Respectability Politics Pt. 2
So we’ve established that respectability politics, or the belief that the way you are dressed or your good behavior can somehow protect yourself from violence, doesn’t work. So does that mean that you can’t ask for or expect respect from others?
Respect doesn’t necessarily work that way. In some areas, respect can be something a person is entitled to. I respect you, not because of what you do or say, but because you are human and I respect humanity and human life as a whole. In other areas, respect is earned. If you want me to respect you as a student or as a worker, then I need to see you fulfilling that requirement in order to receive that respect from me, and vice-versa.
Respectability politics lies somewhere in the middle of those two areas of respect. As black people in the United States, we have rarely been afforded respect as human beings-- our history plays that out. Because of this, we have come to believe that our respect can only be earned, and that things like appearance can affect whether someone will decide to show you respect or not.
Our individuality is our strength. No one person is the same, and that is great. When we respect the humanity in a person, we acknowledge their right to exist, and that this right cannot be revoked. When we really learn how to respect one another, and not to base it on temporary things, we will become a stronger people.