WA LTER R. ALLEN is a professor of sociology at the University of Cal­ifornia, Los Angeles. Dr. Allen’s research and teaching focus on fam­ily patterns, socialization and personality development, race and eth­nic relations, social inequity, and higher education. Among his more than fifty publications are The Color Line and the Quality of Life in America (coauthored with Reynolds Farley), College in Black and White: African American Students in Predominately White and Historically Black Public Universities (coauthored with Edgar Epps and Nesba Z. Han – iff), Beginnings: The Social and Affective Development of Black American Families (coedited with Geraldine Brookins and Margaret Spencer), and Black American Families, 1965-84 (coedited with Richard Engish and Jo Anne Hall).

MICHAEL AWKWARD received his Ph. D. in English from the Univer­sity of Pennsylvania in 1986. He taught English for ten years at the University of Michigan before returning to Penn, where he special­izes in contemporary Afro-American literary and cultural studies. In addition to being the editor of New Essays on "Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God," Professor Awkward is the author of Negotiating Difference, Race, Gender, and the Politics of Positionality and of Inspiriting Influences, and Tradition, Revision, and Afro-American Women’s Novels.

HOUSTON A. BAKER, JR., is the director of the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture and an Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Howard Univer­sity and his graduate degrees from UCLA. Baker is the author, editor, or coeditor of numerous books, including Black American Literature, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory (1984), Long Black Song: Essays in Black Literature and Culture (1990), and Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (1993).

DERRICK BELL has worked as a Justice Department lawyer, a staff at­torney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a Deputy Director for Civil Rights at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Director of the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Ange­les. In 1969 he joined the Harvard Law School faculty and became its first black tenured member in 1971. Professor Bell resigned in 1989 to become the dean at the University of Oregon Law School. Since 1991, Bell has been a visiting professor at the New York University Law School. Among his many well-known books, Professor Bell has writ­ten And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, and the law school textbook Race, Racism and American Law.

KEVIN BROWN is a professor of law at Indiana University where he teaches courses on Torts, Law and Education, and Race, American So­ciety, and the Law. Before beginning his teaching career, Brown worked on municipal and real estate finance matters for the law firm of Baker and Daniels. A recipient of the Ira C. Batman research fellow­ship, Professor Brown has written many articles, including "Separate and Equal," "Revisiting the Supreme Court’s Opinion in Brown v. Board of Education from a Multiculturalist Perspective," and "The Dilemma of Legal Discourse for Public Educational Responses to the ‘Crisis’ Facing African-American Males."

RUFUS BURROW, JR., is Associate Professor of Church and Society at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS). He received his Ph. D. in social ethics with a minor in philosophy of religion from Boston University. Dr. Burrow is an active member in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has served as an instructor with Project Upward Bound and as a probation investigator and counselor. He is a frequent con­tributor to many publications, including The Journal of the ITC and Personalist Forum. Prior to joining the faculty at CTS, Dr. Burrow was the Director of the Young Adult Conservation Corps for the Pontiac Area Urban League.

DEVON W. CARBADO is Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, where he teaches Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Criminal Adjudication, and Critical Race Theory. He received his B. A. from UCLA and his J. D. from Harvard Law School, where he was ed­itor-in-chief of The Harvard Blackletter Law Journal. Professor Carbado joined the law firm of Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles before being appointed as a Faculty Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. His work has been published in

the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, the Harvard Women’s Law Journal, and Callaloo.

KIMBERLE WILLIAMS CRENSHAW is a professor of law at Columbia University Law School and the UCLA School of Law. She received her J. D. from Harvard Law School and her L. L.M. at Wisconsin. She is a founding member of the Critical Race Theory Workshop. Her articles on race and gender have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the University of Chicago Law Review. Her ar­ticle "A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Law" remains one of the most influential works on law, identity, and antidiscrimina­tion theory. She is the coeditor of the recently published Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Formed the Movement. Crenshaw’s work was employed as the basis for certain key equality provisions of South Africa’s new constitution.

JEROME McCRISTAL CULP received his M. A. in economics and his J. D. from Harvard University. Professor Culp has been a permanent member of the Duke University School of Law faculty since 1985 and has also been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, New York University, and the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. He has also served as the Director of the John M. Olin Pro­gram in Law and Economics at Duke. Torts, Black Legal Scholarship, and Sexuality and the Law are several of the many topics Professor Culp teaches at Duke. He has testified as an expert for plaintiffs in several suits challenging state constitutional and city charter amend­ments that attempted to eliminate civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, and homosexuals, and he is a member of the national board of Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

HARLON L. DALTON is a professor of law at Yale Law School, where he teaches Critical Race Theory, Evidence, Legal Culture, and Civil Procedure. He received his B. A. from Harvard and his J. D. from Yale. After passing the bar, Dalton worked for the Legal Action Center, the Office of the Solicitor General, and the Center for Legal Education and Urban Policy. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers, the Board of Visitors of the

C. U. N.Y. Law School, and the Board of Directors of the ACLU. Dalton is the author of AIDS and the Law (1987), AIDS Law Today (1993), and Racial Healing (1995).

ANTHONY PAUL FARLEY received his B. A. in philosophy at the Uni­versity of Virginia and his J. D. at Harvard University. A former Assis­tant U. S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Farley currently teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, and Postmodern Legal Theory as an assistant professor at the Boston College of Law. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers and conducts a reading group for individuals con­victed of various infractions in Dorchester. The class acts as an alter­native to probation and culminates in a party with the judges, proba­tion officers, alumni of the program, and the probationers’ families.

HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR., is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Hu­manities and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-Amer­ican Research at Harvard University. He is Chairman of the Depart­ment of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, as well as a professor in the English department. He has also been a professor of English and literature at Duke, Yale, and Cornell universities. Professor Gates serves on many professional associations and committees, including the Council of Foreign Relations, the American Civil Liberties Union National Advisory Council, the American Antiquarian Society, the TransAfrica Forum Scholars Council, and the Cultural Diversity Committee for the Lexington Public Schools. Gates’s books include The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (1988), for which he received the American Book Award; Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1992); Colored People (1994); and, most recently, Figures in Black.

A graduate of Morehouse College and Princeton University, EDDIE S. GLAUDE, JR., is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion and African Studies at Bowdoin College. He is presently working on two major projects: an extended examination of the use of nation lan­guage in the political lives of African Americans and an edited vol­ume on black nationalism in the United States. He is also coauthor of the forthcoming book Post-Afrocentric Nationalism: Essays on Pragma­tism and Race.

LUKE CHARLES HARRIS received his J. D. and his L. L.M. at Yale Law School and his Ph. D. in politics at Princeton. Assistant professor of American politics and constitutional law at Vassar College, Harris is a former law clerk to Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., and was a Ful – bright Scholar in England. Harris worked on the Anita Hill support team and was a spokesperson for African American Agenda 2000 in opposition to the Million Man March. Cowriter and Chief Consultant for Kathe Sandler’s award-winning documentary film on color con­sciousness in the African American community, A Question of Color, he is also the author of a series of path-breaking essays on affirmative action, including "Affirmative Action as Equalizing Opportunity: Challenging the Myth of Preferential Treatment" (with Ump Nau­ruan), in Ethics in Practice: An Anthology, edited by Hug Lafollette (Oxford University Press, 1997). Harris is currently completing a book on group rights called The Meaning of Constitutional Difference: Group Rights in Postapartheid America.

A. LEON HIGGINBOTHAM, JR., is Chief Judge Emeritus of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Currently he is Public Service Professor of Jurisprudence at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and of counsel to Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He also serves as a commis­sioner of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Judge Hig­ginbotham was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, the highest civilian honor in the nation. His book In the Matter of Color remains one of the seminal works on race and American slavery. Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process is his most recent publication.

DARREN LENARD HUTCHINSON is an assistant professor of law at Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas, Texas. He teaches, among other courses, Critical Race Theory and Constitu­tional Law. He completed his B. A. at the University of Pennsylvania and his J. D. at Yale Law School. His most recent article, "Out Yet Un­seen: A Racial Critique of Gay and Lesbian Legal Theory and Political Discourse," appears in the University of Connecticut Law Review. In

November 1997, Professor Hutchinson chaired a panel at the Yale Law School Critical Race Theory Conference to commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of Critical Race Theory.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON is a widely published author who has developed graduate research projects in history and social studies at Cornell University’s Africana Studies Center. He also lectures at major universities throughout the country. Hutchinson’s works in­clude The Mugging of Black America, Blacks and Reds: Race and Class in Conflict 1919-1990; Betrayed: A History of Presidential Failure to Protect Black Lives; Beyond O. J.: Race, Sex, and Class Lessons for America; Black Fatherhood: The Guide to Male Parenting; Black Fatherhood II: Black Women Talk about Their Men; The Assassination of the Black Male Image; and the forthcoming book The Crisis in Black and Black.

CHARLES R. LAWRENCE III is a professor of law at Georgetown Uni­versity Law Center, where his teaching focuses on constitutional law, race, and hate speech. He is the author of several books, the most re­cent of which is We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Ac­tion (1997), which was coauthored by Georgetown Law professor Mari Matsuda. Among other honors, he has been awarded the Na­tional Black Law Students Association’s Paul Robeson Service Award and the W. K. Kellog Foundation National Fellowship. He is also a member of the board of advisers and past president of the Society of American Law Teachers.

DWIGHT A. McBRIDE is Assistant Professor of English at the Univer­sity of Pittsburgh. He completed his B. A. at Princeton University and his M. A. and Ph. D. in English at UCLA. His essays in the areas of race theory and black cultural studies appear in the Harvard Blackletter Law Journal and Modern Fiction Studies. Currently he is at work on a book – length study of abolitionist discourse in Britain, France, and the United States; he is also coediting a collection of essays on the Bible and progressive politics and editing a collection of essays on James Baldwin.

B. E. MYERS is a critic and photographer who specializes in the popu­lar representations of Blacks in twentieth-century visual culture. He is currently a candidate for the Ph. D. in American intellectual history at UCLA and has recently completed the Whitney Museum of Ameri­can Art’s Independent Study Program. Myers exhibits artwork in New York and Los Angeles and has taught seminars in critical studies at Cal Arts, as well as seminars in history and critical theory at UCLA. Recently Myers contributed a collaborative work to the Guggenheim Museum exhibition catalog entitled Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography, and he has articles forthcoming in Gen­dered Visions (Cornell University) and FRAME-WORK (Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies). Myers is currently pursuing work in commercial photography and media consulting.

CHARLES I. NERO received his Ph. D. in Speech Communication and Afro-American Studies from Indiana University, his M. A. from Wake Forest University, and his B. A. from Xavier University. He has taught at Valdosta State College, Indiana University, and Ithaca College and is currently teaching at Bates College in the Department of Theater and Rhetoric and in the Programs for African American and Ameri­can Cultural Studies. Nero has published in several journals and an­thologies, including Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, the Howard Journal of Communications, Black Women in America, and Our Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication. Nero is currently finishing a book on African American gay literature and a monograph about opera and white supremacy in film.

HUEY P. NEWTON was the founder and chief theoretician of the Black Panther Party. He received his Ph. D. in the history of political consciousness from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of four books, including Revolutionary Suicide and the re­cently released War against the Panthers. His arrest in 1967 propelled the Black Panther Party into the international arena. Newton died in 1988.

ISHMAEL REED teaches in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and the University of the Antilles in Martinique. Author of fifteen books, he is a novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist. He is also a publisher, television producer, editor of magazines and anthologies, and radio and television commentator. His book of poetry, Conjure, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is a founder of the Before

Columbus Foundation, which annually presents the American Book Awards; the Oakland Chapter of PEN; and There City Cinema, an or­ganization that furthers the distribution and discussion of film throughout the world. He is published in, among other venues, the Yale Review, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Newsday.

MARLON T. RIGGS was an award-winning filmmaker, producer, di­rector, and writer. His first major film, Ethnic Notions (1987), received a National Emmy Award, and his subsequent works, including Tongues Untied (1989), Affirmations (1990), and Anthem (1991), were awarded such honors as a blue ribbon in the American Film and Video Festival and Best Video in the New York Documentary Festival. Riggs was also honored with the 1992 Erik Barnouw Award and the International Documentary Association’s Distinguished Documen­tary Achievement Award for his feature-length documentary, Color Adjustment (1991). In 1992, Riggs’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret) received the Best "Black Experience" Film/Video award at the Eighth Annual Black International Cinema Festival and was named Best Cultural Affairs Documentary by the National Black Programming Consortium’s Prized Pieces Festival. In 1994, Marlon Riggs died of AIDS-related complications. His production team completed his final film, Black is. . . Black Ain’t, which he was working on at the time.

RON SIMMONS, PH. D., has been a free-lance writer, photographer, and media producer for more than twenty years. He was a cast mem­ber, still photographer, and the Washington, D. C., field producer for the award-winning film Tongues Untied and has produced New Direc­tions for the Black Church, Hunger in the Nation’s Capital, Think: Howard, and NCBLG: The First Decade. Simmons is currently an assistant pro­fessor in the Department of Radio, TV, and Film at Howard Univer­sity.

RONALD S. SULLIVAN, JR., is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of More­house College and Harvard Law School. He has worked on a Kenyan committee charged with drafting a new constitution and as a Wash­ington, D. C., public defender. Currently, Mr. Sullivan is in private practice with a Washington, D. C., law firm and teaches Appellate Ad­vocacy at Howard Law School. Mr. Sullivan is the author of A License to Search: The Plain Feel Exception under Minnesota v. Dickerson and is working on an article on the implications of black nationalism on con­stitutional decision making.

CORNEL WEST is a professor of religion and Afro-American Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of the best-selling book Race Matters, as well as many other books, including Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin, Restoring Hope, Keeping the Faith: Philosophy and Race in America, Beyond Eurocentricism and Multiculturalism, and the Encyclo­pedia of African-American Culture and History (coedited with Jack Salz – man and David Lionel Smith). His latest work is the forthcoming book Born without Skin.

[1] AM RUMMAGING through a box of mementos, looking for my dog-eared copy of Martin Luther King’s "Why We Can’t Wait." I want to draw from it for the challenging task of introducing a series of es­says written by Black men on gender and sexuality. A button catches my eye, "Integrate Now!" it demands. I warm to the memory of just how this simple demand has captured in its anachronism the very cri­tique of a post-segregation liberal institution. As Harvard Law stu­dents in 1981, we proudly wore these buttons, recognizing that the sting of the message lay in the recovery of a demand that seemed out of place and out of time when set against an institution of higher learning years after the official barriers had dissolved. A demand so simple seemed to say so much. It occurs to me that "Integrate Now!" still captures the simple yet challenging task of articulating within Black community practices the plain fact that all African Americans, male or female and gay or straight should be at the center. As I chuckle at the fantasy of prominent Black men marching on them-

[2] Black women are "already liberated."

[3] "Racism is the primary (or only) oppression Black women

[4] speak for the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of men who live and die in the shadows of secrets, unable to speak of the love that helps them endure and contribute to the race. Their ordi-


In some ways, the "identity privilege" lists in this essay represent the very early stages in a complicated process of dismantling male het­erosexual privilege. The lists reveal that our identity privileges are le­gitimized through the personal choices we make everyday. All of us make choices that facilitate discriminatory practices. Many of us get married and/or go to weddings, notwithstanding that gay marriages are unrecognized. Others of us have racially monolithic social en­counters, live in white only (or predominantly white) neighborhoods, and send our kids to white only (or predominantly white) schools; still others of us have "straight only" associations. These choices are not just personal, they are political as well. And the cumulative effect of these micro-political choices is the entrenchment of the very social practices—racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia—we profess to abhor.93

My purpose in constructing the "identity privilege" lists is to suggest that identity privilege should be self-referentially contested. We have to remake ourselves if we are to remake our institutions. We cannot hope to institutionalize our political commitments unless we localize our politics. Joining a de facto white only country club and challenging the politics of racial segregation won’t do. The former helps to facilitate the latter.

The value of conceptualizing privilege micro-politically is that it forces all of us to think about the extent to which, on a very personal level, we are "unjustly enriched" because of certain aspects of our identities. If we observe and come to terms with the "unjustly en­riched" aspects of our personal lives, we are more likely to take notice of the ways in which unjust enrichment operates systemically.

Of course, there are material costs incidental to the repudiation of personal privileges. People have little incentive to see themselves as unjustly enriched, for that carries with it the possibility of disgorge­ment. And what would it mean to resist privilege anyway? With re­spect to gay marriages, for example, does resistance to heterosexual privilege require heterosexuals to refrain from getting married and/or attending weddings? This essay does not explore these hard issues. I leave to others the task of theorizing about the various forms that critical resistance to identity privileges might take.


I am a Negro Faggot, if I believe what movies, TV, and rap music say about me. Because of my sexuality, I cannot be Black. A strong, proud, Afrocentric Black man is resolutely heterosexual, not even bi­sexual. Hence I remain a Negro. My sexual difference is. . . a testa­ment to weakness, passivity, the absence of real guts—balls. Hence I remain a sissy, punk, faggot. I cannot be a Black Gay Man because, by the tenets of Black Macho, a Black Gay Man is a triple negation.

—Marlon T. Riggs58

Straight men—even "progressive" straight men—might be reluctant to challenge heterosexual privilege to the extent that such challenges call into question their (hetero)sexual orientation. As Lee Edelman observes in a related context, there "is a deeply rooted concern on the part of. . . heterosexual males about the possible meanings of [men subverting gender roles]."59 According to Edelman, heterosexual men consider certain gender role inversions potentially dangerous be­cause they portend not only a "[male] feminization that would desta­bilize or question gender"60 but also a "feminization that would chal­lenge one’s (hetero)sexuality."61

Edelman’s observations suggest that straight men want to pre­serve the presumption of heterosexual identity; they want to preserve this presumption not so much because of what heterosexuality signi­fies in a positive sense but rather because of what it signifies in the negative—not being homosexual. And straight Black men might be especially concerned about preserving the presumption of heterosex- uality—though I am not at all confident that I’m right about this, and I am certainly not suggesting that straight Black men are more homo­phobic than straight men of other races. But it is the case that hetero­sexual privilege is one of the few privileges that straight Black men know they have—not being a "sissy, punk, faggot." This is not to say, of course, that Black male heterosexuality has the normative standing of white male heterosexuality. It does not; straight Black men con­tinue to be perceived as heterosexually deviant (potential rapist of white women)62 and heterosexually irresponsible (jobless fathers of children out of wedlock). Still, Black heterosexuality is closer to white male heterosexual normalcy and normativity than is Black gay sexu­ality. And many straight (or closeted) Black men will want to avoid even the suspicion of homosexuality, because that carries with it the "Black Gay [Male] . . . triple negation" to which Marlon Riggs refers. Challenging heterosexual privilege creates (homo)sexual identity suspicion.

Most of us, I think, recognize that our identities, via their social constructions, signify. That is to say, our socially constructed identi­ties have social meanings to others, and even ourselves. Some of these meanings are more entrenched in the American psyche than others. Race, gender, and sexuality-based assumptions about person – hood are especially difficult to dismantle. For example, when I walk into a department store, my identity signifies not only that I am Black and male but also that I am a potential criminal. My individual iden­tity is lost in the social construction of Black manhood. I can try to adopt race-negating strategies to challenge this dignity-destroying social meaning. I can dress "respectable" when I go shopping. There is, after all, something to the politics of dress, particularly in social contexts in which race matters—that is to say, every American social context; I can appear less "Black" in a social meaning sense if I am pro­fessionally or semi-formally dressed.

Purchasing an item—something expensive—immediately upon entering the store is another strategy I can employ to disabuse people of my "Blackness." This strategy will reveal to the department store’s security personnel what might not otherwise be apparent because of my race and gender: that I am a shopper. If I am not in the mood to dress-up and I don’t want to spend any money, there is a third strat­egy I can employ: solicit the assistance of a white sales associate. This, too, must be done early in the shopping experience. A white sales per­son would not be suspected of facilitating or contributing to Black shoplifting and can be trusted to keep an eye on me (a Black man).

White people don’t have to worry about employing these strate­gies. Nor should they have to—no one should have to. However, white people should recognize and grapple with the fact that they don’t have to employ or think about employing these strategies. This is a necessary first step for white people to come to terms with White privilege. Barbara Flagg and Peggy McIntosh—two white women— make similar arguments. Their self-referential interrogation of white­ness is the analytical analogue to the self-referential interrogation of heterosexuality I am proposing.

According to Barbara Flagg, "[t]here is a profound cognitive di­mension to the material and social privilege that attaches to white­ness in this society, in that a white person has an everyday option not to think of herself in racial terms at all."63 This, reasons Flagg, is in­deed what defines whiteness: "to be white is not to think about it."64 Flagg refers to the propensity of whites not to think in racial terms as "transparency phenomenon."65

Importantly, Flagg does not suggest that white people are un­mindful of the racial identities of other whites or the racial "differ­ence" of nonwhites; "Race is undeniably a powerful determinant of social status and so is always noticed, in a way that eye color, for ex­ample, may not be."66 Rather, her point is that because whiteness op­erates as the racial norm, whites are able "to relegate our own racial specificity to the realm of the subconscious."67 As a result, racial dis-

tinctiveness is Black, is Asian, is Latina/o, is Native America, but it is not white.68 To address transparency, Flagg suggests the "[^concep­tualization of white race consciousness. . . [to create] a positive white racial identity, one neither founded on the implicit acceptance of white racial domination nor productive of distributive effects that systematically advantage whites."69

Peggy McIntosh’s work provides a specific indication of some of the "distributive effects" of white racial privilege. Thinking about how male privilege is normalized in everyday life but denied and protected by men, McIntosh "realized that since hierarchies in our so­ciety are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege that was similarly denied and protected."70 To illustrate the extent to which white privilege structures and is implicated in every­day social encounters, McIntosh exposes the "unearned" advantages that accrue to her on a daily basis because she is white.71 The follow­ing are a few examples:

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

15. I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax re­turn, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my


McIntosh is careful to point out that the term "privilege" is some­thing of a misnomer: "We usually think of privilege as being a fa­vored state, whether earned, or conferred by birth or luck. . . . The word ‘privilege’ carries the connotation of something I want. Yet some of the conditions I described here work to systematically overempower certain groups." Accordingly, McIntosh distinguishes between "positive advantages that we can work to spread. . . and negative types of advantage that unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies."73

Flagg’s and McIntosh’s interrogation of whiteness can inform an interrogation of heterosexuality. Like whiteness, heterosexuality op­erates as an identity norm; it functions as the "what is" or "what is supposed to be" of sexuality. This is illustrated, for example, by the Nature versus Nurture debate. The question about the cause of sexu­ality is almost always formulated in terms of whether homosexuality is or is not biologically determined rather than whether sexual orienta­tion (which includes heterosexuality) is or is not biologically deter­mined. Scientists are searching for a gay, not a heterosexual or sexual orientation, gene. Like non-whiteness, then, homosexuality signifies "difference"—more specifically, sexual identity distinctiveness. It is homosexuality, not heterosexuality, that must be "specified, pointed out."74

Perhaps heterosexuals should develop a practice of "pointing out" their heterosexuality to destabilize the notion of homosexual dif­ference. Perhaps heterosexuals should be encouraged to "come out" as heterosexuals. One argument to support this practice would be that the more heterosexuals explicitly invoke their heterosexuality the less it operates as an unstated norm. This argument has some force. Yet, I am uncomfortable with the idea of heterosexuals "coming out." My uneasiness is unrelated to concerns about whether individual acts of heterosexual signification undermine political efforts to establish a privacy norm around (homo)sexuality. The argument here would go something like the following: to the extent that heterosexuals are "closeted" (i. e., private) about their (hetero)sexuality, they help to send a message that (homo)sexuality is a private matter and should be irrelevant to social and political decision making.

I am not persuaded by this sexual identity privacy argument. It is functionally analogous to race neutrality arguments: Not invoking race, ignoring race, keeping race "private," helps to delegitimize the invidious employment of race as a relevant social category. It seems to me that keeping race private—removing it from public dis- courses—is not a sensible way to address the realities of racism. Race matters; therefore, we ought to talk about it—and publicly. Nor am I persuaded that avoiding public discussions about (homo – and hetero-) sexuality is a sensible way to address homophobia. Sexuality matters; therefore, we ought to discuss it—and publicly.

My concerns about heterosexuals "coming out" relate to the so­cial meaning of that act. Individual acts of heterosexual signification contribute to the growing tendency on the part of people who are not gay or lesbian to employ the term "coming out" to reveal some usu­ally uncontroversial or safe aspect of their personhood. Nowadays, people are "coming out" as chocolate addicts, as yuppies, as soap opera viewers, and even as trekies. Sometimes the "outing" is more political—"I ‘out’ myself as a conservative," I heard someone say re­cently. This appropriation and redeployment of the term is problem­atic to the extent that it obscures the economical, psychological, and physical harms that potentially attend the gay and lesbian coming out (or outing) process.75 Although context would clearly matter, there is usually little, if any, vulnerability to "coming out" as a con­servative, as a yuppie, as trekies, etc. Nor is there usually any vul­nerability to "coming out" as a heterosexual. The assertion of hetero­sexuality, without more, merely re-authenticates heterosexual nor­malcy.76

Yet, more and more heterosexuals are "coming out," and often with good intentions. This "coming out" is performed explicitly and implicitly—affirmatively and by negation. Consider, for example, the way Houston Baker comes out in a panel discussion about gender, sexuality, and Black images: "I am not gay, but I have many gay friends."77 When asked about his decision to reveal his sexual identity in the negative (Baker did not say, "’I am a heterosexual,’ but ‘I am not gay’"78), Baker responds that in thinking about our identities, "You decide what you are not, rather than leaping out of the womb saying, "I am this."79

The questions about whether Baker should have "come out" as a heterosexual in the affirmative or the negative obscures the fact that it is the "coming out" itself that is potentially problematic. As Bruce Ryder points out, "heterosexual men taking gay or lesbian positions must continually deal with the question of whether or not to reveal their heterosexuality."80 On the one hand, self-identifying as a hetero­sexual is a way to position oneself within a discourse so as not to cre­ate the (mis)impression of gay authenticity.81 Moreover, revealing one’s heterosexuality can help to convey the idea that "heterosexism should be as much an issue for straight people as racism should be for white people."82 On the other hand, "coming out" as a heterosexual can be a heteronormative move to avoid gay and lesbian stigmatiza­tion. It can function not simply as a denial of same sex desire but to preempt the attribution of certain stereotypes to one’s sexual identity. The assertion of heterosexuality, stated differently, is (functionally, if not intentionally) both an affirmative and a negative assertion about sexual preferences ("I sleep with persons of the opposite, not the same sex") and an affirmative and a negative assertion about the normalcy of one’s sexual relationships ("therefore I am normal, not abnormal"). In this sense, I do not completely agree with Keith Boykin, director of the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum,83 who maintains that because heterosexual orientation "has become so ingrained in our so­cial customs, so destigmatized of our fears about sex, . . . we some­times fail to make any connection between heterosexuality and sex."84

Boykin is only half right here. The socially constructed normalcy of heterosexuality is not due to the desexualization of heterosexuality in mainstream political and popular culture, but rather is due to the sexualization of heterosexuality as normative—"destigmatized," to employ Boykin’s term. And it is not simply that homosexuality is sexed that motivates or stimulates homophobic fears about gay and lesbian relationships, but rather that homosexuality is sexed de­viant—stigmatized, as it were. The disparate social meanings that at­tach to gay and lesbian identities on the one hand, and straight identi­ties on the other, make explicit or implicit individual acts of hetero­sexual signification cause for concern.

Recently, I participated in a workshop where one of the presen­ters "came out" as a heterosexual in the context of giving his talk. This sexual identity disclosure engendered a certain amount of whis­pering in the back row. Up until that moment, I think many people had assumed that the presenter was gay.85 After all, he was sitting on a panel discussing sexual orientation and had participated in the Gay and Lesbian Section of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS). There were three other heterosexuals on the panel, but everyone knew they were not gay because everyone knew them; they have all been in teaching for a while, two are very senior, and every­one knew of their spouses or partners. Everyone also knew that there was a lesbian on the panel. She, too, has been in teaching for some time and had been "out" for many years. Apparently, few of the workshop participants knew very much about the presenter who "came out." Because "there is a widespread assumption in both gay and straight communities that any man who says something support­ive about issues of concern to lesbian or gay communities must be gay himself,"86 there was, at the very least, a question mark about his sexuality. Whatever his intentions were for "coming out," whatever his motivations, his assertion of heterosexuality removed the ques­tion mark.

And it is the politics behind the removal of the question mark— the politics of sexual identity signification—that we always have to be concerned with here. Is it an act of resistance or does it reflect an acquiescence to existing sexual identity social meanings? Consider, for example, the television situation comedy Spin City, in which Michael Boatman plays the role of Carter Heywood, an openly gay Black male character. Boatman is clearly very comfortable with the role and is "believably gay"—perhaps, for some, "too believably gay." Thus, in a recent article in Essence about Boatman we learn rather quickly that Boatman is not in fact gay—he just plays one on television.87 We learn, too, that it was not Heywood’s sexuality that attracted Boatman to the role (he hadn’t set out to play a gay man), but rather Heywood’s career. The relevant text reads: "It was Hey – wood’s job description (a civil rights attorney who joins the mayor’s office) rather than his sexuality that attracted the 32-year-old actor to the groundbreaking sitcom. . . . ‘we’ve been exposed to the stereo­type of swishy gay men,’ explains the happily married acting vet – eran."88 The question mark about Boatman’s (homo)sexuality is re­moved.

I became sensitized to the politics of heterosexuals "coming out" in the context of reading about James Baldwin. Try to find a piece written about Baldwin and count the number of lines before the au­thor comes out as heterosexual. Usually, it’s not more than a couple of paragraphs, so the game ends fast. The "coming out" seems in­evitable nevertheless. The following introduction from a recently published essay about Baldwin is one indication of what I’m talking about: "The last time I saw James Baldwin was late autumn of 1985, when my wife and I attended a sumptuous book party."89 In this case, the game ends immediately. Independent of any question of intentionality on the author’s part, his wife functions as an identity signifier to subtextually "out" his heterosexuality. We see "wife" we think heterosexual. My point here is not to suggest that the essay’s overall tone is heterosexually defensive; I simply find it suspicious when heterosexuals speak of their spouses so quickly (in this case the very first sentence of the essay) when a subject (a topic or a person­ality—here, James Baldwin) directly or indirectly implicates homo­sexuality.

After reading that introduction, I thought about a book review I had read a year or so ago where the reviewer, after describing how generous Baldwin had been to him as a young man in Paris, casu­ally drops the line, "I met a young American woman on a train and we made love." No mention of the woman again. No mention of any other women either. These weren’t recollections of his Paris days, but were recollections of his relationship with Baldwin. But that single sentence served its intended purpose. There is no point wondering what he was "doing" with Baldwin in Paris. The game is over. The possibility of a gay subtextual reading of the text vis-a­vis the author’s relationship with Baldwin and/or the author’s sex­ual identity is rendered untenable by the rhetorical deployment of the "young American woman." Her presence in the text operates not only to signify and authenticate the author’s heterosexual subject position but also to signify and functionally (if not intentionally) stigmatize Baldwin’s gay subject position. The author engages in what I refer to as "the politics of the 3Ds"—disassociation, disiden – tification and differentiation. The author is "different" from Baldwin (the author sleeps with women), and this difference, based as it is on sexual identity, compels the author to disassociate himself from and disidentify with what it is that makes Baldwin "different" (Bald­win sleeps with men).

I do not believe that heterosexual significations always reflect the politics of the 3Ds. It is possible for heterosexuals to "point out" their heterosexual privilege without re-authenticating heterosexuality. Consider the way Peggy McIntosh signifies on her heterosexuality to challenge heterosexual privilege:

1. My children do not have to answer questions about why I live with my partner (my husband).

2. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people ap­prove of our household.

3. Our children are given texts and classes that implicitly sup­port our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.

4. I can travel alone with my husband without expecting embar­rassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

5. Most people I meet will see my marital arrangements as an asset to my life or as a favorable comment on my likeability, my competence, or my mental health.

6. I can talk about the social event of a weekend without fearing most listeners’ reactions.

7. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of pub­lic life, institutional and social.

8. In many contexts, I am seen as "all right" in the daily work on women because I do not live chiefly with women.90

Although the above items clearly reveal McIntosh’s sexual identity, they do not normalize heterosexuality. Thus, I want to expand upon her list. I think it is a useful methodology for exposing and decon­structing sexual identity hierarchy. As with my list on gender privi­lege, I do not suggest that this list is complete or that it will apply to all heterosexuals. As Bruce Ryder observes:

Male heterosexual privilege has different effects on men of, for ex­ample, different races and classes. . . . In our society, the dominant or ‘hegemonic’ form of masculinity to which other masculinities are subordinated is white, middle-class, and heterosexual. This means that the heterosexual privilege of, say, straight black men takes a very different shape in their lives that it does for straight white men.91

My hope in presenting this list, then, is not to represent "every het­erosexual man," but to intervene in the normalization of heterosex­ual privilege in everyday life, and to challenge the pervasive ten­dency of heterosexuals to see homophobia as something that puts others at a disadvantage and not something that actually advantages them.92

Heterosexual Privileges: A List

1. Whether on T. V. or at the movies, heterosexuality is always affirmed as healthy and/or normal.

2. Without making a special effort to, heterosexuals are sur­rounded by other heterosexuals everyday.

3. A husband and wife can comfortably express affection in any, and even predominantly gay, social settings.

4. The children of a heterosexual couple will not have to explain why their parents have different genders—why they have a mummy and a daddy.

5. Heterosexuals are not blamed for creating and spreading the AIDS virus.

6. Heterosexuals don’t have to worry about people trying to "cure" their sexual orientation.

7. Black heterosexual males did not have to worry about whether they would be accepted at the Million Man March.

8. Rarely, if ever, will a doctor upon learning that her patient is heterosexual inquire as to whether the patient has ever taken an AIDS test and if so, how recently.

9. Medical service will never be denied to heterosexuals be­cause they are heterosexuals.

10. Friends of heterosexuals generally don’t refer to heterosexu­als as their "straight friends."

11. A heterosexual couple can enter a restaurant on their anniver­sary and be fairly confident that staff and fellow diners will warmly congratulate them if an announcement is made.

12. Heterosexuals don’t have to worry about whether a fictional film villain who is heterosexual will reflect negatively on their heterosexuality.

13. Heterosexuals are entitled to legal recognition of their mar­riage throughout the U. S. and the world.

14. Within the Black community, Black male heterosexuality does not engender comments like "what a waste," or "there goes another good Black man," or "if they’re not in jail, they’re faggots."

15. Heterosexuals can take a job with most companies without worrying about whether their spouse will be included in the benefits package.

16. Child molestation by heterosexuals does not confirm the de­viance of heterosexuality.

17. Black rap artists do not make songs suggesting that hetero­sexuals should be shot or beaten-up because they are hetero­sexuals.

18. Black male heterosexuality does not undermine a Black het­erosexual male’s ability to be a role model for Black boys.

19. Heterosexuals can join the military without hiding their sex­ual identity.

20. Children will be taught in school (explicitly or implicitly) about the naturalness of heterosexuality.

21. Conversations on Black liberation will always include con­cerns about heterosexual men.

22. Heterosexuals can adopt children without being perceived as selfish and without anyone questioning their motives.

23. Heterosexuals are not denied custody or visitation rights of their children because they are heterosexuals.

24. Heterosexual men are welcomed as leaders of Boy Scout troops.

25. Heterosexuals can go home, visit their parents and family as who they are, and take their spouses, partners, or dates with them to family functions.

26. Heterosexuals can talk matter-of-factly about their relation­ship with their partners without people commenting that they are "flaunting" their sexuality.

27. A Black heterosexual couple would be welcomed as members of any Black church.

28. Heterosexual couples don’t have to worry about whether kissing each other in public or holding hands in public will render them vulnerable to violence.

29. Heterosexuals don’t have to struggle with "coming out" or worry about being "outed."

30. The parents of heterosexuals don’t love them "in spite of" their sexual orientation, and they don’t blame themselves for their children’s heterosexuality.

31. Heterosexuality is affirmed in every religious tradition.

32. Heterosexuals can introduce their spouses to colleagues and not worry about whether the decision will have a detrimental impact on their careers.

33. A Black heterosexual male doesn’t have to choose between being Black and being heterosexual.

34. Heterosexuals can prominently display their spouses’ photo­graphs at work without causing office gossip or hostility.

35. (White) Heterosexuals don’t have to worry about "posi­tively" representing heterosexuality.

36. Few will take pity on a heterosexual upon hearing that she is straight, or will feel the need to say, "that’s O. K."

37. (Male) Heterosexuality is not considered to be symptomatic of the "pathology" of the Black family.

38. Heterosexuality is never mistaken as a lifestyle but is merely one more component of one’s personal identity.

39. Heterosexuals don’t have to worry over the impact their sex­uality will have personally on their children’s lives, particu­larly as it relates to their social life.

40. Heterosexuals don’t have to worry about being "bashed" after leaving a social event with other heterosexuals.

41. Everyday is "Heterosexual Pride Day."


It’s up to him [man] to say where his masculinity and femininity are at.

—Helene Cixous48

Thus far I’ve suggested that, though the issue is far from uncontro­versial, men can be feminists. I’ve suggested, too, that a male fem­inist project should not attempt to replicate "female feminism" in the sense of trying to articulate the nature of women’s experiences. Rather, male feminism should be male centered, striving to give con­tent to the very specific ways men benefit from patriarchy. For ex­ample, a white heterosexual male’s engagement in feminism might begin by acknowledging that He (the white heterosexual male) is the norm. "Mankind." The baseline. "He" is our reference. We are all defined with Him in mind. We are the same as or different from Him.49

A clear and now fairly uncontroversial illustration of the male norm in operation is revealed in the debates about women’s equality. Essentially, two competing paths exist to pursue women’s equality in the United States: demonstrate that women are the "same" or "differ­ent" from men. "The main theme in the fugue is ‘we’re the same, we’re the same, we’re the same.’ The counterpoint theme (in a higher register) is ‘but we’re different, but we’re different, but we’re differ­ent.’"50 As Catharine Mackinnon observes, both of these conceptions of gender have "man" as their reference. "Under the sameness stan­dard, women are measured according to our correspondence with man. . . . Under the difference standard, we are measured according to our lack of correspondence with him."51

Unfortunately, men are often unaware of, or reluctant to ac­knowledge, this baseline privilege. Indeed, we "are taught not to rec­ognize [it]."52 We are even taught to deny it. Self-interestedly, men ac­cept present-day social arrangements and ideologies about gender as necessary, pre-political, and inevitable.

And there are "taboos against . . . male self-analysis."53 Conse­quently, men, generally speaking, fail to consider or choose to ignore the extent to which they are "unfairly advantaged,"54 even if they agree that women are unfairly disadvantaged. Stated differently,

"[r]arely will a man go beyond acknowledging that women are disadvan­taged to acknowledging that men have unearned advantage, or that un­earned privilege has not been good for men’s development."55

Men must begin to understand that male privilege is "an invisible package of unearned assets that men can count on cashing in each day."56 A male feminist project should include a commitment to ex­pose and contest these privileges. Men might begin, for example, by carefully examining their personal lives for examples of the ways in which they do not experience certain everyday disadvantages pre­cisely because they are men. Here is an example of what I have in mind.

1. I can walk in public, alone, without fear of being sexually vio­lated.

2. Prospective employers will never ask me if I plan on having children.

3. I can be confident that my career path will never be tainted by accusations that I "slept my way to the top" (though it might be "tainted" by the fact that I am a beneficiary of affir­mative action).

4. I don’t have to worry about whether I am being paid less than my female colleagues (though I might be worried about whether I’m being paid less than my white male colleagues).

5. When I get dressed in the morning, I don’t worry about whether my clothing "invites" sexual harassment.

6. I can be moody, irritable, or brusque without it being attrib­uted to my sex, or to biological changes in my life, to being "on the rag"—"PMS" (though it might be attributable to my "preoccupation" with race).

7. My career opportunities are not dependent on the extent to which I am perceived to be the same as a woman (though they may be dependent upon the extent to which I am per­ceived to be "a good black"—i. e., racially assimilable).

8. I don’t have to choose between having a family or having a career.

9. I don’t have to worry about being called selfish for having a career instead of having a family.

10. It will almost always be the case that my supervisor will be a man (though rarely will my supervisor be Black).

11. I can express outrage without being perceived as irrational, emotional, or too sensitive (except if I am expressing outrage about race).

12. I can fight for my country without controversy.

13. No one will qualify my intellectual or technical ability with the phrase "for a man" (though they may qualify my ability with the phrase "for a Black man").

14. I can be outspoken without being called a "bitch" (though I might be referred to as uppity).

15. I don’t have to concern myself with finding the line between assertive and aggressive.

16. I don’t have to think about whether my race comes before my gender, about whether I am Black first and a man second.

17. The politics of dress—to wear or not to wear make-up, high heels, or trousers, to straighten or not to straighten, to braid or not to braid my hair—affects me less than it does women.

18. More is known about "male" diseases and how medicine af­fects male bodies.

19. I was not "supposed" to change my name upon getting married.

20. I am rewarded for vigorously and aggressively pursuing my career.

21. I don’t have to worry about female strangers or close ac­quaintances committing gender violence against me (though I do have to worry about racial violence).

22. I am not less manly because I play sports.

23. My reputation does not diminish with each person I have sex with.

24. There is no societal pressure for me to marry before the age of thirty.

25. I can dominate a conversation without being perceived as domineering.

26. I am praised for spending time with my children, cooking, cleaning, or doing other household chores.

27. I will rarely have to worry whether compliments from my boss contain a sexual subtext (though they may very well contain a racial subtext).

This list does not reflect the male privileges of all men. It is both under and over inclusive. Class, race, and sexual orientation impact male identities, shaping the various dimensions of male privilege. For example, the list does not include as a privilege the fact that men are automatically perceived as authority figures. While this may be true of white men, it has not been my experience as a Black man. Moreover, my list clearly reveals the fact that I am middle class. My relationship to patriarchy is thus not the same as for a working class Black male. In constructing a list of male privilege, then, one has to be careful not to universalize "man," present him as a "cohesive iden­tity"57 in ways that deny, obscure, or threaten the recognition of male multiplicity.

But even taking male multiplicity into account, the preceding list of male advantages still leaves an awful lot out. Specifically, the fore­going items do not directly address male patriarchal agency—the ex­tent to which men make choices that entrench male advantages and contribute to women’s disadvantages. The privileges I’ve identified are the products of the cumulative choices men make everyday in their personal and professional lives. Thus, men must do more than identify male privileges; they must come to realize how they actively re-enact them interpersonally (in the workplace, in the street, and in relationships) and institutionally as well. Men must come to recog­nize their own complicity in the normalization of male hegemony.


A fundamental goal of male feminism should be to facilitate the process of men unbecoming men, the process of men unlearning the patriarchal ways in which they have learned to become men. Ever since Simone de Beauvior articulated the idea that women are not born women, but rather become women, feminists have been grap­pling with ways to strip the category "women" of its patriarchal ideo­logical trappings, to find the pre – (or post-) socially constructed, pre – (or post-) patriarchal woman, the woman who has not been, as Tania Modleski puts it, "saturate[d]" . . . with [her] sex.43 Significantly, de Beauvior is not suggesting that, outside of patriarchy, there is some true female essence—the "real woman." (It might not even be mean­ingful to refer to the woman who has not been saturated with her sex as a "woman.") Her point is rather that people who are body-coded female cannot experience their personhood outside of the social con­struction of gender, and the social construction of gender for women is agency-denying and subordinating.

Of course, gender for men is also socially constructed. One must learn to be a "man" in this society, precisely because "manhood" is a socially produced category.44 Manhood is a performance. A script. It is accomplished and re-enacted in everyday relationships. Yet, men have been much less inclined to theorize about the sex/gender cate­gory we inhabit, reproduce, and legitimize, much less inclined to the­orize about the constructability and contingency of the social mean­ings associated with being "men," and much less inclined to search for, or even imagine, the pre (or post-) patriarchal man, the man who is not saturated with his sex. We (men) sometimes theorize about gen­der inequality, but rarely about gender privilege, as though our privi­leges as men were not politically up for grabs, as though they were social givens—inevitably "just there."

I think it is important for men to challenge the social construction of gender employing our privileged experiences as men as a starting point. These contestations should not displace or replace victim-cen­tered or bottom-up accounts of sexism. That is to say, men’s articula­tion of the ways in which they are the beneficiaries of patriarchy should not be a substitute for women’s articulations of the ways in which they are the victims of patriarchy. Both narratives need to be told. The telling of both narratives gives content to patriarchy and helps to make clear that patriarchy is bi-directional: Patriarchy gives to men what it takes away from women; the disempowerment of women is achieved through the empowerment of men.45 Patriarchy effectuates and maintains this relational difference. The social con­struction of women as the second sex requires the social construction of men46 as the first.

Heterosexism, too, effectuates and maintains a relational differ­ence that is based on power. There is no disadvantage without a cor­responding advantage, no marginalized group without the empow­ered, no subordinate identity without a dominant identity. Power and privilege are relational, so, too, are our identities. What "heterosex­ism takes away from lesbians and gays. . . it gives to straight men and women."47 The normalization of heterosexuality is only achieved through the "abnormalization" of homosexuality.

Yet, rarely do heterosexuals, especially heterosexual men, theo­rize about their identities as heterosexual, about their sexual identity privilege. Indeed, even pro-gay rights heterosexuals conceive of sex­ual identity as something that other people have, something that dis­advantages other people, rather than something that heterosexuals have which advantages them.

Nor should male heterosexual articulations of gender and sexual identity privilege function to legitimize otherwise "untrustworthy" and "self-interested" accounts of discrimination by straight women and lesbians and gays. There is a tendency on the part of dominant groups (e. g., males and heterosexuals) to discount the experiences of subordinate groups (e. g., straight women and lesbians and gays) un­less those experiences are authenticated or legitimized by a member of the dominant group. It is one thing for me, a Black man, to say I was discriminated against in a particular social setting; it is quite an­other for my white colleague to say I was discriminated against in that same social setting. My telling of the story is suspect because I am Black. My white colleague’s telling of the story is less suspect be­cause he is white. Male heterosexuals who participate in discourses on gender and sexuality should avoid creating the (mis)impression that, because they are outsiders to the subordinating effects of patri­archy and heterosexism, their critiques of patriarchy and/or hetero­sexism are more valid than the critiques offered by lesbians, straight women, and gay men.


It might indeed be the case that "men’s relationship to feminism is an impossible one,"2 that men cannot be feminists. This "impossibility thesis" is quite arresting. There is, however, an explanation:

Women are the subjects of feminism, its initiators, its makers, its force; the move and the join from being a woman to being a feminist is a grasp of that subjecthood. Men are the objects of the analysis, agents of the structure to be transformed, representatives in, carriers of the patriarchal mode; and my desire to be a subject there too in feminism—to be a feminist—is then only also the last feint in the long history of their colonization.

Assuming that this male-object/female-subject dichotomy is accurate (I tend to think that women and men are subjects and objects of femi­nism, though not in the same way), the analysis avoids the funda­mental normative question: Conceding that women were the "initia­tors" of feminism, "its makers, its force," do we want it to remain so? Proponents of the "impossibility thesis" seem to suggest that quite apart from what we might want, it must be so; the impossibility of men’s relationship to feminism stems from the fact that "I am not where they [women] are and I cannot be." Because "there is no equal­ity, no symmetry. . . there can be no reversing: it is for women now to reclaim and redefine sexuality [and feminism], for us [men] to learn from them."3 Importantly, this argument is not suggesting political abdication—"that I can do nothing in my life, that I cannot respond to and change for feminism."4 Rather, the argument is that "Male femi­nism is not just different from feminism (how ludicrous it would be to say "female feminism"), it is a contradiction in terms."5 Fundamental to this argument, then, is the idea that because women are the "na­tives" of feminism men necessarily are the "colonists."6 There is no male exit from patriarchy.

I am not persuaded that "men’s relationship to feminism is an im­possible one." It is certainly true that men and women have different social realities. Yet, the very fact that men are not "where women are" might be a starting point for male feminism. Men’s realization of gen­der "difference" and gender hierarchy, can provide us with the op­portunity to theorize about gender from the gender-privileged posi – tion(s) we occupy as men. Indeed, men’s contestation of gender should be grounded in men’s and women’s positional "difference"— the extent to which it is socially constructed and contingent, the ex­tent to which it corresponds to power and marginalization, the extent to which men, and not just women, live the difference. Male feminism need not attempt to "speak" in a "different voice." Instead, male fem­inist criticism should be explicitly informed by men’s experiential "differences." These "differences" could be the basis for conscious­ness raising among and between men. I am not speaking here about consciousness raising "for the purpose of finding the ‘hairy beast’ or the ‘wild man’ within."7 Rather, consciousness raising should be a way for men to examine the multiple ways in which they are privi­leged and then to challenge the social practices in their lives that re­produce, entrench, and at the same time normalize patriarchy. It is not clear to me that male feminism would merely "reproduce what has come before."8 On the contrary, a male feminist project could en­gender men, forcing us "to articulate the ‘me’ in ‘men.’"9 Part of the problem with discourses produced by men is that they are presented as ungendered discourses, purportedly neutral discourses, abstracted from any experiential reality. Employing feminism, "the male critic may find that his voice no longer exists as an abstraction, but that it in fact inhabits a body: its own sexual textual body."10

The personal is political—one of feminism’s first principles. The personal, epistemological grounding of feminism could be the basis for male feminist criticism. This criticism could be centered on the male subject as a problematic identity. It is easier for men to acknowl­edge the realities of gender subordination in women’s lives than it is for us to acknowledge the realities of gender privilege in our own. Generally speaking, men don’t perceive themselves to be en-gen – dered.11 "Gender," for men, is a term that relates to women and women’s experiences; it is synonymous with "female." Thus, men have not paid much attention to the ways in which the social con­structions of gender shape and define men’s experiences as "men." Indeed, men accept their identities as pre-political givens. The gender question, when it is addressed, is rarely about the nature and conse­quences of male privilege but rather about the nature and conse­quences of female disadvantages.

A male feminist project could challenge men’s tendency to con­ceptualize gender outside of their own experiences as men. As Helen Cixous has observed, "men still have everything to say about their own sexuality."12 It remains the "dark continent."13 A male engage­ment in feminism (assuming men can be feminist) or with feminism (assuming they cannot), rather than portending the reinscription of [male] epistemological dominance,14 could portend the "decoding" of the male subject and the production of a male epistemological self­criticism. This self criticism could include an examination of the spe­cific ways that men reproduce patriarchy interpersonally, and institu­tionally and the material consequences of that reproduction for women. As Michael Awkward observes, "to identify the writing self as biologically15 male is to emphasize the desire not to be ideologi­cally male; it is to explore the process of rejecting the phallocentric perspectives by which men traditionally have justified the subjuga­tion of women."16

Significantly, patriarchy is not just "out there," external to our re­lationships and experiences; it is manifested in and constituted by the ways in which we structure those relationships and experiences. Part of a male feminist project, then, should be to persuade men to see themselves as body-coded (as distinct from naturally created) men, and to identify how the social, patriarchal codes of manhood are re­enacted and naturalized in their everyday interactions with other men and with women.

But even if men’s relationship to feminism is not impossible, which is what I am suggesting, feminism is not unproblematically available to men. Because men are the beneficiaries of patriarchy, it might be entirely appropriate to refer to a male feminist as "a[n] . . . oxymoronic entity."17 There is, after all, the tendency on the part of men to control. To dominate. To silence. To appropriate and redefine. The "male feminist" must thus be mindful of the fact that his partici­pation in feminism does not go "’without saying.’"18

The "political terrain/safe space" concept raises additional con­cerns if we explicitly racialize the discussion so that the question be­comes: What is Black men’s relationship to Black feminism? This Black-centered framing of the discussion is especially important given the (mis)treatment of Black feminists and feminism in antiracist discourse. It is not hyperbolic to say that Black feminists occupy an outsider status within traditional Black antiracist discourse. This out­sider status results from the construction of Black feminists either as racially disloyal—women who conspire with white feminists to "emas­culate" Black men,19 or as racially naive—women who ignore or fail to appreciate the extent to which American law and social policy is de­signed to destroy the Black family via the destruction of Black men. As a result of these constructions, Black female assertions of feminist identity are to some degree race negating.

At least two questions emerge from Black feminists’ subordinate status in Black antiracist discourse: (1) Do Black male feminists oc­cupy this subordinate status as well; and (2) how have Black (female) feminists responded to Black male assertions of feminist political identity. Both questions are difficult to answer, because there is not yet a self-consciously defined Black male feminist community. How­ever, in a recent essay,20 Black feminist Joy James suggests that con­cerns about political terrain, safe space, and authenticity do not dis­appear when the men and feminist debate is rearticulated as the Black men and Black feminism debate.

With respect to authenticity, James asserts that she "prefer[s] the terms feminism or feminist for female and profeminism or profeminist for male advocates of gender equality."21 She is "reluctant" to "con­cede" men "the use of the label ‘feminism’ given that it now requires the qualifiers male and female to distinguish advocates for an ideol­ogy associated with females."22 James recognizes that "perhaps my uneasiness with male feminists is tied to my desire to biologize this ideology."23 Women can be feminist because they are women; men can’t be feminist because they are men. Sex is both qualifying and disqualifying here. But James points out that her concerns about men and feminism transcend biology; she is worried about male episte­mological dominance as well. The fact that "Gender Studies" is re­placing "Women’s Studies," and more men are engaging feminism is not, for James, "necessarily a sign of counter-progressive politics."24 Yet, she is not at all persuaded that these changes are (in the literal and more campy sense of the term) "all good." She writes:

Although I welcome the departure of exclusionary disciplines and Manichean depictions of the oppressed and their oppressor(s), I am still left with the uncomfortable perception that if the validity of an area of knowledge, for instance, women’s studies or ethnic studies, garners legitimacy only to the extent that privileged intellectuals, for example, men or whites, shape the discourse, then the exegetical and institutional strengths that allegedly safeguard against subver­sion or mutation are not as powerfully entrenched as [some] would like us to believe.25

For James, the question is not whether we should be worried about (Black) men in (Black) feminism but rather what we should be wor­ried about.26

As an example of what we might be worried about, James refers to Michele Wallace’s critique of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., regarding the extent to which he is shaping and defining the African American liter­ary canon, including Black feminist literary theory. Wallace employs Gates’s intellectual career as an example of male control of discourse. According to Wallace, Gates is "single-handedly reshaping, codifying and consolidating the entire field of Afro-American studies, includ­ing black feminist studies." Wallace argues that the results of Gates’s intellectual monopoly "are inevitably patriarchal. Having established himself as the father of Afro-American Literary Studies, with the help of the New York Times Book Review, he now proposes to become the phallic mother of the newly depolicitized, mainstreamed, and com­modified black feminist literary criticism."27 Wallace’s argument, with which James agrees, is that Black men still have "greater access and authority as intellectuals and thinkers" than Black women.28 Black men’s greater access and authority can result in the displace­ment of Black female feminists. This displacement of women by men entrenches the notion that men are the leaders of political move­ments, the force behind political ideologies, the intellectual movers and shakers, and the agents of social change. James’ analysis suggests that while she finds "it is difficult to argue against naturalizing coali­tions between feminists and black male profeminists,"29 she would doubtless agree with the idea that (Black) men’s participation in (Black) feminism does not go without saying.

Not all feminists are as worried as James is about male participa­tion in feminism. Some, for example, "see no reason why a man should not proclaim himself a feminist."30 To illustrate why men’s re­lationship to feminism is neither impossible nor inexorably problem­atic, these feminists distinguish between feminism and women. They maintain that while men can be feminists, "they cannot be women. The parallel here is the struggle against racism: whites can—indeed ought to be—antiracist, but they cannot be black."31 For these femi­nists, the "important thing for men is not to spend their time worry­ing about definition and essences (‘am I really a feminist?’) but to take up recognizable anti-patriarchal positions."32 To state the point a little differently, the question about men and feminism need not be a question about political terrain or gender essentialism ("whether men should [or can] be in feminism")33 but rather about political vision ("whether [men] should be against patriarchy").34

bell hooks, an influential Black feminist, insists that feminism is (or should be) about revolutionary politics.35 Women and men have a stake in transforming gender relations; feminism provides an ideo­logical vehicle for women and men to do so. hooks suggests that there are two problems with the notion that feminism is for "women only." First, it provides men with a political out, creating the impres­sion that feminism is "women’s work." According to hooks, "Even as [feminists] were attacking sex role divisions of labor, the institutional­ized sexism that assigns unpaid, devalued, and ‘dirty’ work to women, they were assigning to women yet another sex role task: making a feminist revolution."36 hooks argues that this sexual divi­sion of political labor is problematic; she reasons that men whose per­sonal politics reflect feminist ideological commitments are "com­rades" in a feminist movement—"they have a place" in feminism.37 "Since men are the primary agents of maintaining and supporting sexism, [sexism] can only be successfully eradicated if men are com­pelled to assume responsibility for transforming their consciousness and the consciousness of society as a whole."38

hooks identifies a second problem with the notion of a "women’s only" feminist movement: the idea is often buttressed by the concep­tualization of "all men" as "the enemy."39 This conceptualization ig­nores the fact that men are differently situated with respect to patri­archy because of race, gender, class, sexuality, and political commit­ment. "Assertions like ‘all men are the enemy,’ ‘all men hate women’ lump all groups of men in one category, thereby suggesting that they share equally in all forms of male privilege."40 These assertions, moreover, are based largely on white, upper – and middle-class women’s relationships with white, upper – and middle-class men. Ac­cording to hooks, "Despite sexism, black women have continually contributed equally to the antiracist struggle, and frequently, before the contemporary black liberation effort, black men recognized this contribution."41 hooks’s argument regarding Black male acknowl­edgement of Black female contributions to Black antiracist efforts is certainly contestable, but her broader point is that feminist theories on the possibilities for male feminist engagements often are white and middle class centered.

I am persuaded that the men and feminism debate should be about political vision and action. Nevertheless, I do believe that con­cerns about political terrain are important. For feminism might very well be "a room of one’s own"—a place for "women to claim for themselves, a space from which to speak, a space within which to de­velop their voices as thinkers and writers, to cultivate that warm in­tellectual glow of the poets that circumstances and ideology [has] sti­fled for so long."42 A strong case can be made, then, that feminism should indeed be for women only. Thus, the male feminist criticism that I have in mind would respect the need for "women only" social, political, and intellectual organization. Male feminism, as I imagine it, would reject the idea that men have "the right" to participate in fe­male feminists’ political groups.

But what, more fundamentally, does the male feminist criticism I am proposing entail? What is my male feminist methodology? And how might this methodology facilitate the dismantling of male het­erosexual privilege? Let me now turn directly to these questions.


Straight Out of the Closet: Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege

THE ESSAYS IN this collection reveal how Black men prioritize and negotiate gender and sexuality in their antiracist politics. The collec­tion does not, however, constitute a Black male feminist text. For one thing, not all the essays reflect feminist ideological commitments. For another, not all the contributors would identify as feminists or pro­feminists. A Black male feminist collection remains to be published.

However, several of the contributors to this volume, most notably Michael Awkward and Luke Harris, have begun the project of theo­rizing about the possibilities for a contemporary (Black) male femi­nist criticism. This epilogue is my contribution to this effort. Here, I urge antiracist men to embrace and assert a feminist political identity. Male assertions of feminist identity are, of course, controversial. Such assertions raise serious concerns about: (1) territory (whether femi­nism is women’s political terrain); (2) "safe spaces" (whether femi­nism is a place for women to escape male epistemological domi­nance); and (3) authenticity (whether feminism is constructed on, and intended to be a voice for, women’s experiences). Significantly, in ar­guing that men should identify as feminists, I am not suggesting that men should endeavor to speak in a "different" (read: women’s) voice; male feminism should not attempt to replicate female feminism. The last thing we want or need is more men—under the guise and osten­sible legitimacy of feminism—presuming to define the nature of women’s experiences. Women "do not want you [men] to mimic us, to become the same as us; we don’t want your pathos or your guilt; and we don’t even want your admiration (even if it’s nice to get it once in a while). What we do want, I would say what we need, is your work. And like all serious work, that involves struggle and pain."1

Part of the work of male feminism, the "struggle and the pain," should involve men coming to terms with and challenging male and heterosexual privilege. This, then, is the focus of this epilogue—ex­posing and contesting the male experiential side of hetero-patriarchy.

I want to begin by addressing the men and feminism controversy. As Kimberle Crenshaw observes in her foreword, feminist discourse about men and feminism is, by and large, a discourse about white men and white feminism. There are very few voices of color. My con­tribution will attempt to explicitly racialize the debate, identify some of the concerns Black feminists might have about Black men’s rela­tionship to Black feminist theory, and provide an indication of how Black male feminists might respond to these concerns.

“You Cain’t Trus’ It”

Expert Witnessing in the Case of Rap

Houston A. Baker, Jr.

I WANT TO say a few things about an essay I read in the Boston Re­view (December 1991) entitled "Beyond Racism and Misogyny: Black Feminism and 2 Live Crew" by Kimberle Crenshaw. I came upon the essay with an open mind and read it, as well as the enthusiastic re­sponse to Crenshaw by Henry Louis Gates in a single sitting. When I had finished the essays, my mind was decidedly closed against what seemed to be a drearily conventional mode of response by adult scholars to popular cultural forms.

The conventional response is what I call a "start in the middle of the game approach." Most grown-ups ignore popular cultural forms, the controversy, the public event, and everything else beyond their bedroom and kitchen walls. But if the adults are academics, they will tell you that their obliviousness is a function of too many committee assignments or their residence in the long, dark tunnel of the tenure process. They will insist that they never have time to raise their heads above mere iambic pentameter or the middle style of publishable prose. But if the triggering event that brings the popular cultural form to attention will not go away, or if it is taken up by a media net­work, then even the most oblivious adults seem compelled to write something or take action vis-a-vis the popular cultural form in ques­tion.

Crenshaw’s essay seems to demonstrate this typology. Though 2 Live Crew’s lyrics cannot be considered innocuous in any way, the Crew is controversial for one reason only: the media networks, in a mode that I call "instant expertism," have made them so. If I under­stand Crenshaw’s argument correctly, it is about "intersectionality."

Crenshaw debates whether she should judge 2 Live Crew as a black or as a woman. In other words, the intersectionality, which is simply a dualism here, forecloses the possibility of what any one of us might encounter in our everyday lives—a black Vietnamese-American, Ivy League-aspiring, basketball-playing, sushi-eating woman. What then privileges, in such multiplicity, the simple duality of black or woman? Where is the carnivalesque site of the griotic tradition of African-American culture—a space occupied mainly by women? Where is the voodoo priestess who stands, not at an intersection but literally and figuratively at the beginning and the ending of all roads that lead anywhere, mediating the marriage of heaven and hell, life and death? And why does a simple intersectionality prevent an aca­demic scholar from seeing that the simple one-liner "Ain’t I a woman?" can be an encyclopedia for cultural studies? Harriet Tub­man and Sojourner Truth did not have trouble being both black and female.

Crenshaw has written interestingly, eloquently, and persuasively on this intersectionality in the discourse of black women and the law, but I don’t think this intersectionality can be applied to 2 Live Crew. Why, on any grounds, would one sanction the 2 Live Crew, anyway? They are vile, juvenile, puerile, misogynistic guys who are only out to bank beaucoup "dead presidents."

There is absolutely no reason for a noble, shocked defense of 2 Live Crew within the popular culture forum of rap music—a forum that has raps dedicated to the education of black and white children; that says, "Be a father to your child"; that strongly advocates the rights of women; that is perhaps one of the only sites available to young people in this society that says, "This is what policing and sur­veillance are about and these are your rights in a free society"; that has so many positive sites that it has become a transnational informa­tive youth cultural site.

Nobody is going to tell me that the only place I can go to refer­ence that form is 2 Live Crew. I understand that there is no innocent sexuality, but I also understand that one has to know the history of the form and understand the spaces of the popular. One cannot con­stitute oneself as an instant expert and send or sing just anything that comes down the line just because you have been asked to do so.

In a word, all instant experts on popular cultural forms need to get their stuff far, far more together before they take the stand. After all, everybody knows that when people speak about a unique popu­lar cultural form that they have not bothered to fully inform them­selves about, we simply cain’t trus’ it. Public Enemy has the final word, then, on instant experts, whether they are black or white.


This essay is edited from a presentation Houston A. Baker delivered at a sym­posium on Black popular culture. The complete presentation appears in Black Popular Culture (a project by Michele Wallace and edited by Gina Dent) (Seat­tle: Bay Press, 1992), 132.

Silent Acquiescence

The Too-High Price of Prestige

Derrick Bell

IT IS NOT pleasant to consider that one’s protest action can cause more consternation to those you consider to be on your side than it does to those you know are in your way. As Camus warned, we must often go forward "with weapons in our hands and a lump in our throats."1 We must face the difficult dilemma of choosing between two evils: injuring others as the price of serving our cause, which Camus labels expediency, or "ineffectual purity." If we do nothing, we not only sacrifice the cause to which we are committed but do so knowing that others will also be hurt by our failure to fight.2 Perhaps the protester should take comfort in the fact that, whatever course one selects, one will have to live nagged by doubt about that choice.

Not that the choice is easy or even fair. Probably the most painful aspect of my Harvard protest was that Regina Austin, a woman I con­sidered not only a good colleague but also a close and valued friend, may have felt that my action had not only destroyed her chances for a permanent appointment but also added more trauma to Austin’s long and challenging year. On the day following my protest, a New York Times story carried interviews with several students in her classes.3 Most of the comments were positive, but the story focused—complete with their photos—on two white males who claimed that she was a poor teacher. The story and the unwanted publicity hurt Austin deeply. While she found the courage to complete the school year, she did not speak to me for years after.

I was pleased that most black women teaching law publicly sup­ported my protest.4 There were some, though—including some I had known for years and had encouraged and mentored—who reacted quite adversely to my protest. It was months before any of them spoke to me directly, but in the meantime I learned through others that they resented the fact that I had announced my unpaid leave without first getting Austin’s approval or at least giving her notice of my plans. They did not thank me for risking my own position to call national attention to the plight of black female academics and criti­cized me for taking the public lead on the issue. As one of them put it, "None of us elected Bell as our leader and spokesperson."

As for my failing to share my protest plans with Regina Austin, the women may have been right. At the time, though, consulting her seemed both unnecessary and unfair. Unnecessary because Austin seemed far more militant and insightful about whites and racism than I was. I found her writings invigorating and admired her out­spoken statements on issues of race and gender. As to fairness, it seemed at the time an unfair burden to enlist Austin in my fight with Harvard. I had not consulted her before mounting a campaign that helped secure her visit. How could I approach her and ask whether she approved my putting my job on the line to support the student campaign to get minority women on the faculty? The permission would have been difficult for me to seek and her response even harder to follow had she said, "Don’t do it." After all, I had already decided to go ahead despite my wife’s reservations.

After long years of public involvement, I failed to consider how daunting it can be for a basically private person to be thrust suddenly into a very controversial spotlight. I should have considered my own devastating experience a few years before during a one-semester visit at the Stanford Law School, where my teaching ability became a pub­lic issue. A month or so into the term, a delegation of outraged black students came to my office and reported that the Law School had re­sponded to student complaints about my teaching not by approach­ing me but by quietly setting up a series of lectures by other profes­sors to ensure that my students would gain from the lectures what it was feared they were missing in my course. To shield the real pur­pose of the lectures, I was invited to present one of them. It is hard to understand the magnitude of this insult without knowing the length to which schools will go to cover up the misconduct or incompetence of faculty members and to ignore students’ frequently justified com­plaints. Yet Stanford neither defended me nor even consulted me about the complaints.

When the black students protested, the lectures were canceled. I accepted the school’s apologies but insisted on writing a long essay on the affair, copies of which I sent to every law school in the country with a request that the matter be discussed in faculty meetings.5 It was not easy to concede that my teaching ability had been put in question, but I publicized the incident in the hope that other minority law teachers, subjected to similar experiences, would gain a better understanding of such student criticism. A few years later, I pre­sented a lecture at Stanford, and Dean Paul Brest offered me a public apology on behalf of the school. Significantly, at the time, Stanford students were engaged in a major effort to gain more minority repre­sentation on the faculty.

It is not difficult to find my failure to consider the effect of my protest on Regina Austin both selfish and sexist. Selfish in that the protestor’s voluntary sacrifice of privacy, security, and the warmth of group identity carries with it the risk of involuntary sacrifice of those interests by loved ones and friends. As to sexism, I had conceded in my speech at the student rally that there was a patriarchal element in my protective feelings about the black women students. I viewed these women as both my students, to whom my greatest obligation was to teach by example, and surrogates for the daughters I never had.

I have been spared the deep sense of inadequacy that must come to a father who, jobless, cannot provide bread for his family’s table, but I have experienced the frustration of watching the thus far futile efforts of my daughters who look like me, and by extension those who are white but are no less my charges. I have watched them—and the men who stand with them—drafting the petitions, attending the rallies, standing in the vigils, sitting long nights in the dean’s office, and experienced the pain of not being able to help them secure a most urgent component of their legal training. I was determined to help these students, come what may.

Some black women teachers, unaware of my motives, charged that my emphasis on their potential as role models for the black women students on whose particular behalf I protested had the effect of obscuring their skills and accomplishments.6 Ironically, their argu­ment was similar to that which Regina Austin had made in "Sapphire Bound!" in analyzing the Crystal Chambers case. As Austin pointed out, the desire to help minority girls in a counseling program by hir­ing Chambers as a role model backfired for Chambers and became grounds for firing her when she did not conform to their require­ments. The law professors worried that to stress their value as role models also would hurt them by detracting from the achievements that entitled them to positions on the Harvard law faculty regardless of their potential value as mentors. That they had not been hired, and were unlikely ever to satisfy the faculty’s shifting and elitist stan­dards, did not deter them from advancing this argument.

In addition, some of the women felt that I had deprived them of their right to speak for themselves. They had not requested me to be their advocate or to advance any arguments on their behalf. Although none of them had come forward to do so, that was understandable. A protest on their own behalf would have seemed even more obviously self-serving than my own. Furthermore, many women of color were still early in their careers. They did not have the professional or finan­cial standing to enable them to take this kind of action or to command attention in this or similar ways. In any event, none of them elected me to this role, and, based on the criticism many women raised about my "Chronicle of the 27th Year Syndrome," in And We Are Not Saved, it was clear they would not have done so.7

Indeed, in one of those cruel tricks of fate that outdoes fiction be­cause the truth is hardly believable, I may have inadvertently placed women of color in law teaching in a position like that of the unfortu­nate young black women in my "Chronicle," in which an ailment puts a randomly selected group of black women to sleep for a few months and permanently deprives them of their professional skills— all because they have not received bona fide offers of marriage from black men. I had hoped that this allegory, in which a tragedy occurs that only black men could prevent, would motivate black males to shake off our societally imposed powerlessness, with all its unhappy attributes, and move us to act more responsibly in relationships with black women. My critics pointed out that the much desired sense of power and responsibility for black men came at too high a price for further subjugation of black women. Moreover, the frightening facts in the allegory serve to silence and incapacitate young black women, so that they are unable to participate in the healthier black man/black woman debate the "Chronicle" was intended to promote.

In real life, women of color are totally excluded from Harvard and many other law schools and therefore have no way of changing the exclusionary policies. By acting out of my own frustration and powerlessness to correct this condition, I proved my willingness to do battle, but in a fashion that—according to some faculty mem­bers—will retard the hiring of minority women for years to come. Even if they are wrong, the difficulties my critics saw in the "Chroni­cle" may come home to haunt women of color seeking law teaching jobs. In addition, my action may make it harder for these women to express their honest views on my protest. If they express their sup­port, it will seem self-serving, yet any reservations they express will be used by unabashed opponents of affirmative action to place them in the camp with those black beneficiaries of affirmative action who now deem such policies "demeaning" and in conflict with the great American principle of merit. The parallels are not precise, but if some women argue that I have harmed the cause I claim to support, I can hardly dismiss their criticism as groundless.

If there is a moral or at least a lesson here, it is that individual protests are a disruptive anomaly. They interject into a conflict an ele­ment of uncertainty and the potential for chaos that is as likely to throw allies off stride as it is to cause opponents to reconsider their positions. Upset by the tension generated by the protest and, even more so, the debate that comes out of it, neither side wants to ac­knowledge that the protest has prompted a change—even a decisive change in the conflict.