The Respectabilty Myth : How Black Folks “Do Better” than Einstein and Still Get Unfair Treatment
In the midst of Black America’s thunderous howl of outrage at police injustice, there remains a sect of blacks who believe we are to blame for our own relentless slaughter. These people say if we stopped shooting each other, whites would stop shooting us.They say if black women were to cover up more, they wouldn’t be as susceptible to unwanted sexual advances. Bill Cosby thinks if black men pulled their pants up, white people wouldn’t see us as criminals (the irony). They say if we obeyed the law, we’d have no reason to fear it. Is there a more obedient position than slavery?
These people are proponents of respectability politics, most prominently espoused by W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T Washington, now perpetuated by Al Sharpton and white supremacists who simply want excuses for killing us. Respectability politics suggest racial equality and fair treatment starts with conducting ourselves in a manner acceptable to whites. These politics affect more than race “relations”. Black women experience them from entitled men who sexually contextualize their every action.
It’s morbid irony that every time people support a derivative of this sentiment to explain away the latest instance of police brutality, the next incident nullifies it’s credibility. They said if we weren’t on the corner late at night, we would be safe from police brutality. Seven year old Aiyana Jones was sleeping in her home when she was murdered by Detroit Officer Joseph Weekly. They said if we kept our hands visible during a confrontation, police would have no reason to feel threatened. Ferguson (MO) Police Officer Darren Wilson murdered Mike Brown while he had his hands up.
There seems to be no manner of respectable conduct to save us. Black people are being murdered in cold innocuity. John Crawford III was shot with his back turned while shopping in an Ohio walmart. Ezell Ford was killed while lying on the street, adhering to an LAPD officer’s orders. In New York, Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner to death on camera for breaking up a fight, and he won’t face trial. Victor White was shot in the chest in handcuffs, and Louisiana recorded the death as a suicide.
In the midst of these unjustified killings, people still cling to the empty plea that “black folks gotta ‘do better’”, as if those two words can explain away hundreds of years of subjugation, brainwashing and racism.Perhaps some say these things out of a subconscious fear they will be killed next, but many genuinely believe blacks would be treated more fairly by whites if our race “did better”. Al Sharpton implored blacks to stop having “ghetto pity parties” during his Eulogy at Mike Brown’s funeral . He thinks “we’ve got to clean up our community so we can clean up the United states of America”.
This idea is mind-numbingly flawed. No matter how much “better” we do, no matter how much we “clean up” our community, we will never be accepted as first class citizens by a captor with inherent disdain for us. People spew a laundry list of cultural ills and empty solutions without ever acknowledging the obvious: our country is run by white supremacists intent to keep blacks in an inferior &disillusioned state regardless. From this countries’ founding we were not meant to be seen respectably, because white supremacy only respects one color.
Not only this, the media that some take as gospel would have us believe black thugs and welfare queens are the only depictions of blackness. Outlets like fox news consistently promote stories demonizing black people without “fair and balanced” depictions of black people “doing better.”
These hateful stereotypes skew societal perception and set a slippery slope that leads people to believe there’s rationale for whites to inherently fear us. For instance, Darren Wilson’s depiction of 6’4 Mike Brown as a “demon” with “Hulk Hogan strength” fits a media maintained archetype of the big black savage. They justify Wilson’s actions to his supporters and those that believe in the ambiguity of the incident. It’s easier to get away with killing a black youth when a misguided world perceives them all as barbaric thugs instead of representatives of a decent people with as much contribution to humanity as any other.
Why does the media relentlessly follow the developments of a black person’s tribulations but ignore Rochelle Ballantyne’s chase to become the first black female chessmaster? They chronicle whatever tech prodigy creates the social media site du jour, but have ignored 16 year old Jaylen Bledsoe and his 3.5M dollar IT business. Who else are they ignoring?
Ramarni Wilfred is an 11 year old black male from the UK who has a higher IQ than Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates. These are three of the most respected minds of the past 300 years, and at 11 Wilfred scored higher than them on a Mensa test. He could become a pivotal voice of the 21st century and beyond.
Searching the websites of five preeminent western news outlets (ABC, CBS, MSNBC, BBC, CNN) however will not yield one story documenting his achievement. Wilfred is not an American citizen, but his story could still come to inspire and enlighten millions in the states.
No one knows if Wilfred is respectable enough to white America because his existence and achievement is curiously suppressed. If Ramarni Wilfred was Ethan Buttercrump, how much do you think we would be inundated with “next Einstein” media coverage?
Einstein’s name has become an idiom synonymous with intelligence, but they ignore Wilfred while continuing to make black men synonymous with almost every societal ill. Our state as a people is so perilous that he would have a higher likelihood of seeing coverage if he shot someone than with his achievement.
If the whole truth were told in the media, it would show that blacks consistently “do better”, and there would be no excuse for the fear that leads to incessant violence falling upon us. But perception continues to sway some of our own people to believe we’re engineering an environment that makes it understandable to prey on us. Time shall tell what it will take for everyone to realize the respectability myth, but the way society is going, we will keep encountering instances to find out. Like many methods created to hold us down, this is by design.
How has respectability politics impacted and negatively affected your life? What impact does it have on our community?