This week we saw two black men get arrested for simply sitting in a Starbucks because the manager seemed to be uncomfortable with their presence. Story after story I read about this incident mentioned these men were “good” blacks. They have jobs, in a frat, they were compliant and they went with the officers without acting a fool.
These men were “respectable”. Even in their interview on GMA these men said the respectable thing, “This isn’t a black problem, this is a people problem.” I’ll give them that. I don’t know their backgrounds or upbringing but I’ll say, this is indeed a black problem.
Respectability Politics is defined as:
“Refers to attempt by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for what they see as its failure to accept difference.”
See, I’ve made it around the sun for over four decades (FUCK I’m getting old). In my time on this rock I’ve experienced more racial hatred than I’d like to outline here. I’ve been called a nigger for as long as I can remember and not in the, “You my nigga” way, in the, “Fuck you nigger” way.
When I was younger I took these with a grain of salt. I took microaggressions as mosquito bites and just shoo’d them away after I got bit. But I’m older now; I have much less patience. I no longer look at MLK as a person I want to fashion how I navigate through the world when dealing with racism.
Martin Luther King Jr. was respectable. He did things the way white people would want us to be now since they look back. He gave speeches, he marched, he wrote letters, he didn’t fight while being arrested, etc. He ate all the abuse they threw at him and persisted until he was murdered. He was as respectable as you could get.
Malcolm X on the other hand was a 180 from MLK. And even though in his later years he decided that he would soften his approach in dealing with white people, he wasn’t and still isn’t looked at as respectable. He was an onery nigga who had the audacity to tell white people to their faces that they weren’t shit. He was a troublemaker who was getting black folks all riled up. He knew the law, told blacks to arm themselves and fight the system tooth and nail. “By any means neccessary” was too much and he was too, murdered.
The way I look at it, if I have to go through this life and deal with racism on an every day basis, I would rather be that person lives an eye for an eye.
You don’t get do and say anything you feel like to me without me giving it right back to you.
For example: One day I’m in my office and I’m talking to a few of my coworkers, all white men. The subject of locs come up and one of the guys said, “Nappy hair is strong!!” And then laughed. To which I respond, “You should know from having to dig through it to get to your lil dick”. Now 24yr old me would have just chuckled at his comment even though it stung.
40+ year old me ain’t having it.
For some, this interaction isn’t a big deal. “You didn’t have to go that far.” Maybe I didn’t. But see, I deal with these things all the time. There is no space I can go in that I’m not aware that I’m black. I walk into a bar that’s mostly white, I walk in my neighborhood that’s mostly white, I work at my job that’s mostly white, I live in a world that reminds me daily, I’m not white.
Are all white people racist? No, I’m not saying that but I can’t tell who is and who isn’t therefore I keep my defenses up. White people seem to think that to be racist you have to be one of those toothless, Confederate/Nazi flag waving, banjo picking, say the n-word, wearing a hood, type of whites.
- You can be racist by holding us to stereotypes that aren’t true.
- By getting in the elevator with us and clutching your purse.
- Crossing the street when we approach you in broad daylight.
Saying the word nigger doesn’t make you racist, sitting back and watching a man berate a person of color and acting like it isn’t happening makes you racist and a coward.
Knowingly offering a person of color less than you would their white counterparts for the same job makes you racist.
Being uncomfortable because a person of color is in your neighborhood and you don’t think they should he makes you racist.
Do not ask me to be respectful in the face of hate. Don’t ask me to turn the other cheek when my life is on the line because I don’t recall any instance of me being called a nigger or being subjected to aggression by white or NB-POC it being respectful, EVER.