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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

Respectability politics, which require Black folks to make ourselves as non-confrontational, palatable, and white as possible, pressing our hair, pulling up our pants, and speaking properly are a lasting remnant of the diligent work of Black women during the Jim Crow Era to ensure social uplift and Black survival. This project traces the history of Black women in the development of performative survival and highlights our position and the efficacy of code-switching today, primarily through the Flint Water Crisis. As Black Americans refuse to conform to white standards, becoming more and more proud of our Blackness and as innocent Black children continue to be murdered, the efficacy of respectability politics is becoming questionable. Despite the rejection of respectability politics in upper-middle-class Black communities, respectability politics are still vital in lower-class Black communities, like Flint, Michigan. The Flint Water Crisis, which has been going on for over 5 years, is an example of how respectability politics are still essential in Black communities. Not only does Flint still not have clean water because Black bodies are viewed as disposable in America, but also because people who aren't directly affected by oppressive power structures only care when those suffering present their cries in an easily digestible way for the masses or from the mouth of someone iconic. While young Black Americans publicly reject notions of respectability politics, the Flint Water Crisis paints a different picture, showing how Black folks' survival and success in America are still heavily reliant on how we are perceived.

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