I’m Not Your Respectable Negro: A Reminder

I’m Not Your Respectable Negro: A Reminder April 26, 2016

I’m not your respectable negro…

In many ways, I could be considered a “congenial” representative of Black atheism. However, at the same time, I’m the antithesis of the more kowtowing, line-toeing types.

Succinctly, “respectability politics” denotes an attempt by individuals from marginalized groups to unduly compromise with themselves and culture in order to be harmoniously subsumed into mainstream values.

I don’t quite operate that way. While I can be respectful and measured in my approach, it won’t be to the point of bargaining away the uniqueness of my self-identity, culture, social context (“the cacophony of experiences and observations that make up what I am today”), background (“where I come from”), etc.

Although I can jive with aspects of mainstream ideation, I maintain a mindset that is resolute in opposing certain (and many) mainstream narratives, propaganda, and biases. This approach is reflected in my regular critique or pushback to popular motifs that pervade secular circles specifically as well as society in general.

Why do I bring this up?

This reminder comes after recently coming across similar comments by those who bristle at the things I write about. Because I generally focus on matters that push people to examine topics that conflict with their insulated social environment–think social justice, racism, white supremacy, transantagonism, heteronormativity, classism, blackface enthusiasts, and more–this divergence from their expectations and comfort zone tends to produce ideological recoil. In this state, people experience a range of defensive moves that serve to extinguish (read: devalue, rationalize, erase) any advent of information that disrupts preferred beliefs.

I rarely engage the comment section on my articles nowadays. Due to the nature of the projects I’m currently involved with, If I did sit and try to address every comment, I simply wouldn’t have time for work or for composing the next thing some will inevitably pick apart, dismiss or demean. That isn’t to denigrate all feedback on what I write; I’m speaking to a species of criticism I receive that is riddled with lazy thinking or, perhaps more aptly, functions with contemptuous or incurious intent.

It’s easy (and convenient) for uncreative and two-cent peddler types to sift through something a writer researches and passionately unpacks and simply respond from a position of laurel repose and unflappable shoot downs. This is often the case when the issue being discussed doesn’t directly impact the life of the person discarding or belittling the subject.

When you combine this with someone who doesn’t engage with earnest interest, but rather, comes from a disconnected place of unconcern for confronting status quoism (or normative beliefs) which “coincidentally” conflicts with their social (and ideological) comforts…you end up with disparaging remarks from a willful and flippant position.

As I said before in the past – If you clap, I clap back. I’m not beholden to some illusory rule that says I must handle you with kid gloves. If you come at me sideways and I happen to see it (I don’t always see comments) and I’m in the mood or not busy, I’ll respond with scrupulous, wig-snatching fury if I so desire.

Yes, I know this approach sometimes flirts with ad hominem. However, I’m not convinced addressing both the argument and the dubious trajectory of the argument is inappropriate. That isn’t at all the same as “ignoring the argument and addressing the character.” I admit I sometimes fail at carrying out this means of refutation judiciously. I’m working on that.

That said, when you place yourself on Front Street to vend tomfoolery or otherwise solicit poorly conceived or unthinking interpretations of things (subjects or situations), it deserves to be countered with a more bare-knuckled candor that includes me “telling you about yourself.

I’m not your minstrel, doormat, or yes-man. I’m too focused on addressing the many ways we can all achieve a more evolved critical consciousness about our environment to be concerned about hurt feels.


TL;DR – I’m not the droid you’re looking for when it comes to reckless, condescending, snarky, or cantankerous commentary. There is no law stating I can’t respond to such remarks with a biting rebuttal. You wade into deep waters without the proper gear to adequately stay afloat, don’t expect the shark to take pity on you.

"Really liked your article!"

What Sam Harris Gets Wrong About ..."
"Your response is piercing & brilliant. I haven't listened to the podcast, yet. I am ..."

What Sam Harris Gets Wrong About ..."
"I grew up in a racist family and know the code words against Black Lives ..."

Black America, Wake Up – White ..."
"This is also Sam Harris we're talking about, so nothing is exactly new on this ..."

What Sam Harris Gets Wrong About ..."

Browse Our Archives