I don't know how many times I've seen or heard black people, who claim to be pro-black, try to distance themselves from other groups of black people. Don't get me wrong, I used to think I was a little Michael Evans (from Good Times for the youngins, or those who don't have access to TV One) in high school and my freshman year in college. I thought I really loved my blackness and my people. But I see now that I was wrong. I used to try so hard to distance myself from "those black girls." You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who are loud and ratchet and love to fight. The ones who "dress ghetto" and "talk ghetto" and "act ghetto." I used to think I supported black men, yet here I was looking down on "those black guys". You know the ones. The ones who wear chains and sag their pants and use too much slang. I understand now that that was just internalized anti-blackness. It was me subconsciously trying to be accepted by the white man.
I understand how it can be deceiving. We as black people are taught from such a young age that we must be "respectable." Whether consciously or subconsciously, we pick up on things--little clues and hints--that tell us "if you want to be treated fairly, you're going to have to assimilate into mainstream white culture." It becomes easy to see other black people in music videos with gold grills and shining rims and think "this is why white people don't respect us." On many occasions, I've heard black people say that in response to something another black person said, wore, or did.
"This is why white people don't respect us." Let's think about that for a minute. First, it assumes the highest honor, the greatest achievement, the crown jewel of life is the white man's respect. Of course everyone wants to be respected, but if, as a black person, you are ready and willing to degrade and distance yourself from other black people in the hopes of being looked upon favorably by white society, then there is an issue. The second problem with this is: you're believing the myth that black people can't exist as individuals. Why is it that when a white man shoots up a school, it's an isolated incident; but when a black man shoots someone, it's "black people are thugs." Everything a black person does reflects back on their community, but it shouldn't be that way. White people are seen and treated as individuals all acting of their own accord, but black people are seen and treated as one unit--the actions of one black person representing those of all black people. This only serves to further oppress us. We are a community--but one that is made up of multifaceted individuals. Lastly, this mentality encourages the idea that the level of respect we receive is based on the actions of others in our community. I've seen black people post things like "I wish black lives mattered to black people," which is basically saying "since some black people kill each other, none of your lives matter." What kind of messed up logic is that? All races kill people of their own race, yet "black on black crime" is the only thing that's talked about. What is "white on white" crime called? Oh, it's just called "crime"? Oh, okay. Also, I have never heard anyone say "why should we respect white people if they don't respect each other?" or "why should white lives matter if white people shoot each other?" Think about the ways in which this narrative of "black on black crime" and respectability politics have been used to turn us against each other.
I've learned to love and accept my blackness, as well as everyone else's in the black community. I would consider myself very pro-black. This doesn't mean that I have to agree with the words or actions of every black person. I can still call out Raven Symone and Stacey Dash for their mess, but this doesn't mean that I am leaving them out of the black movement. I will still fight for the equitable treatment of black people, and "black people" includes these women. Because while I don't agree with them, and they don't represent my ideology, we are still in this together. You don't get to pick and choose who you fight for within the black community. It shouldn't matter if it's a black woman walking into Walmart with her rollers in her hair and her head scarf still on, or if it's a black woman walking into her corporate office wearing a pantsuit--they are both black women (and they could be the same person for all you know). We are all different individuals, but we all face the same struggle of being black in America. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if one black man is wearing a suit and tie and the other is wearing a tank top and Jordans; they could both still be denied by the same employer, or shot by the same cop. In the words of Deray Mckesson: "let's get free." All of us, together.