage to the way I do male
leaders in Africa and/or Asia.
64. I have the ability to travel around the world and have access to women in developing countries both sexually and socially.
65. I have the privilege of being a part of the sex that starts wars and
that wields control of almost all the existing weapons of war and mass
66. In college, I will have the opportunity to date outside of the race at a much higher rate than black women will.
67. I have the privilege of having the phrase "sewing my wild oats" apply to my sex as if it were natural.
68. I know that the further I go in education the more success I will have with women.
69. In college, black male professors will be involved in interracial
marriages at much higher rates than members of the opposite sex will.
70. By the time I enter college, and even through college, I have the
privilege of not having to worry whether I will be able to marry a black
71. In college, I will experience a level of status and prestige that is
not offered to black women even though black women may outnumber me and
out perform me academically.
72. If I go to an HBCU, I will have incredible opportunities to exploit black women
73. What is defined as "News" in Black America is defined by men.
74. I can choose to be emotionally withdrawn and not communicate in a relationships and it be considered unfortunate but normal.
75. I can dismissively refer to another persons grievances as ^*ing.
76. I have the privilege of not knowing what words and concepts like
patriarchy, phallocentric, complicity, colluding, and obfuscation mean.
77. I have the privilege of marrying outside of the race at a much higher rate than black women marry.
78. My "strength" as a man is never connected with the failure of the
black family, whereas the strength of black women is routinely
associated with the failure of the black family.
79. If I am considering a divorce, I know that I have substantially more marriage, and cohabitation options than my spouse.
80. Chances are I will be defined as a "good man" by things I do not do
as much as what I do. If I don't beat, cheat, or lie, then I am a
considered a "good man". In comparison, women are rarely defined as
"good women" based on what they do not do.
81. I have the privilege of not having to assume most of the household or child-care responsibilities.
82. I have the privilege of having not been raised with domestic
responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and washing that takes up
disproportionately more time as adults.
Church & Religious Traditions
83. In the Black Church, the majority of the pastoral leadership is male.
84. In the Black Church Tradition, most of the theology has a male point
of view. For example, most will assume that the man is the head of
85. I do not have to worry about being considered a traitor to my race if I call the police on a member of the opposite sex.
86. I have the privilege of knowing men who are physically or sexually abusive to women and yet I still call them friends.
87. I can video tape women in public- often without their consent - with male complicity.
88. I can be courteous to a person of the opposite sex that I do not
know and say "Hello" or "Hi" and not fear that it will be taken as a
come-on or fear being stalked because of it.
89. I can use physical violence or the threat of physical violence to get what I want when other tactics fail in a relationship.
90. If I get into a physical altercation with a person of the opposite
sex, I will most likely be able to impose my will physically on that
91. I can go to parades or other public events and not worry about being
physically and sexually molested by persons of the opposite sex.
92. I can touch and physically grope women's bodies in public- often without their consent- with male complicity.
93. In general, I have the freedom to travel in the night without fear.
94. I am able to be out in public without fear of being sexually harassed by individuals or groups of the opposite sex.
The Black Male Privileges Checklist was born out of years of
organizing men's groups and the numerous -- often heated --
conversations I have had with men while utilizing Barry Deutsch's The
Male Privilege Checklist. In my experiences, most men would object to
at least some items on the Male Privilege Checklist. However, "men of
color", and especially African American men, often had the sharpest
criticisms of the Male Privilege Checklist and the most problems
relating to the idea of male privilege.
There are many reasons why black men would be reluctant to identify
with the concept of male privilege. One of the most important reasons is
that our experience with privilege is based on a history of political,
economic, and military power that whites have historically exercised
over black life. This conceptualization of privilege has not allowed us
to see ourselves with privilege because the focus has been placed
largely on whites. Privilege is not restricted to economic, political,
or military areas of life. Privilege is also social, cultural, sexual,
institutional, and interpersonal in nature. Our inability to have a more
expansive understanding of privilege and power has foreclosed important
insights into virtually every aspect of black men’s lives and other
"men of color".
As black men, we have also been skeptical of pro-feminist males, most
of whom were white and middle class. Black men who fought for freedom
during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movements were
suspicious- to say the least- of the motives of white men who were
requesting that black men give up the privilege they never felt they
had. Given the timing of the pro-feminist male movement and the
demographics of these men, it has not been easy to separate the message
from the messenger. Black men had a similar reaction to the voices of
black feminists, who we saw as being influenced by white middle class
feminists. Alongside this, there has long been a belief among many black
men that racism provides privileges to black women that are denied to
In addition, many of the items on The Male Privilege Checklist simply
did not to apply to black men and other men of color. As a result,
many black men argued that the list should have been called The White
Male Privilege Checklist. In light of these considerations, the Black
Male Privileges Checklist differs from the Male Privilege Checklist in
First, It departs from an “either/or” view of privilege that suggests
that an individual or a group can only be placed into one category.
Therefore, the focus is on privileges and not privilege. It also
highlights belief systems that often serve as the basis for
justifications and rationalizations of exploitation and discrimination.
Second, The Black Male Privilege Checklist takes a Life Course
perspective, acknowledging the fact that privilege takes on different
forms at various points in men’s lives. Third, it takes a Global
perspective to highlight the privilege that black males have as
Americans, and the privileges black men share with other men of color.
African American men rarely acknowledge the privilege we have in
relationship to people in developing countries -- especially women. Too
often, our conception of privilege is limited to white men and does not
lead us to reflect on the power that men of color in Africa, Asia, and
Latin America exercise over women. Finally, it calls for action and not
just awareness. We need “men of color” to be actively involved in
social welfare and social justice movements.
Invariably, the Black Male Privileges Checklist will inspire some men
to create their own list describing the list of privileges they believe
black women benefit from. What men need to understand is that paying
attention to male privilege does not mean that women are without faults.
Rather, it means that black men cannot be blind to the facts that black
men earn more than black women do, black men continue to dominate most
of the political, religious, and cultural institutions within the black
community, and that black men continue to dominate black women in areas
of physical and sexual abuse.
As “men of color”, we have a responsibility to acknowledge that we
participate in this system even though it offers us little rewards. Most
African Americans, for example, take for granted the system of
capitalism that we all participate in, even though we know that it does
not offer us the same rewards that it does for whites. The sex-gender
system, which privileges men over women, operates in similar way for all
men. Black men and other “men of color” can participate in this system
even though it does not offer similar rewards.
Finally, the Black Male Privileges Checklist is a tool that can be
used by any individual, group, organization, family, or community that
is interested in black males having greater insight into their
individual lives and the collective lives of black women and girls. It
is also a living tool that will grow and be amended as more discussion
and dialogue occurs. This is the first edition of the Black Male
Privileges Checklist and will be updated regularly. This checklist was
created with black men in mind, and does not necessarily capture the
experiences and cultural references of other ethnic males. I would
welcome dialogue with others who are concerned about these
constituencies as well.
Please visit our website at http://renaissancemaleproject.com/
to view our Teen & Male Youth Privileges Checklist. An historic
tool for all young males, schools, community organizations, youth
groups, sports teams, and families that can be used to assist our young
males in becoming the type of adult men we want them to be.
Jewel Woods is a gender analyst specializing in men's issues and
executive director of the Renaissance Male Project . He is also the
co-author of 'Don't Blame it on Rio: The Real Deal Behind Why Men Go to
Brazil for Sex.'