I will never forget an incident during my trip to Florida with my best friend.
We were visiting her aunt who lives very close to Daytona Beach in June 2007. During a day trip to the stores around the boardwalk area, we headed inside a shop that sold jewelry and the like. My friend and I split up to look at trinkets that caught our interests. Not even one minute after I started to examine a pair of earrings, two of the shopkeepers quickly came over to me and asked if I needed any help. I said "no thank you" and continued perusing, not thinking anything of it. I only started to get bothered when I saw from the corner of my eye the two keepers lurking, watching me just as carefully as the woman at the cash register.
My best friend, who is white, remained at the other end of the store, uninterrupted. Eventually, I got sick of the staring, walked over to her, and asked if we could leave. It was only after we were out of the store that I told her I was fairly certain I was being monitored for theft. I asked if she had noticed. It was so obvious, I thought to myself.
She said no. She hadn't noticed a thing.
Honestly, I have plenty of stories of similar incidents, of unassuming remarks and even blatant displays of racism. Yet people out there say that I am racially privileged. That I have "black privilege."
Here's a short comic by artist Alexandra Dal that gives a nice introduction as to what black privilege actually is:
Black privilege is also a phenomenon brought about by the creation of a Tumblr account by the same name that set out to prove all of the "advantages" African Americans have in American society. The blog moderator, an admitted white person (self-described Native American), lined up her credentials as followed:
I’m 22. I’ve taken college classes on the psychology of racism and African studies. I’ve also taken classes on anthropology and basic history classes, as well as African history. I’ve grown up within a community where whites were the minority as well as communities with a definite ruling white supremacy.
I’ve taken many classes on black history, grew up in Alabama in an area dominated by blacks, my best friends and boyfriends were ALL black until I turned 18, my cousins are black, I listen to hiphop created mostly by blacks (not only listen, but I collect shirts, tapes, records), and I actually believed I was part black proof of my ethnicity surfaced when I turned 19.
Strange how a person claiming to be so attuned to African Americans created something so wrought with ignorance. While she was at it, she should have addressed other matters like "LGBT privilege" since minorities are so clearly fortunate! Because it's not as if advantages such as affirmative action didn't come out of the fact that black people in particular were too busy being, you know, underrepresented and discriminated against.
Although the blog's last post is dated at June 13 of last year (part of me is still hoping she was just an internet troll), it seemed to have just recently caught attention on the Twittersphere in the form of a trending hashtag. In a clash of satire, various tweets provided sharp observations into why the notion of why black privilege is non-existent while making smart commentary on the real concept of white privilege.
Here are some examples of the many tweets that have made an appearence in the hashtag:
As an African American woman born from Nigerian immigrant parents, it's saddening just how much I can relate to instances highlighted by black privilege. It's a running joke among myself and friends how I've come to beat all odds — hailing from a disadvantaged background, female, black and college-educated. Although a joke, there is still a prevalent stereotype out about people like me not being capable of much besides becoming a "Welfare Queen" with too many children and just as much baby daddy drama.
Perhaps if the circumstances of history that still affect us all today had been in the reverse — white slavery and black supremacy, the term black privilege would have valid meaning. But since that isn't the case, suggesting black privilege is similar to white privilege is not only ridiculous, but marginalizes the real struggles continually faced by the African American community.