Rethinking Respect

Rethinking Respect November 13, 2015
A Tumblr Post that is making its way around social media. Fall 2015

When I was growing up, I was taught a lot about respect. I was taught to respect my parents and other adults who cared for me. I was taught to say please and thank you. I was taught to do as I was told without complaint, argument, or talk back. I did not realize it then, but my parents were not just teaching me manners, they were teaching me how to survive.

I grew up in a very homogenous area. I was the only Black student in every class I had until the 6th grade, when I met two other Black students. They were the only two other Black students that I had class with until I reached college. The only Black teacher I have had in my 20 years of school was my father. We were the only Black family in the neighborhood growing up. If I had not learned how to respect others, I would not have survived. Disrespecting a White person when you are Black and female is dangerous. If you do not believe me, please remember the stories of Rosa Parks, Sandra Bland, and the young woman who has recently become famous for being thrown across a classroom.

I have begun demanding the right to be treated with the same respect that I give to others.

We teach our children to treat others as we want to be treated. When we grow up, some of us will still be held to that standard, while others will be allowed to treat people in whatever manner they feel like and will still be respected.

I have seen more than one person say that if Sandra Bland or the Spring Valley High School student had just been respectful, then none of this would have happened. Disrespect is not a good enough reason to harm another person. I have not heard anyone say that the White police officers should learn some respect to avoid situations like these, but that would be just as viable of a solution. An authority does not have a right to deny your humanity, even if you deny their authority.

I was taught that I needed to respect others, and treat them as I wanted to be treated. I was not taught to treat them as they treat me, and that was on purpose. On some level, everyone who taught me that lesson knew that I would not be as respected as those whom I was told to respect. This is not just. We do not serve a God who loves us based on our class, our sexuality, our gender, or our race. We serve a God who created us, who died for us, who loves us all. We are called to be like the one that we serve. We need to rethink respect.

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