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Friday, August 15, 2014

in which respectability politics can leave the equation

black lives matter. Black lives have worth. We are not valuable because we have college diplomas, belts on our waists or Sperrys instead of Jordans on our feet. We are not valuable because we relax our hair, talk with a thesaurus or make six figure salaries. 
Black lives are valuable because we exist. 
Amadou Dilallo. Valuable.
Darious Simmons. Valuable.
Denise Stewart. Valuable.
Eric Garner. Valuable.
John Crawfard. Valuable.
Johnathan Ferrell. Valuable.
Jordan Davis. Valuable.
Mike Brown. Valuable.
Oscar Grant. Valuable.
Rosan Miller. Valuable.
Sean Bell.Valuable.
Trayvon Martin. Valuable.
All black lives are valuable. 
There is no room for your respectability politics here. There is no prerequisite to decency or kindness. I don’t need to be anything other alive to deserve your respect. 
Respectability politics is the belief that we can fix systemic problems facing the black community (e.g. violence or unemployment) by becoming more respectable. Pull up your pants. Quit saying the n-word. Stop littering. Finish high school. Don’t have children out of wedlock. This advice (and any other thing Don Lemon says) is generally good at solving nothing. 
This view reduces systemic inequality to a personal problem. It blocks you from understanding "unequal schooling, the prison-industrial complex, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, police violence" as it exists and persists today. 
The way black people speak, walk, and dress cannot justify their murder. Do you think more articulation would have saved MLK Jr? Would dressing in his sunday best saved Emmett Till? Murder can have no other justification besides deep rooted hate. 
"So stop trying to make us responsible for our own deaths at the hands of people who have never viewed us as worthy of having basic human rights." — Kim Moore, Activist

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