NAACP Should Already Know That The Politics Of Respectability Cannot Save Black People's Lives
NAACP sent these two tweets below in reference to the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown recycling the same two common false narratives meant to control and silence Black people in response to extrajudicial execution and State violence because of anti-Blackness: 1) the oversimplified narrative that Black people “do not care” about intraracial crime–the same type of crime that every race experiences yet no one suggests any other race of people do not care when their own harms their own, and 2) the false narrative that the politics of respectability can protect Black people from violence. I replied to both of their tweets; they have now deleted the first one; as of the time of this essay, the second one is still there.
This organization is out of touch with the experiences of Black people (especially young Black people, and some can attest to this in their own justice work) if they are willing to push the exact same narrative that racist/anti-Black White people/non-Black people push and if they are willing to harm by pushing respectability for Black people versus accountability for the State and how anti-Blackness impacts our lives. (And the NAACP has a very long history of promoting respectability politics.)
This is reality. Extrajudicial execution of another Black person on this 28 hour clock. Leaving his body in the street for hours just as was done during lynchings of the past for White consumption/entertainment and psychological warfare on Black people. Denying the witness to the crime the ability to give an official statement to where he had to do it on camera and off the record. Forcing Black people away from gathering in prayer circles. Denying Michael Brown’s mother and the public truthful answers. Denying the people the right to congregate to pray and/or grieve and forcing the press out of the area (which both of the latter are first amendment violations). Centering stories on looting (they released looter photos to media versus the murdering cop’s name and photo and/or any truth about what happened during that execution; anti-Blackness means centering property over Black lives is standard) over stories of the police violence and murder since anti-Blackness means not examining the context by which looting (businesses that profiled and harmed people there were the ones targeted, and “your own community” doesn’t apply to people who are under constant racist profiling and terrorism) and rioting (a long history of fighting extrajudicial and State violence contributes to this and anger is a phase of grief) occur. Pretending that every expression of grief is wrong since Black people are denied the right to humanity to live or grieve in a way we see fit. Treating that area as a war zone with military grade equipment and threats. Restricting airspace over the area (as the press could capture footage), and a series of other gross violations has happened or is currently happening.
This is not the same as every race’s intraracial crime (yes, every fucking race has intraracial crime; every race does not face anti-Blackness [or settler colonialism, which connects to this history] and this particular historic structure of violence, however) nor would be prevented by the politics of respectability. Black people in America do not have the power of the police or the State. We cannot “earn humanity” through behavior, dress, or even beliefs. We are dehumanized as Black people based on who we are, the fact that we are Black, not based on what we do. A lack of “respect” for the city (one already under investigation for profiling and racist policing long before Michael was executed) didn’t kill Michael Brown. A long legacy of anti-Blackness and violence in that city, in this country, in our history is why he is dead.
When Whites are gleefully thanking the NAACP for these tweets and some Black people are once again harmed and triggered by fellow Black people, there is a problem. I should not see racists’ timelines and see the same type of tweets as NAACP sent. Declaring Black people as collectively non-compassionate and irresponsible are racist narratives that speak to the mythology of “arbitrary” Black “pathology” versus a response to the violence Black people endure just for existing.
And not once is the epistemic violence involved in the phrase/misnomer “Black on Black crime" ever about intraracial abuse in terms of people who aren’t cishet Black men when those abuses are street harassment, domestic violence, rape, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, colourism, fat shaming, ableism, classism etc. Because see, these are areas that other races of people will ignore or downplay in their own races when they happen to people who are not cishet men. These are abuses where even the same Black people who have internalized racism and need to derail this moment to be about intraracial crime (which they feel we can control, though they ignore how structural factors impact this crime as well; it is not arbitrary) instead of what is actually at hand at the moment, the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown. So while there is room to discuss why when a victim of crime is not a cishet Black man, the concern evaporates rapidly, both intraracially and among White/non-Black people, that has to do with how cisheteropatriarchy functions, not that Black people "only care” when it is violence that is either the function of the State or supported by the State because of anti-Blackness.
Extrajudicial execution because of anti-Blackness is structurally not the same as intraracial crime among Black people or intraracial crime that any race experiences. The politics of respectability cannot protect Black people. Recognize these truths. Reject using them as a way to feel “distant” or “safe” from this issue. We are not safe. We never were. Nothing in Ferguson matters more than the fact that a mother and a family had their child executed in a fashion that is a part of American history and is an American pastime. And no easily disproven narrative or excuses from our own or excuses from Whites/non-Black people will change this fact.
Related Posts: The Extrajudicial Execution of Michael Brown and Its Relationship to Lynching. Past Is Present, National Moment of Silence, Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 7pm EST / 4pm PST, I Do Not Give A Fuck About Your Anti-Black Opinions…At All.