Respectability Politics

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Respectability politics didn’t save me then, and they won’t save our community or movement now or in the future either.

Our movement, however, needs nothing of respectability politics. Accepting — conceding, surrendering, submitting to — that will only erode our movement until it crumbles entirely.

Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: The neurodiversity movements needs its shoes off, and fists up.

I will never blame, shame, or guilt any other marginalized person (let alone those of us at the margins of the margins) for using respectability politics as a(n imperfect, and not guaranteed) survival or coping mechanism, and I firmly believe it is harmful and dangerous whenever other community members do so. We should instead always strive to support one another in using whatever tactics we need to survive. At the same time, I believe that any argument in favor of a community-wide adoption of/adherence to respectability politics (even with the caveat that not all people have the privilege to be able to pass or mask, either at all, or consistently), is also deeply harmful and dangerous.

Individual people (to the extent they are capable of doing so) may need to reply on respectability politics simply to survive — to survive school, to survive the terrifying experience of involuntary commitment, to survive a potentially deadly police encounter, to survive in the capitalist society we live in that assigns value and worth based on productivity and labor. I respect and affirm that.

Our movement, however, needs nothing of respectability politics. Accepting — conceding, surrendering, submitting to — that will only erode our movement until it crumbles entirely. Respectability politics is what’s gotten us into reliance on foundations and nonprofits, and elected officials and bureaucrats, and policies and programs that only benefit the most privileged and resourced members of our communities at the direct expense of the most marginalized. Radical, militant anger — and radical, militant hope, and radical, wild dreams, and radical, active love — that’s what’ll get us past the death machines of ableism and capitalism and white supremacy and laws and institutions working overtime to kill us.

Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: The neurodiversity movements needs its shoes off, and fists up.

“stop telling people not to be angry.

anger can absolutely be transformative. none of our movements would happen without it. anger can help reveal what is most important to us and give us a kind of clarity that few other emotions can.

anger is fire and fire is powerful. we can channel anger in useful & accountable ways.”

Mia Mingus

We can be kind, compassionate, caring, and gentle (when appropriate, as it may be in many cases, though certainly is not in many others) with would-be allies and with fellow community members, without holding ourselves to the superficially saccharine or dehumanizing standards of respectability, and the farce of moral superiority that comes with condescendingly condemning use of anger in our rhetoric and strategies.

Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: The neurodiversity movements needs its shoes off, and fists up.

But we can’t possibly be committed to the long-haul work of liberation and justice — the freedom work, the community-building work, the creating-alternatives work — without completely rejecting the false promises and mythologies of respectability politics and its cousin, “civil discourse.”

Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: The neurodiversity movements needs its shoes off, and fists up.

I sing from intelligence. I sing from letting them know that I know who they are and what they have done to my people around the world.

That’s not anger. Anger has its place. Anger has fire, and fire moves things, but I sing from intelligence. I don’t want them to think that I don’t know who they are.

Nina Simone on BBC HARDtalk, 1999

One of the most punk angst people in history is Nina Simone.

AFROPUNK: The Movie

She was neurodivergent and did her best work as an activist completely unaware she was bipolar and suffering from PTSD. As such, the disability community should embrace her as a savant in the wider sphere of neurodivergent people who demonstrate talent usually limited to the label autistic savant.

Nina Simone: Black Activist, Bipolar Savant | NOS Magazine
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Can you see
You’d agree
Everybody
Should be free
(Because if we ain’t, we’re murderers)

--I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free by Nina Simone

We are prioritizing the comfort of the people who are most resistant instead of prioritizing the discomfort the most marginalized people in the institution experience.

Equity Pitfalls

Every person who is struggling right now does not have the luxury to wait. We are literally dying.

Leadership Training Institute 2020 | Dominique Hollins – YouTube

Going at the Pace of the Most Resistant – We are prioritizing the comfort of the people who are most resistant instead of prioritizing the discomfort the most marginalized people in the institution experience.

Equity Pitfalls

How much time do you want, for your, “progress”?

James Baldwin
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
"Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble
"Do it slow"
Desegregation
"Do it slow"
Mass participation
"Do it slow"
Reunification
"Do it slow"
Do things gradually
"Do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"Do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know
You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality

Mississippi Goddam by Nina Simone

“Mississippi Goddam” was banned in several Southern states. Boxes of promotional singles sent to radio stations around the country were returned with each record broken in half.

Simone performed the song in front of 10,000 people at the end of the Selma to Montgomery marches when she and other black activists, including Sammy Davis Jr.James Baldwin and Harry Belafonte crossed police lines.

Mississippi Goddam – Wikipedia

I don’t trust nobody anymore

They keep on saying “go slow”

But that’s just the trouble (Too slow)

Mississippi Goddam by Nina Simone

Further reading,

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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