Respectability Politics and the Academy

So eloquently stated. I wholeheartedly agree with these remarks.

king RJD

In the aftermath of the “Ratchet PhD” post, I realize how many black PhDs are concerned with respectability politics. This term, which has been used by bloggers in recent years, was originally defined by historian Evelyn Higginbotham. According to her, 19th century black Christian women promoted “temperance, cleanliness of person and property, thrift, polite manners, and sexual purity” as a project of racial uplift and full inclusion into American society. 

However, in the 21st century, after we have at least theoretically gained equality, black folks are still concerned with being thought of as respectable, especially by other middle and upper class citizens. We prove we are good middle class citizens by policing others who have values which seem to be radically different from our own. It is easy, for example, to glance at websites such as http://www.hotghettomess.com, or ‘ratchet’ tumblr accounts to see pictures of half-naked people shopping at Wal-Mart…

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