Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don’t know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn’t you. That isn’t you at all.
Every one of us is tested in different ways. For some of us, it might be the excess of wealth, for others, the lack of wealth. For some, it might be in the avoidance of alcohol, for other, guarding one’s tongue from speaking evil.
Never feel superior to someone struggling with one test, because for sure, you are struggling with another.
Isabella’s Hair and How She Learned to Love It is a children’s book by New York author of Afro-Boricua descent, Marshalla Soriano Ramos.
Ramos, who is also an English as a Second Language teacher, poet and Mom, wrote Isabella”s Hair and How She Learned to Love It “out of a desire to respond to the issues surrounding self image within the Afro-Latino community and to contribute to multi-cultural protagonists being represented in children’s literature” [x].
Above picture courtesy of WordPress blog Festival AfroLatino de Nueva York.
So a Black boy needs to be an angel in order to not be deserving of death? Is this the conclusion of the New York Times article?
This relates to the ludicrous nature of respectability politics.
In a way, respectability politics doesn’t really exist. I say that in the sense that it isn’t possible for a Black person to ever be worthy and valuable within a white supremacist context. This is abundantly true if an apparently reputable publication is using facts that are true of many American teenagers to paint Mike Brown as somebody deserving of being executed.
But even the New York Times article stepped around its true conclusion. It isn’t that Mike Brown deserved to die because he wasn’t perfect. He didn’t deserve to die because he got into “at least one scuffle” or because he had tried marijuana or because he wasn’t constantly on the honor roll. He deserved to die because he’s Black. According to white supremacist discourse every Black person deserves to die.
Fundamentally, the idea that being respectable will save you is dangled over Black people’s head. But it’s a false promise. Respectability politics is an ideology that Black people use to police ourselves — to limit ourselves. And to what gain?
There is no such thing as being a respectable Black person outside of the Black community. Everything that makes us respectable in our own eyes is dismissed in the larger world.
To be Black is to be un-respectable.
At the end of the day if our humanity can be parsed by not getting good grades or experimenting with drugs then we were never accorded humanity to begin with.
—excerpt from “He Was No Angel”: There is No Such Thing as Black Innocence" @ One Black Girl. Many Words. (via daniellemertina)
Beyond Ferguson, the pattern is clear. Blacks are always to blame, even as we are brutalized by police, ghettoized by neoliberal policies, and disenfranchised by a racist criminal (in)justice system.
But that’s the crux of white supremacist racial logic: the problem with black people is … well, black people – not mass incarceration and the deindustrialization of urban America, not educational inequality and generational poverty, not 400 years of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow. To be black in America is to be victimized and then made responsible for our victimization. We built this country. But, apparently, it is we who are lazy and dependent. We are bullied politically, socially and economically. But it is we who are called ‘thugs.’
One misconception outsiders have about Haiti, or any so-called “third world” country, is that poverty is all there is. Reality tells a different story. People live, die, get married, lose their virginity, graduate high school and college, dream and strive in Haiti. There are, in fact, many possibilities.
Haitians are humans, not symbols of poverty. But you shouldn’t have to go to Haiti to find that out.