Wear the “wrong” pants and blacks deserve whatever whites do
Racist white’s oppressive focus on the blacks they’ve made poor – and not white’s own racist behavior – began long before LBJ:
During the Reconstruction era some Black Americans believed that the solution to social uplift was not in social reform but in individual moral behavior. Behind the idea was the concept that discrimination and systematic oppression took place because Whites did not respect Blacks. However, the theory went that if Blacks changed their behavior, fashion, and even music, Whites would begin to respect them and therefore treat them as deserving of dignity.
Politics of respectability was,…an ideology, targeted towards poor Blacks, urging them to get on board with behavior that Whites deemed respectable, as a necessary and sufficient condition of racial uplift,…The Chicago Defender posted weekly reminders targeting poor Black Chicago migrants, admonishing them against vulgar language and ragged clothes. Avoiding these things, the newspaper argues in a May 17, 1919 issue, “will disarm those who are endeavoring to discredit the race.”
Instead of moral excellence being a possibility for us all, politics of respectability places the burden of virtue on the oppressed and lets the oppressor off the hook. Instead of challenging the oppressor to be fair, loving, or unconditionally compassionate, they demand that the oppressed “pull up their pants,” “don’t wear hoodies,” “remain chaste,” and “don’t be lazy” — while simultaneously excusing the unethical acts of the oppressor towards them.
We must still be in the Reconstruction Era
Blacks seem to change much easier than whites – why is that?
When racist whites focus, on what racist whites do, then racist whites might become respectable themselves,…
This is how a white person looks “thinking about race”
History has shown that ‘acting better’ does not bring about being ‘treated better.’ We must remember that four girls were in Sunday school when their Birmingham church was bombed. Amadou Diallo did not commit any crime, obeyed the police, but yet was shot 41 times by the police. We can count numerous times in which women were raped not because they wore short skirts or were intoxicated but simply because they were women. This is why in “A Case For Reparations”, Ta-Nehisi Coates claims:
The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism [or any hatred for that matter] is disrespect.
Moreover, respectability politics is not a philosophy where we value morality for morality sake but it is used as a means to achieve respect from Whites and men: a goal that may never be achieved.