Center for Diversity and Inclusion talks respectability politics

By Olivia Nicoletti

Ashley Archer, the assistant director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, spoke at a virtual event called “Conversation Cafe: It’s The Respectability Politics for Me,” on March 22 at 7 p.m to engage participants in open conversations revolving the modern day issues of how people represent themselves and why it matters. Eight people attended the virtual event. 

Archer began her presentation explaining that respectability politics is the imputable societal acceptance and equal legal protection. Some people look at other values that are sent by a margin, a majority group, and try to attend to those in terms of tenses so that they can go ahead and get equal protection. 

“We, as Black Americans, are told to dress a certain way or talk a certain way and use our language in order to be accepted by a dominant culture,” Archer said during the event. “In turn, because of this, you’re not deserving of equal rights or protection because you are not acting in a way that is deemed acceptable by society.”

Sandra Bland, a Black woman who was declared to have committed suicide in a jail cell, was mentioned in accordance to this presentation. An open conversation was conducted based on whether her outcome could have been different if she acted a certain way around the police officers. 

The main emphasis of this event was to draw attention to the masks that people must wear everyday in order to maintain a relationship with all the different groups they interact with.

 “When we actually play into code-switching, which is really the notion of having to be something that is not authentic, in the space just to kind of achieve something you may see code-switching if folks are at work and there’s a certain way that they want to maybe get ahead, they might have to act a certain way,” Archer said during the event. “That may mean censoring yourself.” 

On the other hand, the event went over the recent attention aimed at rap artists Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, when they performed at the 2021 Grammy’s and decided to present the realist version of themselves.

Their performance was controversial and made some people question whether this display of provocative dancing was appropriate. 

After further open conversations amongst the students and staff, everyone who wished to was able to express their feelings towards the matter. 

Junior cyber security major, Dion Moore, attended the event and expressed that he has a better understanding of the double standards society holds and how it inhibits those to be their true selves.

“Respectability politics can be weaponized against women for doing something that is deemed socially not acceptable,” Moore said. “It is important for anyone to be their true authentic self anywhere.”

It became clear that the mention of these celebrities was to highlight the impact it specifically has on women while bringing a modern, realist example to the table. Archer was able to demonstrate how these issues still take place in the present day and how to bring more awareness to it.

“I think we should all understand the concept of respectability politics and use our platforms to help change systems that perpetuate this narrative,” Archer said.

The advantage to these events is the ability for students to listen to their fellow classmates and get a deeper understanding through each other’s eyes. It is important to listen to different voices and perspectives.

“I think the turnout was good,” Archer said. “The smaller turnout allowed for the conversation to be a little bit more intimate and all voices were able to be heard.”

Moore added to Archer’s sentiment. 

“Everyone in the crowd learned something new and will try to have more conversations around them,” Moore said. 

Caption: Assistant Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Ashley Archer discussed the nuances of code-switching during the virtual event. 

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