Privilege: It’s Not Just for White Folks

by Stacia L. Brown

This Monday, Tayari Jones gave a reading at the Howard County Library in Ellicott City, Maryland, in support of her acclaimed third novel, Silver Sparrow, and its paperback release. By now, I’m sure many Clutchettes have read the book or are, at least, familiar with its premise. But just in case, here’s the super-short version: It’s the story of a bigamist’s two daughters and their complicated relationships with their father and each other.

In discussing the novel’s premise, Jones said she understood the complexities of sharing a dad. Her own father has daughters from previous relationships — and their experiences with and perceptions of their dad significantly differ. As a result, she talked about discovering her own privilege, as the daughter who got to spend every day with their father. Her sisters only saw him intermittently. When Jones’ nephew heard her describe his mother as her “half-sister” at one of her readings, he took issue with the term, calling it an “ugly word” and stating that there are “no half-people.” (For more of her account of that experience, visit her publisher, Algonquin Books, blog.)

Jones didn’t immediately understand the term half-sister as a pejorative. To her mind, the term accurately described the connection between her and her father’s other daughters. But it occurred to her that the meaning shifts and has different emotional implications, depending on the person using it. She went on to say, “You’re not responsible for the privilege you inherit, but once you’re aware of it, how you use it defines your character.” Needless to say, she started referring to her sisters as “my sister(s) with whom I share a father.”

It was interesting to listen to Tayari Jones discuss privilege, a concept we mostly hear bandied about in regard to the white, the male, and the wealthy. To be sure, it isn’t a term that springs immediately to mind in conversations about black women in this country. Between earning inequities, media misrepresentations, the “mule of the world” meme, and everything in between, we aren’t exactly the poster children for entitlement.

And yet there are several circumstances that can potentially place us at higher stations in life than those around us. Certainly, some of those circumstances are familial and relational. Wives are often in positions of privilege, as it relates to their husband’s other children. Children who have “full custody” of their fathers are privileged over their siblings who don’t. Maternal grandmothers may spend far more time with their grandchildren than paternal grandmothers. The possibilities along those lines are immense.

But there are plenty of other instances where black women may experience privilege. Some of those are cultural. Consider the hiring bias against applicants with “ethnic-sounding” names. In a hiring pool, Sharon Jones may have the unwitting upper hand over Shaquanita Jackson. Similarly, there are situations in which American-born black women find themselves at a distinct advantage over other women of the diaspora.

There’s economic, educational, and professional privilege. And then there’s the kind of inadvertent “leverage” black men will occasionally suggest we have.

Last semester, one of my freshmen insisted the young women in our predominantly black course were “better off” than the young men because they were “females.” “It’s easier for y’all to get jobs, y’all got lower car insurance, y’all can get assistance if you need it, and y’all don’t get profiled by the police like we do,” he asserted. While the girls argued his points, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. And, because I’ve had and heard the same exchange — with much older folks, over many years — enough to feel exhausted by it, I didn’t join in with the chorus.

Because of its connotations, privilege isn’t always something we want to own. The idea suggests an unearned superiority and the power to oppress. And who wants to be associated with that? But what Jones said in her reading was key: It isn’t the privilege or how we obtain it that matters as much as what we choose to do with it. If we use it to lord our better lot over those less fortunate, we abuse it and squander its ability to heal, reconcile, and improve.

Have you inherited the kind of familial privilege Jones discusses? How about economic or cultural privilege? Have you ever been roped into a debate over which oppressed group has it better: black women or black men, black Americans or black emigrants to America?


  • Melacnholy Soul

    - I have not inherited the familial privilege Jones discuses, but my half-brother does as he has had our father in his life since he was born whereas my sister and I have mostly had an absentee father. Most times I refer to my half-brother as ‘my brother’ when I am speaking with immediate family.

    - I haven’t experienced any economic or cultural privilege.

    -The only time I discuss who has it worse is when it comes to women and men.

  • Courtney**

    Able-bodied privilege. Religious (belonging to the majority-religion or sect) privilege. Sexual orientation privilege. Along with educational/class etc. privilege, there is a ton of privileges that black women can and do benefit from. However, I’m going to give a maaaaajor side eye to any black men who want to claim we have some sort of “female privilege.” Male privilege is much more long-standing, much more potent, and much more widespread than any suspected female advantages. This especially plays out intra-racially when the vast majority of African-American figureheads and groups are mostly comprised of black men who focus on black men and their issues, and the long history of the silencing of black women when it comes to domestic violence, sexual and street harassment, sexual assault, etc. because we shouldn’t ever speak a word against black men with all the racial oppression they face (as if this never extends to black women as well) almost vis-a-vis the “no snitching” culture. Don’t air your dirty laundry, etc. Only this of course only serves the purpose of coddling black men from owning up to their privilege at the expense of the health, sanity, and safety of black women.

    I can own up to all of my privileges that I do have but intersectionality is real. Sometimes playing that game is just pointless and futile. Does the trust-fund-enabled gay white man with cystic fibrosis have a worse run than the straight able-bodied latina? I guess we could rank all of the privileges on a scale of importance but I doubt we’d ever come to a meaningful consensus. Something gives me the feeling that while most of us would agree on things like able-bodied privilege, despite being a majority-Christian society, there’s still Christians who claim they’re marginalized. Despite men still enjoying most of the positions of power and wealth, “men’s-rights advocates” and groups still exist. People tend to want to give more credence to claims of oppression against them regardless of how true the reverse may be because everyone likes to be a victim and no one wants to admit that they have unearned power nor spend the effort/energy to use that power to help “the other side.”

  • grateful

    you said,

    “Similarly, there are situations in which American-born black women find themselves at a distinct advantage over other women of the diaspora.”

    do you mind expounding on this?

  • Isis

    I dont have any privileges

  • Ravi

    If a comparatively preferable situation is all that is required to constitute the unearned privilege to which you refer, I find it odd that you recognize it in so many ways save in reference to black males. while black males do enjoy several areas of black male privilege in comparison to black women, black women enjoy several privileges, especially in reference to education and the criminal justice system.

  • onegirl

    Are you that close to Ellicott City? Clutch really should have a meetup. I’m literally right down the road in Baltimore County!

    I have a half-sister, and in my situation, I’m the privileged one because my sisters and I lived with my dad full time and I didn’t even know I had a half sister until I was 15 or 16. I feel bad for her sometimes, but there is nothing I can do about it now. It is still strange to hear her say ‘Daddy’ when she talks about him. I’m privileged in other ways too, and I thank BOTH of my parents for that.


    This idea has been on my mind for awhile. The idea of who has privilege is really a comparison to be made within your personal context. I realized that I had a lot of privilege within the context of my family because I was raised in a stable and loving working class home while some of my first cousins were literally born into chaos. I feel like this has led to some jealousy.

    I also spent my first 11 years of life with my father living in our home before my parents were divorced. I’ve had an up and down relationship with my father but I always knew were he was and I understand that means a lot when I have friends who don’t know their fathers or met them once.

    I also have half sisters who are much younger than I am from my father’s remarriage. I feel like there’s tension in our relationship because my brother and I had more educational opportunities and that’s all because of our mother. I basically feel privilege to have a very supportive mother who encouraged me to reach my potential. I feel like my half sisters didn’t have that and it shows in terms of their hopes and paths in life.

    Now I’ve talked about my privilege in the context of my family and environment, but I went to high school with rich white kids who had families had a history of attending Ivy League colleges ( I was a scholarship student),

  • lynn

    Age privilege. Older people are having a hard time in this economy due to age discrimination, finding themselves out of jobs with employers reluctant to hire them. Many men in their 40s and 50s refuse to date women their own age, leaving older women unpartnered. It is harder to get health insurance at this age. And older women of color especially rarely see themselves reflected in the media.

  • isolde

    I don’t quite understand how use of the term “half sister” plays into the privilege debate. The nephew seemed offended by the term because he misunderstood its meaning. He seemed to believe that the term half sister made his mother appear less than human, but a quick explanation of the term to the nephew would have allowed him understand the context. Once he better understood the term, he most likely would have viewed it in a different light, and the problem would have been resolved. However, privilege isn’t something that can be remedied with a quick explanation, like explaining the term “half sister” to a nephew. That’s kind of the point. You can’t change someone’s economic situation in the time it would take to explain the term half sister to a child. You can’t change the history of racism, sexism, homophobia, disability discrimination, etc., and its adverse effects upon those bearing the brunt of those oppressions with a quick lecture.

    As for the privileges I have able bodied privilege, economic privilege, weight privilege, and probably a bunch of others I can’t think of, because that’s why it’s called privilege. You don’t have to think about it. It just is.

  • Wow!

    The young man in your class is right.

  • Anon

    - I had cultural privilege as an immigrant with a not so stereotypical Black American sounding name.

    - Most of my peers and educators assumed I had a father, but it’s when people discovered that I didn’t that they treated me differently, especially other blacks. I have a sibling who has a relationship with their father and I notice how thing have come easier for them because of it. They could always afford to make mistakes and without their relatives, my mother even, giving up on them – and they’ve made plenty. My mistakes, flaws and downfalls, I feel, are more held against me for being the fatherless one.

    - Most people also assumed, for the longest, the my family was middle class. It was when it was fully clear (as I got to know other people against my parent’s request of staying to myself – should have listened) that we lived in poverty that people treated me differently because of that. I especially noticed the difference coming from other blacks. It’s like, if you a poor and black you can’t get opportunities on your own merit, upper class black want to intercede and use your poverty against you so that you have to go through them in order to get that opportunity. But if no one thinks you’re poor and those opportunities come, no one tries to get in your way. Well, that was my experience.

    - I don’t have familial privilege. My mom was fatherless, too. However, all her other ump-teen siblings have the privilege of having him in their lives. The women were married off and the males sent off to either the military or college. They didn’t see that my parent had any of that (different mother). There is also racial/white privilege among the siblings/cousins, some of them are half/part white. But not our direct branch of the family tree.

  • Yb

    I think I’m privilege in quite a few ways. I’m privilege because I am young, able-bodied, heterosexual, cis gendered, middle class, privilege by my weight, privilege because I have a apperance that is deemed acceptable. But I’m also at disadvantage far more greatly than my race and gender.

    While privilege at many times is inherited, I do think that those aware of their privilege can make the conscious effort to recognize and denounce it when it is being used.

    And men, especially black men, like that dumbass freshmen need to STFU always trying to play in the oppression olympics while simultaneously wearing their privilege proudly. Since when did lower car insurance rates become better then rape, male gaze, rape culture, domestic abuse, street harassment, lower salary rates, violence toward women, gendered discrimination in the work place and so forth. I swear woman studies should be required in schools.

  • girlformerlyknownasgrace

    Read on Franchesca Ramsey’s piece on cis-gendered privilege.

    She said something that stuck out to me: “.. the way privilege works is that those of us that have it don’t usually know we have it. And that’s what often times makes privilege so hard to explain/understand.”

    If you think you do not have privilege it is because you are not aware that you have it. I have privelige over my mother’s nephews and nieces in Nigeria, who have to pay for an education they cannot afford and even if they could, would never have the opportunities to get a job in the way I can here in America. In college, a lot of my Black female classmates had privilege over me because they came were daughters of diplomats, Divine Nines, Jack and Jills, World Bank officers. They theorized about racial oppression; I lived it.

  • girlformerlyknownasgrace

    where my comment go…

  • Belle Noire

    I remember experiencing this kind of “privilege” culturally when I went to Haiti at age 14. Going to the bank is like a day trip; you can spend about 2-3 hours just waiting in line before doing something as simple as withdrawing money. One day, my siblings and I went in and we were speaking in English, the bank greeter asked us what we would like done that day and we immediately proceeded to the front of the line. So I guess, Haitian nationals treat foreigners and Haitians from “La Ba” (abroad) with much more privilege than they’re own. I felt kind of bad because I’m just as Haitian as they are except I was born just a few miles away in Miami. I’m sure other Haitians/Haitian-Americans reading understands where I’m coming from.

  • Anon

    What’s to expound on?

    We live in rich Western nation with the option of public education, access to a highly prized passport, and the internet. Seriously, outside of Europe, we have resources that a whole lot of black women other places in the world would love to have. Shoot, we had a black female secretary of state in the most powerful country on the planet!

  • Anon

    I’ll have to come back later today, but the ONE area where older black women are OVER represented is the media. I’m hard pressed to see a thin, younger good-looking black woman on a T.V. show today. Middle-aged and overweight black women are what’s being cast these days.

  • S.

    I think the general rule is that every American is more privileged over their same race, same gender,same age, same economic status counterparts from ‘other’ countries

    As an American, I do often realize how privilege we are to have the military powers that we have (and the lack of terrorist acts that come with it)

  • sholla21

    - Familial privilege: I come from a two-parent home with parents who are very present in my life. A traditional home is nothing out of the ordinary where I come from but since I came to North America, I became aware of the negative stereotypes that are associated with single parent homes and the people who come from those homes.

    - Economic privilege and the lifestyle that comes from it.
    Class privilege that gave me opportunities and shielded me from the suffering you can endure as a poor child/person, and especially woman in a region that has issues with human rights.
    Higher education as an expectation, not a luxury.
    A positive living environment : never having to deal with the constant stress of living in neighborhoods that were unsafe, which is a blessing for anyone, the chance not to have your future stolen from you if you’re young, and incredible luck if you’re a woman.
    Also growing up around amibitious, educated and successful people which shapes your vision of the world, of yourself and your expectations of what life should be for you, if you follow the script.

    - Cultural privilege: being exposed to happy, well funtioning traditional families as a norm, men who take pride in being protectors and providers as a norm. I believe it’s a privilege. It’s brain washing, of the good kind. I’ve seen first hand what some women will go through because they’ve been brainwashed the other way, which results in devastatingly low expectations and life choices driven by the mentality that “this is the best I deserve/have seen/can get”.

    Other way the cultural privilege manifests itself: as an educated black woman who is not from North America, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been exposed the disgusting disease of selective racism against blacks, from whites, blacks, non-whites and men. Some non blacks and some in the corporate environment think we are less trouble, hardworking, easier to get along with and will hire us before they hire a black person from North America. No I’m not kidding.
    Some men think you are the opposite of what their self-loathing behind think African American women are: calm, demure, traditional, soft, gentle, brought up to know how to cater to men’s needs, etc. Weirdly enough, I encounter that mentality in some non-black men too (whites and Asians so far).

    - Sexual privilege: as a heterosexual, straight presenting (controversial expression but it means that when people look at you, they automatically think you’re straight) cis-gendered woman, I never have to deal with homophobia and one of the manifestations of transphobia, which is having your gender be questioned, because people think your features, attitude, body, looks are masculine. I see a lot of it, people calling natural born females “trannies” and stripping them of their femininity because they don’t fit the ideal people have in mind of what a woman should be/look like, ect.

    - Able bodied privilege: I pray everyday to keep it.

    - Childless privilege: as a single woman, I’ve seen guys light up like christmas trees when I replied “no” after they asked if I had children. I’ve heard a lot of guys -seemingly progressive guys- talk about their perception of single mothers and their justifications for treating them differently (code for not as well) than they do childless single women.

    -Religious privilege: wherever I’ve been, I either belonged to the majority religion, or my religion protected me from certain laws and customs.

  • sholla21

    Free my comment. I didn’t insult anyone.

  • Melissa

    I am not Haitian but I understand Belle Noire.

  • sholla21

    Oh I understand… Moderation. Sorry :)

  • Courtney**

    Ravi, I don’t agree with calling those areas of privilege because while they may affect one gender more than the other, they still affect both genders on a significant level. Black people as a whole are criminalized moreso than white people, and that includes black women. I read a story not too long ago about a visibly pregnant woman who was tasered, and before I even read the article, I knew she was a black woman (or at least a woman of color) because a police officer would have respect for the life of a pregnant white woman and child. Black people in general have less wealth, which leads to a more poorly funded school system, which leads to a poorer and more apathetic quality of education for BOTH genders. And I still see most of the focus groups and community-based initiatives heavily focuses on black boys and black men. Perhaps with good reason in many cases, but that still doesn’t excuse the culture of silencing that exists with regard to the issues that face black women like street harassment, rape, domestic violence, etc. that continue to go unaddressed on any meaningful level.

  • Ravi

    Courtney, you are being inconsistent. you claim that you don’t agree that those are areas of privilege just because they affect one gender more than the other given that they actually affect both groups, yet every example that you gave of privilege is such simply because they affect one group more than the other and both groups are affected. Men are victims of street harassment, rape, domestic violence, and silencing. Everything you named happens to both genders, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that all of those things happen to women far more often. The same thing with race. you mention that black people are MORE criminalized than white people. Well black men are MORE criminalized than black women. Black men are MORE often victims of the criminal justice system than black women. Black men are MORE often incarcerated than women. Yes these things happen to both men and women just as they happen to white people, but the only thing that matters is that one group is disproportionately affected.

    Same thing with the education system. Black male students do considerably worse than black female students. And this is not about poor schools. When you control for wealth, location, school quality, and just about every other factor, black males still do worse than black females in nearly every measure of academic achievement. The gap is about as wide as it is between black students and white students. Black female students enjoy great statistical advantages when it comes to drop out rates, admittance and attendance in college, test scores, GPA, etc.

    Recognize that I’m not talking about excusing anything. I’m just saying that privilege isn’t absolute and it cuts both ways depending on the arena. you already admitted the difficulties in ranking privileges when it comes to other areas. Why is it such a stretch when it comes to black female vs. black male privilege.

  • Jinx Moneypenny

    No. My brother and I have different dads but we grew up under the same roof, so not once have I ever referred to him as my half-brother. It’s kind of mind-boggling that Jones called her siblings “half”, even if they did grow up elsewhere. I can’t imagine casting such a term on my brother no matter if it describes our familial relationship on paper.

    Economic privilege? No.
    Cultural privilege? Depends on which country I’m in, the area, and the surrounding residents.

    I’m not American so I haven’t been roped into those specific debates but as a Black woman I have indeed been roped into the whole “Who has had it worse doe?!” debate. I hope to steer clear of them from this point forward lol.

  • CS

    Translation: “I’m not aware of my privileges”

  • Melancholy Soul

    I have a half-brother. Sometimes, it is hard for me to even consider him as my brother since I have only spent time with him three times in the twelve years he has been on this earth. Likewise, he is fourteen years younger than me, so he is growing up totally different from me. At this point, the only thing that connects us is that we have the same father.

  • Laina

    In my assessment of life, I realize that pretty, cute, smart, talented, and friendly people generally have a privilege in life. Also, in many circumstances youth is a privilege.


    Snort, cough and laugh

    I think a lot of Americans think they live on a whole other scale when in fact they are living through the same struggles. The tears yunna shed over Obama – when black folk have been ruling themselves for ages. Look at Jamaica: female BLACK Prime Minister…and you want to claim Secretary of State? There are lots of places that have internet, that don’t have terrorists lurking outside to grab you, that are not on one of those feed the children commercials. I don’t like that Black Americans like to look down on the ‘other black folk’. Ya’ll aren’t as privileged as you’d like to think.

  • Pseudonym

    Definitely a statement made by someone who hasn’t spent much time amongst black people living outside of the US- especially in majority black countries.

  • Vee

    Not sure I would consider such things as high test scores or *educational achievement* as “privilege”, particularly, when you have so many black boys and girls coming from the same background with that gap. I think there are probably very important reasons why there is a gap, but I don’t think some sort of institutionalized preferential treatment of black girls, and not boys, is the cause. Growing up in a white school district, the black boys and black girls were criminalized, dismissed, not supported etc. the same. In that situation, it seemed like actual interest in your future was what kept you from going under. For me, I cared a/b my future/college/etc. because of how I was raised–perhaps socio-economc status was the “privilege” acting here, not being a black girl.

  • Truthful

    Yes, I grew up middle class with a hard working successful dad, an intelligent mom, and living in a beautiful neighborhood and city. I was protected from the harsh realities of race and poverty. I’m the only daughter from a family of 5 adoring brothers. My childhood days were spent taking music and dance lessons, and religion classes. My sense of self was not only shaped by my family and experiences, but also by my black friends that routinely told me how lucky I was to have such great parents. Today I’m a married mom and elementary school teacher. I’ve always believed my dreams could become realities. Signed, A Cute Dark Black Girl That Has Always Felt Privileged and along with that privilege has come a lifetime of guilt


    I don’t like the whole half sibling privilege outlook on it. Are you privileged because your cheating mom or dad decided to step out on their marriage and have another child, then run back home and decided to ignore that part of them? Why would you want to pretend you’re better than that other child or the fact that your parent decided to ignore them or not give as much to them is some sort of good thing. Are you privileged because your parents don’t give their first children the time of day but give you, a child from a new relationship, more attention? Maybe I am looking at it wrong but I could never get how half brothers and sisters could feel high and mighty over the fact that their parent is not giving that sib the respect they deserve. In my eyes you’re lucky it hasn’t happened to you yet. I have no respect for an individual that pushes their child away. That’s not privilege.

  • careedaway

    I had to sit in an African Diaspora class and listen to my professor go on and on about how West Indians exploited blackness to their privilege. I.e, to get scholarship for a university program they are blacketttty black, but when blacks are being oppressed West Indians put on their nice island accents and walk away!

  • Anon

    It is privilege when you’re living in a house that is paid for and going on fancy vacations and you have a half sibling in the projects.

    I don’t want to totally speak for other people, but I do know a few folks whose dad hit it big time, and they’re the product of the second marriage. As far as they know, their older siblings have always viewed them with resentment and anger, and since they grew up fairly distant from them, see no reason to pursue a relationship with them now.

  • Anon

    “Look at Jamaica: female BLACK Prime Minister”

    Hahahahaha!!!! I am ROLLING over the fact that you’re bringing up JAMAICA of all countries. Okay, let me spell this out. Being a female prime minister of an off-shoot of the British in a primarily black nation (known for tourism) is NOT the same as being Secretary of State as a black woman in a predominately white nation that is the most powerful in the world.

    “The tears yunna shed over Obama – when black folk have been ruling themselves for ages.” —> Majority white country sweets, that’s the difference. Call me up when the Korean minority in Japan has a Prime Minister. Then we can talk about similarities. I done been to the “Motherland”. It was awesome, but I came back for a reason.

  • Anon

    I was going to just ignore your simple ___________, but since you felt free to try to stunt in the other post… I will too! =)
    Ya’ll are locked up more because ya’ll are committing CRIMES more. For a dude with a MBA/JD “Recognize that I’m not talking about excusing anything.”, you should have realized that all you provided was excuses. Instead of being on a WOMEN’S site, trying to argue with women, go be that change that you want in the world.

  • Ravi


    But when they come from the same background there still is a gap. black girls are doing better than black boys when you control for background. If it’s a matter of privilege for class or race, then how is it not when it comes to black girls vs. black boys? White students do better than black students because of their privilege, not because white students are naturally smarter than black students. Rich students do better than poor students because of their privilege, not because they are better. Same with black girls and black boys. Their are very large gaps that form the basis of the privilege. I could get into the actual causes of the gap, but that would get kind of lengthy. They are quite varied and it is more complex than a simple system of preferential treatment.

    There is an aspect to this that maps on to SES, no doubt, but when you control for money, you still have a gap. Rich black girls do better than rich black boys. poor black girls do better than poor black boys. At the school I taught, the AP classes routinely had at least two-thirds girls and the remedial classes were mostly boys. This is the same sort of privilege that sees white male students dominating white females academically in math and sciences. Those white male students aren’t naturally smarter, they enjoy a privilege that causes such disparate impact. It is the exact same thing with black girls and black boys.

  • Ravi

    this didn’t go in the right spot so I’m going to try this again

    But when they come from the same background there still is a gap. black girls are doing better than black boys when you control for background. If it’s a matter of privilege for class or race, then how is it not when it comes to black girls vs. black boys? White students do better than black students because of their privilege, not because white students are naturally smarter than black students. Rich students do better than poor students because of their privilege, not because they are better. Same with black girls and black boys. Their are very large gaps that form the basis of the privilege. I could get into the actual causes of the gap, but that would get kind of lengthy. They are quite varied and it is more complex than a simple system of preferential treatment.

    There is an aspect to this that maps on to SES, no doubt, but when you control for money, you still have a gap. Rich black girls do better than rich black boys. poor black girls do better than poor black boys. At the school I taught, the AP classes routinely had at least two-thirds girls and the remedial classes were mostly boys. This is the same sort of privilege that sees white male students dominating white females academically in math and sciences. Those white male students aren’t naturally smarter, they enjoy a privilege that causes such disparate impact. It is the exact same thing with black girls and black boys.

  • Ravi


    Who is stunting? I’m just having a normal conversation with people that actually can converse without personalizing things. You should try it sometime. if you had an issue with something I said, how about acting like an educated person and explaining why you disagree. It is possible to have civil discussions with people that don’t share your perspective. Well, at least it is for most people.

    Black males are disproportionately represented in prison as compared to the relative numbers of actual offenders. For example, in New York, black males make up the majority of marijuana convictions even though they represent a relatively much smaller minority of the actual marijuana offender. In NYC, black males are stopped and searched at a much higher rate than any other group, including black females, despite not making up the same relative percentage of actual offenders. Black males receive larger sentences for the same crime than any other demographic group. These are all simple facts (not you can accuse me of spitting facts on the site) that you could have easily looked up if you bothered to actually read up on a topic before opening your mouth. None of these represent excuses. Excuses are reasons that seek to justify something. What am I trying to justify. I’m just pointing out another aspect of privilege that seems to be getting overlooked. I’m doing no different than anyone else on this thread that is similarly pointing out areas of disparate impact that constitute privilege. Now if you have an actual argument to make, by all means, go right ahead. Otherwise, you are just living up to the silly behaviors you are erroneously accusing me of.

  • Anon

    Well frankly, if the data is out there that you and yours are more likely to get locked up and with longer sentences, the first order of bizness would be to STOP ENGAGING in those behaviors that could get you locked up. Seems easy enough to me.

    “Who is stunting? I’m just having a normal conversation with people that actually can converse without personalizing things. You should try it sometime.” Boo please, go back and read the comments you tried to “school” me with on the previous post. And then take your own advice.

  • isolde3

    Yeah. Do you remember that show on CW/UPN a while back called “Half and Half,” about the two half sisters? It was pretty obvious that the one daughter who came from the father’s second marriage grew up a lot differently than the daughter who came from the father’s first marriage which ended in divorce. IMO, at the end of the day, it all comes down to money and help. If you’re the kid from whatever previous relationship, and your custodial parent is struggling with finances and raising you alone, then your experience is probably not going to be as pleasant as your half sibling’s experience, if that sibling is being raised in a household with more help (two parents) and by people who aren’t struggling as much with money.

    I’ve seen this from both sides. I have a half sibling, and IMO, there wasn’t any resentment about being raised by my single mother because my financial situation didn’t change once my parents split. So, to me, it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve seen this from the other side too, where a friend of mine came from a house where, after her mother and father divorced, the mother re-married someone far wealthier than her biological father. So when the girl would chill with the bio-dad’s new family, there was some resentment among the bio dad’s new kids about the lifestyle their half sibling was living.

  • Ravi

    That’s a different conversation. I’m just establishing an area of disparate impact that constitutes an area of privilege. I’m not so sure it’s as easy as you are making it out to be. Just go tell everyone to stop using and selling marijuana. But that’s still moot. The problem we are talking about is that other groups are able to engage in the same actions without the same harshness of consequences. It’s unacceptable that non-black males get a slap on the wrist or a pass for committing the same crimes.

    My comment was in reference to the current discussion. you accused me of stunting on this thread. I was having a normal conversation without personal attacks on this thread, until you showed up with more insults. What happened on a separate thread was a dead issue. You should try to move on.

  • Anon

    Boy please. Triflin on the last post, triflin on this one. But at least you admitted that you went above and beyond “normal” conversation when it came to men acting like men.

    “I’m not so sure it’s as easy as you are making it out to be.”———> Yes it is. Don’t be a CRIMINAL.

    “The problem we are talking about is that other groups are able to engage in the same actions without the same harshness of consequences.” ———> LIFE isn’t fair. And until it is… don’t be a criminal.

  • Ravi

    I’m never trifling, but that seems to be your word for people that disagree with you. I guess that makes it semantics. Notice how you can’t stick to the actual issue. I never went above and beyond, I responded in kind to your personal attacks. Don’t start none, won’t be none. I was perfectly content to have a conversation without making things personal, but it seems all you want to do is attack.

    If it were that easy, then there wouldn’t be any criminals. People are told all the time not to be a criminal. That’s still a moot point. The discussion you intruded on was about privilege, not ways you can end the ills of society. Never said life is fair, but how does that at all relate to any point that I’ve raised. black women still enjoy privileges in certain realms and you have yet to make an actual argument as to why this is not the case.

  • motrenaissance

    BW have it good on the financial front (They have beauty issues)
    BM have it good on the romantic front (They have financial/building/networking issues)

  • e_r

    There is a difference between privilage and and coincidence. Just because someone happenes to have the upper-hand in a situation, it doesn’t mean that they have privilage. The kind of privilage that the author speaks of occurs when a system is set up to to give one group advantages BECAUSE it has systematically denied another. I’m saying that we need to be careful what we label privilage because applied incorrectly, the term can lose meaning. Everything is not “privilage”, and sometimes life is unfair.

  • Tee

    @Ravi– Black people are in the same boat when it comes to white privilege and any other types of privilege that keep them from advancing socially and economically. Why are you making this a black female vs. black male issue?

  • Ravi


    But I didn’t make it an issue. I responded to someone who made it an issue. She was talking about black male privilege and I just asserted that it goes both ways. black males have privilege in reference to black females in many instances, but it also goes the other way around. We aren’t in the same boat when it comes to advancing in education considering black women have been advancing considerably while black men haven’t been. It’s clear to me that there are differences in the way our respective forms of oppression manifest or else we wouldn’t have such a disparate impact.

    Within education circles we have a well known crisis with black boys. Black boys do worse in school than black girls. This is a well known fact. Look it up for yourself if you doubt me. By ignoring the particular situation that black boys find themselves in that causes such a rift, we lose the ability to combat the effects and close the gap.

  • Anon

    Discussion I intruded on? Wait for it… TRIFLIN.

    What about the SITE that’s for black women that you are crashing right now, trying to give excuses for simple behavior?

    “Privileges” that black women enjoy include being dogged out on the radio by fools. Privileges include being harrassed on the street. Privileges that black women enjoy include having “JD/MBAs”* try to play the victim with women over who is more powerless.

    *The sad thing is I actually believe that you have those two degrees, and possibly from said school, and you are STILL on a black women’s site acting a victim… as a dude.

  • rhea

    @ Ravi

    What you said completely disregards the fact that we live in a patriarchal society that allows males to put off their responsibilities on females, so girls are forced to become more mature (learning how to cook, clean, and take care of other people while living up to others’ expectations) while boys can remain immature. Pair that with the fact that so many black children are living without a male’s influence, and you can infer why there are few boys in AP classes. They don’t work as hard to be there. There are so many people willing to accept excuses from the boys that they get used to not having to work.

    I am aware that my statement is very general, so there may be people who do not relate to what I’ve said. Still, overall, what I said is true. I am an educator as well, and I see the same things that you do. I don’t believe in making excuses for people.

  • shal1987

    I feel that I have been privileged in my life as well . I grew up in a two parent home . My father was in the Navy and my mom is a teacher . So I come from a middle class environment . I didn’t realize I had privilege until others pointed it out to me . I think I do get resentment from my older brother because I was given more when we were younger ,more spoiled I suppose . Unfortunately we live in a society that values the superficial over substance so I think being attractive is also a privilege that I have . I have gotten jobs over people that I know were more qualified than me . I don’t think it’s just looks but a combination of youth , seemingly smart, bubbly,all those qualities can help in lifeI never had to “struggle” I always have my parents being supportive and encouraging me . I know that I am blessed and I am reminded of that whenever I see my peers in desperate situations or distressed . I know young women my age who have to prostitute or do things that are really degrading b/c they had no other choice , they had no where else to turn . Their family didn’t have the means to help them. It makes me so thankful for the privilege of having a stable supportive family and having good values instilled me at a young age .

  • Ravi

    Rhea, I am taking account patriarchy. I explicitly stated that black men enjoy privileges over black women. Just because we live in a patriarchal society doesn’t mean that every aspect of reality is shaped by male privilege. In fact, that was kind of the point of the whole article, but in reference to race. Clearly this is a white dominated society but that doesn’t mean you don’t have other areas of privilege along some dimensions.

    White males also live in this patriarchy yet they consistently have outperformed white females and black females in most every area of academic achievement since the dawn of academic record keeping. should we also attribute the over-representation of white males in AP classes to them working harder to be there? It’s funny how much people sound like Republicans pull yourself up by the bootstraps types when confronted with their own areas of privilege. when black women are on the bottom of an academic achievement gap then it is because of obvious privilege, when it’s black males then it’s because we don’t work hard enough. pointing out black male privilege is just pointing out an obvious truth while pointing out black female privilege is making excuses?

    I’m not making excuses, I’m actually giving an honest analysis of privilege dynamics. Excuses are just that, some sort of attempt to excuse the behavior. My goal is to end the academic achievement gap. How do you propose to do something about the crisis of black boys when you are denying your own privilege in this arena?

  • Ravi

    you intruded on the conversation on this very thread. Scroll up and read how it went down. No one was talking to you and you addressed me specifically just to hurl more insults and say irrelevant things. This site is for anyone with internet access and interest in the subject matter. If the editors didn’t want men here they would make that known and block our comments. you don’t own the website, so you don’t get to say who is crashing and isn’t. It does explicitly state that people that just go around making personal attacks aren’t welcome. maybe you are the crasher, given you can’t seem to make a statement without name calling.

    how did I play the victim? do you know what the term means? are you just stringing together random words at this point in the hope of constructing a legitimate argument. you are just making a random assertion. Now try to explain how on God’s green earth that anything I mentioned amounts to claiming victim-hood. I’m pointing out an area of privilege NOT saying someone has been victimized. I didn’t say black women are in a complete and utter state of privilege over black men, so your comment doesn’t even make sense.

    I also have degrees in education and engineering, that’s not the point. The only thing sad here is the fact that you still can’t put together two sentences to form what even slightly resembles a coherent argument. you have yet to legitimately rebut anything I’ve said. I’m not expecting a great debate out of you, because this is obviously not your area of expertise. but you could at least stick to the topic at hand and try to make a little bit of since.

  • Anon

    Well I’ll keep it simple.
    1) *sense* is the word you were looking for in your last statement.
    At least I can say that I helped a brother out today.

  • Ravi

    you, doing grammar checks? that’s ironic. well, I appreciate the correction. BTW, business isn’t spelled with a “z”

    you should probably fix your numerous issues with spelling and grammar before correcting someone else’s, but I digress. I’ll make sure not to make the same mistake in the future.

  • rhea


    Although I agree with parts of your statement, I cannot cosign. Every aspect of life is not shaped by patriacrchy because there are interlocking systems of oppression. Racism does not operate seperately from sexism or classism. It all works together because the Western mythical norm is the heterosexual, Christian, wealthy, white male. So really, your comparision was not fair at all because you compare black males to white males as if they compete on the same plane. They don’t. White males get chances that black males don’t. That is why girls (across racial lines) outnumber boys in AP classes, yet boys (across racial lines) are more likely to pass the test. That’s why women (across racial lines) outnumber men in colleges around the country. Women work harder because we are trained to. The situation we see in black males in education is a combination of race, sex, and class.

    I am not taking a conservative position just to defend my privilege. I do have privileges, but my gender isn’t one of them in this case. There is no such thing as an achievement gap for males in education because there is nothing systematic keeping them from achieving AS A GROUP. Why would patriarchy incluence every other system EXCEPT education? That doesn’t make sense.

  • Bee

    Well, your professor wasn’t entirely wrong. But privilege is tricky to discuss b/c it can be alienating for some people (those with certain privileges) to discuss privilege.

  • Bee

    Agreed. I don’t know that “full siblings” have any systemic privileges that “half siblings” don’t have. The author is playing loosy goosy with a very important term. On another note, I tried to read Tayari Jones’ first novel (about the Atlanta child abductions) and I found it to be totally pretentious. I was done about 60 pages in.

  • Ravi

    You are missing my point. It doesn’t matter why every aspect of life is not shaped by patriarchy. My point was that patriarchy does not shape every aspect of privilege in existence. It’s not as if because one group is in power then they enjoy privilege in every aspect of society. It’s not that simple. Of course racism does not operate separately from sexism and classism, I never asserted otherwise. I didn’t compare black males to white males as if they compete on the same plane, that wasn’t the basis of my comparison at all. I brought up white males to refute your statement concerning the way patriarchy has shaped women to work harder and achieve better representation in AP classes. If what you were saying were true, then they would be underrepresented in AP testing — they aren’t. White women are not over-represented in comparison to white men, so what you were saying is not the case. It really varies from test to test, but overall the relative numbers taking AP exams resembles the relative numbers of students.

    The situation we see with black males is about intersectionality with a number of different lines of difference, but it is also about the unique brand of oppression that black males face that has manifested in such a way. It’s also not true that simply having chances that another group does not accounts for the variance. This discounts what we know involving stereotype threat and collective self-efficacy, which have nothing to do with opportunities.

    Also, you can make no causal connection between working harder and enrolling in AP courses. There are too many other factors such as early childhood education, parents level of education, collective self-efficacy, vocabulary by kindergarten, counselor perceptions, etc. that have nothing to do with working hard but still are enormous in terms of tracking into APs.

    The achievement gap between black females and black males is undeniable. To deny its existence is to betray a lack of diligence in keeping up with the literature or the entire field of study for that matter. The achievement gap is not dependent upon any certain type of cause to qualify as an achievement gap. It is literally a gap in the measures of achievement between two groups. In nearly every measurable aspect of education achievement black girls are completely outpacing black males. black girls have much higher graduation rates, higher test scores, have twice the representation in college, have twice the representation in AP classes, etc. The only way you could deny there is an achievement gap would be to deny these facts. If there is any gap in achievement there is an achievement gap. To say there is no gap because there isn’t anything systemic keeping them from achieving as a group makes no sense. The gap is there because there is a gap. Gap in this instance means a difference. The only thing relevant is whether there is a difference in the achievement.

    Patriarchy manifests in ways which are clearly not intuitive. It is far too complex to say that patriarchy means that men are always greater than women in society in every situation. That simply isn’t what is going on. That would be a vast oversimplification of the concept. And I never said it was only education. I also mentioned the prison complex and criminal justice system. Black women are not targeted in the same way that black males have.

    Black males make up a unique group as do black women. While there are a great many similarities in the way our racial oppression has manifested, there are still many differences in the way we are characterized, marginalized, and socialized within the context of Western society. We can discuss for many pages the how’s and why’s of the differences, but the only thing that truly matters is that there are clear differences as seen through the DISPARATE IMPACT that each group faces in certain realms. Disparate impact is about the end result. The end result when it comes to education is that black males are in a much worse position than black females. This is a fact that you could easily verify with a simple google search. Privilege is about the disparate impact and exists regardless of what has caused that difference.

  • Ravi

    this does a good definition and summary of the gap:

    Here is something on black males:

    note the discussion on stereotyping. this is one of the primary drivers of the gap across all lines. it’s not all about a system designed to keep somebody down. It’s more about self view and external perceptions based on socializations of inferiority being passed off as real differences.

    I’ve been studying the gap since the mid nineties and have my first graduate degree in this field. I’m not just a teacher, I am more associated with the research camp, although I did teach for 8 years. I’ve also worked in central administration for one of the largest districts in the nation. I have a ton of research stored up if you really want to know more.

  • Anon

    Do you spend this much time giving out advice and information to your own so that they can help? Because I’m sure I’m not the only one that skipped the dissertation and wondered at why this sad song (we all saw Boyz in the Hood)is being sung right now on this site?

  • Ravi

    If you must know, that was about 6 minutes of typing for me. not all that time consuming. I spend much more time on my own students to answer your question. This is for entertainment purposes and occasionally when i encounter another person in the field like Rhea, I engage in discourse that helps me to refine my multiple perspectives or add another perspective.

    It was only about a page of times new roman 12 pt font test. not quite a dissertation, but I get what you meant. funny you still decided to reply after admittedly not reading what I wrote, but I digress. It wasn’t directed towards you anyway, so no worries.

  • Socially Maladjusted

    But what Jones said in her reading was key: It isn’t the privilege or how we obtain it that matters as much as what we choose to do with it.

    What an absolute load of rubbish.

    Jones is dangerous fool and anyone who agrees with her lunacy is a dangerous fool. Another bunch of apologists for a system that imposes an artificial inequality.

    Why should anyone have privileges which give them access to opportunities that are denied to others?

    How does that square with the ideal of social and racial equality?

    I don’t want to rely on the “good will” of the privileged not to abuse my rights or person and I don’t want or need your “benevolence”.

    All I need is EQUAL opportunity.

  • Jinx Moneypenny

    Honestly, when I see people use it, it’s usually to put emphasis on the fact that they don’t share the same set of parents. Of course it depends on the kind of relationship you have with said siblings but for me personally I never have and never will call my brother my half-brother. Being raised together has everything to do with it as well. I can understand how it’s not the same for you.

  • Anon

    Someone made a great point (from another site that featured this article):

    “The problem with these kinds of articles is that they tend to fundamentally ignore how privilege pertains to class, wealth, and access to power structures. Moreover they tend to ignore that not all power is hierarchal and that a significant amount of power relationships depend on heterarchy and contextual power relationships. What that means is that not all power is arranged according to a top-bottom hierarchy, but varies depending on context, circumstances, networks, and relationships. In terms of white privilege, for example, not all white people have access to power structures as a result of being lower class and not having wealth; while some black people have wealth, are of a higher class, and have access. Hence, white privilege is perhaps better called “green” or “class” privilege. The reason it appears “white” of course has to do with who historically has occupied the upper classes in this country, but what we’re really looking at, then, is class and how that is determined in our society (primarily wealth). Now the same can be said for gender, or familial hierarchies as well.

    The point being…..we have to think more objectively about power and how it manifests in our society to create privileges for some and disadvantages for others. “

  • Vina Apsara

    This goes down in my family. My younger sister is from my mom’s second marriage to a drug addict she thought she could reform. During the time in her life where she thought love and domestic responsibility could turn this guy around, my brother and I were left with our grandparents in another state, and we turned out benefitting greatly from it because they could afford to provide a life for us in the suburbs and send us to private schools. In the years since my mom and sister have suffered domestic violence, been homeless, and have faceddaily hardships as a result of my mom’s bad decisions. Because she thinks my sister has been through enough, she doesn’t discipline her or obligate her to do any chores or work. My sister thinks she is genetically inferior to
    her older siblings because of who her dad was, but I think her shortcomings are a result of bad parenting and can be overcome as she matures.

  • Vina_Apsara

    It’s important to realize that everyone is privileged depending on the scope and criteria of the situation. You can be black and middle- to upper-class, and you are economically privileged over poor blacks. You can be black and straight, and you are privileged over gay, lesbian and transgendered blacks. It’s all relative. In the family context, if you grew up with both your parents around, statistics show you were at an advantage, less at risk for juvenile delinquency, dropping out of school or teenage pregnancy. The article’s point is totally valid.

  • PharaohessFearless

    Thank you, Clutch.

  • Magna

    Anon = troll

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