The term ‘mansplaining’ typically references a man who might be explaining something (usually to a woman) in a particularly patronizing or condescending manner. This term has usually been relegated to explain White mansplaining. The term at one point had the possibility of propelling the conversation of men dominating conversations and spaces but the term has evolved into a catch-all phrase describing anything a man says in explanation of something (mostly in a joking way to one another).
But mansplaining has yet to critically reach engagements between Black men and Black women. Black women are typically subject to mansplaining by not just White men but Black men as well. Recent social movements reveal that Black women while at the forefront of activism and mobilization, are still relegated to the margins either forced to privilege our male counterparts or run the risk of being seen as ‘disloyal’.
But I was recently involved in a conversation with a group of students and realized that embedded in conversations between young Black men and women, mansplaining is prominent (and in very classed ways). But what does this look like? How does it differ from White mansplaining?
Drawing from my extensive multi-year, lifelong, ethnographic observations as a member, observer, and participant in Black culture, I’ll provide a Top 10 of Black Mansplaining.
If a Black dude starts a sentence like this, he might be Black Mansplaining:
1. Dig dis…
2. Looka herr’…
3. To keep it 100…
4. Check dis out…
5. Put it like dis…
6. See what da deal is…
7. On some real shit…
If he ends a sentence with this, he might be Black Mansplaining:
8. Ya dig
9. Nah I’m talking bout or Nah Mean
10. You feel me
While this is not a comprehensive, exhaustive list, it’s a start to being to gain a sense of when Black mansplaining has begun or ended. The signs are clear.
While my purpose is mostly to joke about ‘out-house’ oppression, I hope it can serve as a wake up call for my brothers. We don’t need you speaking for us, on our behalf, etc. And we really need you to stop dominating conversations. We want to co-exist with you. Not dominate you, challenge you, or otherwise demean you or your existence. Your sisters have held you down for a long time. We won’t stop, but our kitchen table conversations haven’t worked. We will begin bringing our issues to the fore in very public ways. Twitter has worked out very well actually!
And to those of us who are subject to ‘privileged-explaining’, I know it’s a fine line in standing firm and engaging in similar oppression, but here are some tips.
(Yes I know it’s on them to change their behavior....but sometimes we have to demand it)
1. Tell them when they are dominating conversations - immediately. Don’t wait until the meeting or conference call is over. Do it then - in a public manner. They cut us off all the time; it’s time to return the favor.
2. Continue to create our own spaces where our voices are welcome and valued. We need to stop asking and begging for a space at a table that was never intended for us. There are 4 place-settings and nan one is for us. Let’s make our own table.
3. If in a formal setting, identify a facilitator who can recognize the signs of privileged explaining and intervene if you’re uncomfortable challenging the Brothers.
4. Stop feeling sorry for Black men and stop blaming yourself for Black men’s oppression. We’ve been conditioned for this. These two often compel us to allow them the space and access to continue their domination over us. I know it’s hard in a time like this, but we can’t keep vowing loyalty to a race that doesn’t see the value in our womanhood. We can work together and empower each other as we progress. We’re in this together.