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Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”

Please note that there’s nothing I can add to the subject highlighted in this article that hasn’t been already stated. But, I feel I need to speak on the latest issue of “black men are thugs” diatribe against the black community.

Respectability Politics (RP) is an argument made by some people, white and people of color (POC), that states that racism against POC is actually insignificant and “respect” for POC would be earned if, and only if, POC change their dysfunctional habits as defined often by a white supremacist mindframe. In other words, the problems faced by black folks are caused by black folks, and only black folks can solve those problems if only black folks get their shit together.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen two stories that the mainstream news media deemed worthy of being considered as ‘news’. First, we hear about a video about a black toddler in Omaha Nebraska, cursing up a storm being egged on by people hidden from the footage. Those not seen in the video have been identified as members of a street gang. All of which has prompted the Omaha police to post the video and used it similarly in a way that republicans used Willie Horton in 1988, as a PSA to fear black male criminals.

The second comes out of the fallout from Seattle Seahawk’s football star Richard Sherman’s jovial interview after defeating the San Francisco 49ers which granted his team to compete in the Super Bowl. By now, you’ve heard how that turned out as far as responses are concerned with the use of words like ‘nigger’ and ‘thug’ spoken ad nauseum.

Richard Sherman

What does either have to do with news? More to the point, what does either have to do with RP? If you’re answer is along the lines of believing that if black people would just “behave”, then maybe, they wouldn’t be labeled as thugs, if they didn’t act like them, then congratulations! You’ve proved the whole point of this article!

When it comes to black people, being “respectable” is a tall order, so tall it’s practically unattainable. The problem is that black people are never respected no matter we do! In fact, the only way we can be considered almost “respectable” is if we’re subservient, docile, nice as hell and unflinchingly obedient. And even then, that doesn’t work. Hell, even asking to be respected is seen as disrespectful! I’ll go even further. Writing about it is seen as a sign of disrespect!

I bet Sherman was seen as a great athlete to many white football fans, especially in Seattle after his victory on the field that night. But the instant he went on camera expressing his triumph, he became a nigger on sight. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for white people to lose what microscopic respect they have for black people. And Sherman’s interview was the straw that broke the old, weak camel’s back.

As far as the video of the cursing toddler goes, it’s a different story of the same plot line. White cops in Omaha have already have violent racist opinions regarding the black community. White people in the news already have an incredible biased view of the black community. And white viewers of the news already hate and fear the black community. All the video did was ease any hint of conscience for hating. So, disrespecting black people is justified, once again. Why? Cause we – all 35 millions of us – be thuggin’.

A frame from the infamous video of the Omaha toddler encouraged to swear by people off-camera.

No matter what you do, you are always, at some point in your life and after death, disrespected for being black in the company of white people! If you’re part of the poor working class, you’re seen as lazy and unmotivated! If you’re in a high position or in an ivy league school, you’re assumed to have gotten there due to affirmative action! If you don’t have a criminal record, it’s assumed that you just haven’t been caught yet! And if you’ve been killed, particularly at the hands of a cop, by the process of racial thinking, your death is deserved! No matter what, you’re black and something’s wrong with you, never society!

So, this is why RP doesn’t fly with me. In one second, we can have young black males pull up their pants, but they are still seen as potential threats. We can be as nice and polite to cops as humanly possible. We’ll still get our asses whooped, or worse.

We can have videos of little kids doing grown folks shit like cursing. In the case of this topic, that’s enough for cops to label those kids as part of the future thugs of America and consider poor black communities moral disaster areas that beg for more prisons to be build, not as places that need economic strength and development, let alone any consideration that most black families take care of their youth and would condemn such videos, as opposed to celebrating it as the racist assumption goes.

And apparently, there’s some decorum for how to react after winning a game if you’re black. You’re supposed to be calm, humble and soft-spoken. You can’t turn into a pro wrestler and trash talk in front of a camera, especially not in front of a white female reporter. That would be rude and unbecoming of a football player. That means that you’re just a nigger and that you deserve way less respect than you did when racists sports fans hardly respected you to begin with.

You can’t act human around white folks because they don’t see you human beings. The only kind of respect you would earn from them is when you disrespect your sense of pride and self-esteem. And throwing your own people under the bus is a definite guarantee into the “Respect the White Man” club.