Unmasking Black Gay Privilege

Published: March 31, 2015

The Huffington Post
John Fitzgerald Gates, Ph.D
Original Article:  huff.to/1G45u3A

Whereas "white male privilege" is widely debated, a study by Princeton University researcher David S. Pedulla suggests that black gay men may benefit from forms of privilege as well. Such an idea is counterintuitive to many people who consider black gay men to be triply disadvantaged — subjected, individually and collectively, to prejudices of race, gender and sexuality. But according to the study, "The Positive Consequences of Negative Stereotypes: Race, Sexual Orientation, and the Job Application Process," and echoed by a number of black gay men with whom I have discussed the issue, being perceived as gay, if one is black, may indeed impose an "offsetting stereotype" of being nonthreatening that advantages some black gay men over some black straight men. I call this phenomenon "black gay privilege."

The study found that when people were provided resumes to review to make salary recommendations for job candidates they perceived to be black gay men, they recommended salaries equal to those recommended for candidates the reviewers perceived to be straight white men. Candidates perceived to be straight black men, along with those perceived to be gay white men, were recommended lower salaries. The study concluded that black gay men face less prejudice than either straight black men or gay white men. While the study and its conclusions are fraught, it raises issues worthy of exploration. Does "black gay privilege" really exist?

Racial stereotyping of black men as lazy savages given to extreme sexual prowess and posing an existential threat to white society is deeply rooted in America sociology. From the time of slavery to now, black men have been perceived either as thugs to be feared or, if successful, having "made it against the odds." There has been little room for alternative narratives in the America imagination, notwithstanding the election of Barak Obama to the presidency of the United States. It remains true that in some companies, normative perceptions of black men are tinged with fright of the black "boogieman" that manifests in biases in hiring, promotion and salary. This same phenomenon is present in the social interactions black men have in stores, with police, and walking down the street every day. It is also true that to mitigate their shame in being biased against black men generally, some white power elites give preferential treatment to gay black men. After all, they can’t be chided for being prejudiced against black men if they hire "the gays."

Full text of article available at link below:  huff.to/1G45u3A

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