Respectability politics can be defined as a marginalized community determining that certain behaviors or aspects of their culture are “controversial" and thus abandoning them - thereby adopting aspects of the majority culture, often with the goal of social mobility or cultural assimilation.
Topics of controversy can range from the slang that groups use, clothing worn outside, to even the type of music listened to.
Speaking to my own African American roots, I can say I use African American Vernacular English daily.
People argue back and forth on whether it is its own language or if it is a dialect of English and if it should be used in work settings.
Did we just forget about code switching? The way I speak is different depending on who I speak to. This can range from my family, friends, or to co-workers. Whether or not this is considered “fake” or if it is the “authentic self” is not the question I want to answer.
To me it's how people exist in society and changing the way we talk around certain people is how we've always existed. Do kids talk to their parents the same way they do to their friends? Do parents talk to their boss the same way they talk to their significant other?
Additionally, wearing certain clothing in public can evoke strong feelings in an individual. Seeing a Black woman strut through the store with a bonnet with confidence can bring back past memories.
Why is she able to wear something someone else would or could get reprimanded for?
How is she so proud walking outside wearing that, shouldn't she be embarrassed?
The question you must ask yourself is why are you feeling this? Implicit bias? Embarrassment for her? Envy about her decision?
I can’t offer an answer but ask you to examine your biases. Does it affect you when you see a Black woman with a bonnet on? A Black man with slides?
People will wear what they want. Maybe she didn't wanna do her hair today. I know from my own friends and my own experience that doing your hair can take a while, multiple hours even. A Walmart run with a bonnet on does not indicate a person's morals or value.
Furthermore, conversation I see online constantly berates rap music and tells the audience it’s what's holding the Black community back from respectability.
Are rap music and artists destroying the Black community?
No, the Black community existed before rap and will exist even if the genre implodes on itself.
Music in general is an expression of the human mind. By itself, rap is not good or bad. It talks about the experiences that people go through - drugs, killing, money, cars.
Other genres have themes of violence, drugs, etc. Rap exists in a digital age where every type of person can stream rap.
Are their communities in danger?
This isn't just exclusive to rap or music in general. Print media, news, broadcasting, advertising, cinema can all promote negativity.
Point being, eliminating rap won’t change the environment that people grow up in. Even removing all “negative” music will not. Because there is negativity all around us.
A teen won't become “ratchet” or “ghetto” because they listen to City Girls.
A teen won’t become a “drug dealer” because they listen to Future.
You cannot be respectable to someone who already does not respect you.