Saturday, August 24, 2013

We're back... with Respectability Politics and Travyon Martin

After a long hiatus, we are back!  Sometimes life happens and things don't go the way we want but after these couple of busy months and the current climate around race relations I've been inspired to start writing again.

Though this is a couple weeks late, I wanted to point out how people have been blaming Travyon Martin and the black community for all the injustices that they face.  A perfect example Don Lemon's 5 points to fixing the black community:
While I can go point by point and talk about how Don Lemon is wrong on each count, I'm going to talk about the larger issue of internalized racism and respectability politics.  There is a lot of stigma around anything associated with the black community. From language to fashion, the black community has created its own culture which has been created from an environment of oppression and is seen by many as inferior.  And this results in many folks, such as Don Lemon, blaming black people for their own shortcomings while not looking at the larger picture of oppression and racism.

The critics of black culture see white culture as superior and see assimilation into it as the only escape for black people.  This means dressing "respectably", speaking "proper" English, getting an education, and all around not acting "ghetto", effectively demonizing black culture.

Having said that, I wonder what these people did wrong:

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Both men are well educated, well dressed, and speak "proper" English, yet are still deemed suspicious.

This is the problem with respectability politics.  It refuses to acknowledge the root cause of the issue and skirts around blaming the victims of racism for causing other people to react to them in such a way.  Travyon Martin's trial was not a trial about whether or not Zimmerman had killed the kid.  No one could argue that he didn't do it.  It became a trial about the character of Martin and whether or not he deserved to die.

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