Social Justice Corner: The politics of respectability

Black women’s lack of social media coverage reinforce an existing hierarchy throughout society

If you have basic access to social media, a television or a news station, you have probably heard of all the tense situations occurring across the country. Police brutality against people of color, specifically black men, has heated the country up and brought up conversations about the politics of respectability.

The politics of respectability stems way back in our history and originated as cultural, sexual, domestic, employment and artistic ‘guidelines’ or ‘rules.’ According to, they are for racially marginalized groups to follow in the effort to be viewed as ‘human’ in a White supremacist society and by individual Whites.”

However, despite whether a black individual follows these guidelines, or assimilates to “act white”, they are still deemed as a threat in this country by the police force.

Take for example the recent incident with the young black Yale student who was held at gunpoint and arrested by police officers while he was leaving the library because they believed he was a criminal instead of a student.

With the recent cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, there seems to be one group of people left out of the grieving and discussion: black women. Many black women suffer from police brutality, racial profiling and also having their lives taken by the police. But where is their hashtag? Where is their media discussion? Why do our lives matter less?

Women of color are forgotten by social media if they are killed by the police because the life of a woman of color, and in this article specifically a black woman or girl, is deemed as less than her male counterpart. In this country, at least after the Europeans arrived, men have always been placed above women.

Now let’s take a look at history. Beginning in the late 1700’s, states questioned how they would count their slaves as part of their overall population. In this case, the Three Fifths Compromise was formed during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

It stated that the slaves, specifically male slaves, were of a white man. The women were mainly forgotten and left out the compromise. If the black man was of the white man, than what was the value of a black woman’s life? The answer is nonexistent, hence why those carried over and modern day practices of institutionalized oppression deem black women’s lives as having little to no value.

Although black women have had substantial contributions to the Women’s Rights Movement, and began their movement for women’s rights as soon as the Civil War concluded by attempting to sue the white men and masters that assaulted them, their life values have always been placed as unbelievably low in the United States.

This is evident today while we have the #HandsUpDontShoot hashtag and stream that focuses on police brutality against black men and men of color, but leaves out black girls, black women and women of color whose lives are being taken by the police everyday.

The hashtags  #EricGarner, #MikeBrown, #TrayvonMartin, #JordanDavis exist, but where is the hashtag for Jessie Hernandez, Renisha McBride, Tarika Wilson and the 7-year- old Aiyana Jones? All of these black women and the little girl Aiyana were unarmed.

According to The Huffington Post, Aiyana was sleeping on her couch when the police raided her home and shot her in the head. The police officer her shot her of course was not indicted, because if police officers who kill black men and boys go unindicted, police officers who kill black women and girls will definitely go unindicted.

The politics of respectability seem to not apply to black women as much as they do to black men. Studies show that black men are more accepted in a predominantly white environment, specifically in school environments while their women counterparts seem to struggle because of the stereotypes that are held against them.

Despite how polite, how well one speaks,, or how ‘white’ one acts, a black woman in this country will seem to mostly be received as the belligerent, uneducated, loud, ultra-sassy and an unbelievably sexualized individual. The respect for black men in this country is low, so the respect for their women counterparts and the value of their life is even lower.

The standard that men are above women applies to many groups of people globally, but that is multiplied in force when you are a woman of color.