The ironic privileges of being black
The #BlackPrivilege hashtag emerged with poignant ferocity, tackling the wide-ranging stereotypes that define the racial landscape that often comes with being black in America. Ripe with scathing satire, one Twitter user described his “black privilege” as always having the sidewalk to himself because people are afraid he’s going to rob them. Another described her “black privilege” as having to carefully choose her child’s name so it won’t be negatively profiled later in life.
From the “extra” criminal profiling, to the belief that to be intelligent is to be the exception among blacks, the allegedly oppressive “gifts” enumerated as #BlackPrivilege trended (meaning “garnered attention and participants”) provided a hilarious, heartbreaking, frightening glimpse into the daily lives of some African-Americans.
For many observers, myself included, the invisible lashes that blacks endure that each tweet described became increasingly painful to endure and brought tears to the eyes.
Was #BlackPrivilege racist?
“The irony here is that some of those same people would call the very creation of such a [hashtag] ‘racist’, ‘exclusionary’, or even proof that #BlackPrivilege exists,” Taylor says of those who believe in the concept. “In so many ways, it does exist. I unconsciously exert any number of privileges on the daily. But whatever corner of privilege I may have carved out for myself takes a backseat to my white counterpart most of the time. And even then, all of my privilege is accessible to them. The converse simply is not true.”
Taylor challenges privileged white Americans to select one era, indeed, one hour, where they would choose to be black if they could.
“As a nation, we’ve always felt the presence of — even if we did not wholly understand — white privilege,” says Taylor. “But nothing, I mean nothing, underscores its prevalence quite like #Whitesplaining. An old phenomenon reborn in the age of Twitter, a group comprised mostly of white liberals have come to believe that it is their duty to explain racism to the rest of us.”
This may be been the idea behind, the This is Black Privilege blog, an example of a recent vocal movement among some whites who think they are being left behind socially because they are not black, gay, or otherwise a minority.
“This sort of patriarchal approach has been met with strong backlash,” Taylor says of Black Twitter’s backlash. “But no response could have been more profound – and tragically comedic – than #BlackPrivilege.”
Black Twitter as political tool
In an enlightening lecture on white privilege, anti-racist essayist and author Tim Wise explained that, “Privilege affects both those who have it and those who do not… white privilege generates anxiety among advantaged white people because they are constantly afraid of others gaining on them.”
As the fear that Wise described continues to manifest itself in arguably racist blogs and throughout social media — or even in the #Whitesplaining that claims black people are getting over — Black Twitter will undoubtedly remain an effective tool to combat the perpetuation of racial stereotypes. In a nation where white privilege is being dismantled slowly but surely, perhaps this privilege is witnessing its last gasp of supremacy and the dawning of a truly equitable and equal society.
But one thing is for certain: with Black Twitter serving as the fluid and indelible cultural footprint of a generation, the rise of the #BlackPrivilege hashtag will be remembered as the day that some Americans online were forced to recognize the treacherous terrain many black Americans must walk — and the resilience in our collective response.
Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.