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Respectability Politics Won't Save Your Black Life


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Forcing change, by definition, is not respectable.  You will never change anything by being respectable.


It was once not considered respectable (and against the law) to teach Black people to read.  People had to engage is behavior that was considered not respectable, and literally fight for the right to to be treated equality.

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I think what is being overlooked is the idea of respecting yourself and carrying yourself in a dignified manner is how you create change in your own circle. I run a sneaker store. I deal with a ton of people in this business. If I walked in looking like an idiot, then those store owners and managers I deal with wouldn't look at me the same way as they do. As a matter of fact I couldn't operate in Mississippi if I didn't carry myself a certain way. That's just a fact. I stress on a daily basis to my son that his appearance will always be what gets him farther into the door after his credentials have opened it. I also stress that he should never leave the house looking like someone who doesn't care that he is a reflection of his parents.


Respectability is an issue for Black people. it doesn't have anything to do with making White people comfortable in my world. It doesn't have anything to do with conforming to white society. Respectability is a matter of uplifting and teaching the next generation how to live in a world that is built on perceptions and first meetings. My idea about what people are saying about respectability politics is a matter of clarity and how we all perceive what is being said. I see teaching respectability as telling kids not to videotape each other fighting in the streets and sharing it on worldstar. I see it as men treating women like women, not like bitches, thots and dirt. I honestly think when Black people begin to value and respect Black life and culture then the world will begin to respect us. I do think it is the foundation of a movement.


basically, if Troy is in his profile picture with a star tattooed under his eye, gold fronts, and flipping the bird at the camera, it becomes a little bit harder to trust that he is actually the guy running this website. Is that fair? No, but it is reality. Perception is the majority of what creates situations between all people.

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The civil rights movement is being resurrected and we're back to square one. A movement always goes through stages, and as we navigate the first one, agendas are emerging for the next phase which will take a more radical approach. This a slippery slope in the journey because it involves rejecting the old standards. A "who-cares-what-society-decrees" attitude comes into play. But the concept of respect cannot be compromised. Respect is in the eye of the beholder and it has to be earned.Sometimes fear is an effective weapon in commanding respect. Other times vascillation and irresponsibility are traits that hinder it.


To me, the goal of initiating progress all boils down to recognizing the need for mutual respect.

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I agree with you completely. There is a certain Machiavellian trait to the events occuring here. We are on the precipice of a new Movement and how we are perceived will be a matter of how the situations play out. Riots are going to be as effective as silent protests and silent protests may be as effective as respectability politics. We can either hope to make Whites afraid of our actions or generate respect by the way we treat ourselves/our people. 


We definitely are going to have to gain a mutual respect for each other first though.

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