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Campus Life

Homeless at Howard: An Alumni Discussion

Homeless at Howard

Listen in on this wide reaching conversation between concerned Howard University Alumni, and HBCU advocates: Dr. Maurice Dolberry, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, and hosted by Be Moore.

The issues addressed reach far into the social implications of the global responses to the issue as well as concerns moving forward.

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Blogs Featured Politics

“I Hate Myself!”: What are Respectability Politics, and Why do Black People Subscribe to Them?

Sgt Waters
Adolph Caesar as Master Seargant Vernon Waters in the movie A Soldier’s Story

You may not be familiar with the term “respectability politics”, but you’ve heard them before.  Maybe you’ve even engaged in them.  Whether it’s Don Lemon’s recent rant, actor Romany Malco’s open letter to Trayvon Martin sympathizers following the George Zimmerman trial, Bill Cosby’s 2004 “Pound Cake speech” and even The Talk co-host Sheryl Underwood’s remarks about nappy hair, respectability politics remain an enormous part of our conversations about Black American culture.

So what exactly are respectability politics?  In short, they are an undefined yet understood set of ideas about how Black people should live positively and how we should define Black American culture.  Ironically, they’re usually a huge hindrance to both.

A Brief History Lesson

This whole idea of respectability politics began to solidify at the end of the 19th century, when a bold group of Black women from the Baptist Convention – a well-intentioned, church womenimportant, pro-Black, yet chauvinist, and patriarchal organization – broke off to form their own group: the Women’s Convention.  On the positive side, an essential part of their focus was to uplift the Black community, while perpetuating a sense of solidarity and philanthropy.  Unfortunately, in practice it involved a lot of patronizing behaviors towards “lower-class” Black people.  For instance, one of their major campaigns was to go into impoverished Black communities and hand out pamphlets that “taught” these po’ folks how to “behave” in public places, the value of chastity, and even how to properly bathe themselves.  Side note: if you’ve read that and don’t have a problem with those three things as important values, that’s understandable. Now, imagine someone comes to your front door regularly to remind you to do them…

These respectability politics gained popularity and organization nationwide, and solidified into a regular part of Black life.  For example, the Chicago Defender, one of the country’s most important Black media outlets, published the following list weekly as a reminder to its newly arrived Southern readers who came to Chicago during the Great Migration:

  • DON’T HANG OUT THE WINDOWS.
  • DON’T SIT AROUND IN THE YARD AND ON THE PORCH BAREFOOT AND UNKEMPT.
  • DON’T WEAR HANDKERCHIEFS ON YOUR HEAD.
  • DON’T USE VILE LANGUAGE IN PUBLIC PLACES.
  • DON’T ALLOW CHILDREN TO BEG ON THE STREETS.
  • DON’T APPEAR ON THE STREET WITH OLD DUST CAPS, DIRTY APRONS, AND RAGGED CLOTHES.
  • DON’T THROW GARBAGE IN THE BACKYARD OR ALLEY OR KEEP DIRTY FRONT YARDS.

Behold the Underlying Truth

Don’t the above admonishments sound familiar?  And note how every statement begins in the negative.  That’s because the primary premise in which respectability politics are grounded is that Black American culture – and Black Americans themselves – are broken and need to be fixed.  And “fixing” means improving the “Black underclass” that holds us back.  It reminds me of the movie A Soldier’s Story, and in particular, the character Sgt. Waters.  The scene below epitomizes what respectability politics cause the Black bourgeoisie to do to the Black “underclass”.

Super ObamaWaters has made it his personal mission to rid the army – and maybe the world (?) – of ignorant negritude, starting with CJ.  Apparently he thinks the work he’s doing will leave us with Negrus superioris, purifying the race and eliminating all traces of inferior Black folks.  Sergeant Waters, and those who think like him, are actually suffering though.  This later clip reveals that anguish and the secondary premise of respectability politics:

 

Wanna hear it again?  Go to 1:04 on the video.  The secondary, sinister premise of respectability politics is the belief that teaching Black people to meet White cultural standards is the way to improve Black culture.  From talking “proper”, to hair straightening, to skin bleaching, to more coded ideas like “acting White”, respectability politics teach us that the White man’s ice really is colder.  In a country that operates on the premise that Black people are inferior, respectability politics cause the sort of sentiment the utterly defeated Waters whimpers at the 1:04 mark.  He’s realized that after years of trying to get White people to see Black people as equals by teaching them “White culture”, he’s actually the broken one who needs to be fixed.

What’s an Alternative, Then?

In my critiques of the Civil Rights Movement, I’ve said that the focus on changing laws and changing peoples’ hearts overshadowed efforts to define and build Black American culture.  While all three are important, the lack of emphasis on that third aspect has left us today with respectability politics as a giant cultural hurdle.  Black American culture, like all cultures, is continuously being defined and redefined.  The next step then, is to Kwanzaa cardreplace striving to emulate a White American cultural construct (the concept of “White culture” as everything positive, wonderful, and goal-worthy) with striving toward a Black one.  Love it, hate it, or leave it, the Kwanzaa holiday is an excellent example of Black Americans deciding for themselves what Black American culture will be.  While it incorporates ideas from other cultures (as all cultural traditions do), it isn’t based upon turning Black American culture into someone else’s “superior” one.  And to be clear, whether or not we choose to identify with our African roots as we define Black American culture – though I’ve chosen an example that does – is nowhere near as important as the overall act of simply continuing to define Black American culture in general.  As long as we move purposefully away from respectability politics, we’ll continue to eliminate the self-hatred that hinders us from continuing to positively do so.

Maurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry has taught grades 6 through 20, and has worked at both public and independent schools from Minnesota to Florida to Washington and other places in between. He is currently an adjunct college instructor while working on his PhD in multicultural education at the University of Washington.  Maurice believes that the “geechie” is actually more important to Black American culture then Sgt. Waters.

(The original article appears on alineinthesand.com)

Maurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry ©2013

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Politics

Rand Paul Comes to My Alma Mater: Thanks for Trying…

…no really.  Thanks for trying.

Rand Paul

I do recognize the importance of Rand Paul being the first Republican elected official in decades to speak at Howard University.  And while I think it’s silly at best to call such an effort “courageous”, it does speak to the importance Paul places on reaching out to voters his party has marginalized at about a 90% clip

…or does it?

My African American-born and Howard University-bred skepticism of politicians who want to tell me what my best interests are causes the (admittedly sensitive) wand on my bullshit detector to redline.   That part of me readily recognizes that Senator Paul’s visit to Howard conveniently works well as a way to soften his (Tea) party’s reputation as a political safe-space for White nationalists, White supremacists, and other bigots.  Paul can safely assume those extremists will hold their nose and vote for him, despite the stench of Negro he now has on him.  For those who don’t want to be grounded in that ideological wing of the Republican Party – and those who realize, quite frankly, that now you can’t get elected to the Presidency with just that vote – Paul can play this as a See?-I tried-but-they-just-won’t-listen token appeal to the Black vote.  This plays well with White supremacists who don’t really wanna be so… White supremacist-y.

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Education Politics

March 9th: Critical Race Theory, Breitbart, and What Biggie Has To Do With It

Mo the Educator’s critical analysis of the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s connection to critical race theory.

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Entertainment Music

Young Guru Responds to “Paris vs Poorest” via Video


“Paris vs Poorest” is a poignant statement of perspective. Maurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry‘s depiction of the two sides of the coin that Yasiin Bey and Jay-Z and Kanye West portray caught the attention of the Pillars of Hip Hop embodied including Chuck D, various notable DJs and far from least, recording engineer to the Rocafella lineup, Young Guru.

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Education Roundup Radio

Roundup Radio: Black Leadership, Integration, and HBCUs



Roundup Radio-
Lavell Flamon, Educator Maurice Dolberry, and Grammy Award winning rapper David Banner discuss Black Leadership, the impact of Integration, and touch on the topic of HBCUs.
Moderated by: Be Moore of AlumniRoundup.com: @bemor

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Relationships Roundup Radio

Marriage: The Single Black Man’s Perspective [Roundup Radio]



Roundup Radio: Hosted by Be Moore
What do Black Men think about the institution of marriage? We asked three brothers with vastly different lifestyles about their personal outlook on marriage. This is just the beginning of a great and necessary discussion. Let us know what YOU think.

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Blogs

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wives: Antoine Dodson x Social Justice x Black Bourgeoisie

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wives, and Your Husbands: Antoine Dodson and the Collision of Media Images, Social Justice, and the Black Bourgeoisie

The Background : It Aint Over!

Though the furor over the original video has been replaced with a catchy song, as Teddy Riley (G-rated version) and Ice Cube (R-rated version) have quipped: “it aint over!”  With over 32 million views on YouTube and a live performance on the BET Awards, Antoine Dodson and his story continue to remain extremely relevant.