Black and Brown Solidarity… For a Few

Today’s post is short but sweet. Yesterday I went to a Black and Latino unity picnic held every year for the past five years. It was a nice event in a public park. I enjoyed seeing those of us who made it to the event come together. Young people provided entertainment and the organizers provided free food, which was a welcome change after going to festivals charging an arm and a leg for food.

In addition to the entertainment, the organizers also held a forum on education. As I have no children, I did not feel my place to offer any advice, but I was discouraged by the heavy investment in respectability politics. Apparently, if the kids look and dress a certain way, it indicates a lack of respect for themselves and their parents.

I found this interesting as one of the most affable young men there (who wasn’t an organizer) was a brother with his shorts sagging. He was friendly and playful, but I guess that doesn’t matter because he must hate himself. No, I don’t like the way sagging looks either, but I don’t assume that it means a young man disrespects himself because he wears his pants that way just like I don’t think a young woman who twerks hates herself. (By the way, I could argue that twerking does indeed have roots in black cultural expression, i.e. Josephine Baker, but that’s a different post.)

I have no children, so I didn’t feel it was my place to say that it wasn’t right to think only black and brown children who dress and behave a certain way deserve a chance in our education systems. I didn’t feel it was my place to say that every generation of black and brown youth is policed because of the way they dress. For instance, zoot suits were once banned and wearing certain colors or accessories is sometimes linked to gang activity. Why do we feel that young people are only deserving of our love and support if they look like they’re heading to Sunday school?

This also goes into the MTV Video Music Awards, but I won’t address that here since #BlackTwitter and Tumblr beautifully took that to task. However, I still feel that we will all be better off when we realize that each and every one of us as black and brown individuals are worthy of respect and support because we are here regardless of what we wear and how we move.