Respectability Essay

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The politics of respectability is constructed as sociocultural rules and expectations for marginalized racial and ethnic groups to adhere to. This allows their humanity to be properly viewed through a white supremacist lens and to be defined by Whiteness, both in society and on an individual basis. Amongst Black people, especially Black women, the occurrence of the politics of respectability originated from historical dehumanization through slavery in the Western world. In order for the humanity of black people to be considered, the ramifications of the politics of respectability compel black people to engage in ways and in spaces to validate their humanity when a White person’s humanity is the default. This creates a dualistic view of what…show more content…
Because of this, it is a challenge to expand from the binary framework that often envelops feminist theory when speaking about the experiences, as well as the differences in personhood and womanhood of black feminists. We see this separation when we societally refer to one group of black women as “ghetto” and “bitchy but independent”, or “queens” and “motherly” in contrast to one another. There is a certain kind of pressuring hierarchy and we have been socialized to continue to engage in the politics of respectability because of that white supremacist lens, and we police one another. Historian Dr. Kali N. Gross states, “Historically, as a form of resistance to the negative stigmas and caricatures about their morality, African Americans adopted a "politics of respectability." Claiming respectability through manners and morality furnished an avenue for African Americans to assert the will and agency to redefine themselves outside the prevailing racist discourses. Although many deployed the politics of respectability as a form of resistance, its ideological nature constituted a deliberate concession to mainstream societal

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