Systemic Racism Couldn’t Care Less About Your Respectability Politics

By | June 19, 2017

Prince George’s County, where I live, is one of the most affluent black counties in the country, and I see it every day: The black middle class has deep disdain for the poor. Here in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, people talk about residents of Seat Pleasant as though they lived in another world and were not 25 minutes away.

Respectability politics are quickly absorbed by children. In high school, black students who were clearly struggling but giving their all were never valued by their peers and administrators as much as the black students with good grades who played sports. From the moment I stepped foot on my high-school campus, I could see that acclaim and recognition was allotted to a certain type of black student. If you didn’t fit the narrative, you wouldn’t be recognized for your efforts. You would not be supported through your journey.

I’m in college now, and I don’t find that anything has changed. If anything, what I’ve realized is that playing by the rules is a guarantee of nothing. Richard Collins III went to college in Prince George’s County. He was one of the good students, the ones that teachers and administrators valued. He was set to graduate from Bowie State, already commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army. The Root described him as “unstoppable.” And still, he was stabbed to death by a white supremacist in front of his friends. (The Nation)

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