Essay about The Politics Of Respectability : A White Supremacist Lens

Essay about The Politics Of Respectability : A White Supremacist Lens

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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 people are seen as human and which humans have privilege, and we see timeless examples of this through white supremacy.
Arguably, at present the politics of respectability is introduced in most, if not all, racial conversations about Blackness, Whiteness, and the intersectionality of particular feminisms. 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 ca...


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...being outside the stereotypical norms prescribed to us. By not actually critiquing one another on the problematic actions in which we partake to be “politically respectable”, the intra-racial conflict continues to mimic what we are already challenged with, for example, victim blaming or anti-black rhetoric and tone, or the shaming of black women’s bodies in spaces of violence. It is baffling to me that some people choose to ignore the negativity that this somehow makes the problem go away or that it better creates womanhood and this is never the case. There is nothing positive to the politics of respectability for Black people or for Black women, especially.
The negativity and stereotypes of Blackness within the realm of the politics of respectability adheres to racist, sexist, classist, and white supremacist standards that erasure the experiences of black women.

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