Today I learned a new term to describe a persisting feeling of “otherism.” Respectability politics. You’ve seen this before, its a form of black conservatism in which members of a marginalized group are burdened with the responsibility to change their lives, their situation. This philosophy, however ignores centuries of societal and social degradation.
The individuals (in this case black people but other marginalized groups of people experience this dangerous political attempt at shaming and silencing as well) partaking in actions seen as deviating from the mainstream definition of morality or success are blamed and stereotyped by members within the community. It is a form of self-policing that can border on self hate.
Sagging your pants? Criminal. Speaking differently? You’re dumb. This is respectability politics at work, Raven Symone’s recent comments concerning “ghetto names” is one of the long history of undermining our traditions and heritage by members of the marginalized population.
Respectability politics is liken to victim blaming. Despite what Raven Symone and other “black but I don’t claim to be black” people who think like her say, Watermelondrea was given her name and should not be denied employment because of it, not while Kale and Sky are pursuing their master’s degrees in Marine Biology. When your original culture has been taken from you, how else are you to cope if not to create another, to create names and traditions?
We can do better, we can support each other throughout the diaspora instead of creating a version of ourselves that is more palatable to the masses like the idea of the being a black-less black person. We can inspire each other, by supporting each other through mentorship and communication. We can do that by amplifying marginalized voices within our community. What I love most about being black is the vast diversity within us. From style to speaking, art, and our skin; there are infinite ways to be black, all should be honored and appreciated.