A guide to embrace your so-called 'black privilege'
April 07, 2016 at 6:00 am
The term ‘black privilege’ was created in disparaging response to the concept of white privilege. Peddlers of the term range from non-intersectional liberals to the “we want our country back” crowd.
We’ve all heard the argument. It’s the idea that because black Americans have an entire month dedicated to black history, a television network focused solely on black entertainment and, of course, our very own black president. Then apparently not only is racism over, but black people are the privileged ones. This line of reasoning asserts that the modicum of surface-level progress has somehow balanced the scales against the societal inequality built into the very framework of this country that benefits white people — often at the expense of people of color. White privilege has produced social and educational advantages, generational wealth and, in some instances, a smug sense of entitlement that summons the audacity to feign offense when people of color dare to celebrate themselves despite this adversity.
GIRL. I said Black. https://t.co/8xS6omS7UE
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) October 16, 2015
This black privilege argument, in all of its contemptuous glory, conveniently glosses over the abject discrimination, demeaning imagery and historic lack of positive representation that creates the need for things such as niche marketing, decidedly positive black images and legal protected classes.
The incremental advancement of a small percentage of black people does not privilege make. Further, the election of this black president, so frequently touted as the ultimate symbol of black privilege, has actually placed a national spotlight on the blatant racism, hate, obstructionism, scapegoating and random racist outbursts that every person of color has experienced on the job.
The term black privilege was designed to do what all victim blaming, racial scapegoating terminology seeks to accomplish: Invalidate our experiences while intimidating people of color into silence and conformity. Although I recognize the trickery at play here, I will say that the recent resurgence of the topic has me thinking about the term black privilege in the purest sense of the term.
Are there special benefits to being black?
The answer for me is – absolutely! It would have been impossible for us to have survived our struggles without adapting certain beneficial skills and characteristics. Although historically we have had to apply all of our energy and aptitude toward surviving, when we redirect this power toward thriving rather than merely enduring, we are unstoppable! It is from this perspective that I have identified seven areas of distinct advantage — honed by our struggle — that black people should use unapologetically to our benefit on a daily basis:
Our survival has hinged on our gut instinct letting us know when to trust and when to be guarded, when to move forward and when to be still. Sprinkle this inner knowing with logic and strategy, and watch how far it propels you.
Our faith looks different, which is why we tend to praise differently. Our faith is more than just cerebral, philosophical or theoretical, it is REAL. Our collective stories are laced with miraculous just in the nick of time narratives of supernatural feats, inexplicable by conventional logic. It is this faith that has delivered us from crisis, carried us through struggle and planted us stronger on the other side. When we give ourselves permission to apply this power toward purpose, nothing is impossible.
Our ability to understand and share the struggles of others never ceases to amaze me. We know what it feels like to marginalized, bullied and victimized. Our collective empathy, compassion and protective instincts are unbelievably strong.
We know how to code-switch to fit into any environment. Whether or not it’s fair that we should have to do this is another argument, but the ability to flex to our surroundings can definitely be used as an asset.
We know how to make something out of nothing. The same talent and ingenuity our ancestors used to convert undesirable scraps of food into flavorful delicacies is now being used to create groundbreaking technology, forge unique business opportunities and set all the popular trends. Why do you think everyone wants to appropriate this?
Comment below and let us know how you shine!