I’ve been working in the youth arts sector for quite a while now and I forgot how much Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour uphold respectability politics on the daily.
For folks who don’t know, respectability politics is defined as:
attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference.
When I joined a board and walked into my first meeting it was filled with BIPOC professionals, people working full-time jobs outside of being on the board. I waltzed in, settled down, and boy oh boy! I was wearing my Butch Please hat. There was one person in particular who gave me a deadly stare. I continued to be carefree – paying attention to the person talking. During check-in I intentionally introduced myself as a person who would hold the board accountable to the community. My allegiance is with folks using the services and it shouldn’t matter what I wear, what matters is making sure we provide the best services to the community.
Kim Milan’s new article, 5 Pro Tips for Women of Color Entrepreneurs, affirmed my existence as a young entrepreneur:
“Don’t buy into respectability politics. The industries where we are highly concentrated include health care, social assistance; and professional, scientific and technical services. However there are women creating online boutiques, hairstylists, nail and makeup artists, consultants of all kinds, and sex workers who all deserve safe and supportive workplaces.”
Every single day I wear outfits that represent me – whether it’s my florescent pink pencil skirt, my fat black girl button, or a ruby red lipstick. I will continue to be shameless about my subtle boldness and be true to me.