Adrienne, thank you so much for taking the time to write a thoughtful response.
Nzinga Alexis Mbande
381

“But respectability as often preached by older Black Americans to younger or upper class Black Americans to poor Black Americans involves critiquing (policing) superficial things like sagging pants, acrylic nails, hairstyles and hoodies as if changing our clothes will stop racial violence.”

Which is why I think it pointless to say anything about those things. I encourage other middle aged or upper middle class blacks shut up about them and just stay in our swimlane. We should carry ourselves by our own lights and values and let others do the same. I’ve worn my hair natural most of my 50 years. For 21 of those I had my hair in dreadlocks. I wouldn’t say anything about other black women who straightened their hair because it’s not my place to tell other blacks how to live their lives.

I will write cheques to the local BLM group or one of the black queer groups in town but I don’t go to marches or events. I’m upper middle class black from other upper middle class blacks (although my parents grew up working class themselves). I’ve had three encounters with the police that were unambiguously racist and three others that were unambiguously not (failure to stop and two speeding tickets). Never been in serious trouble with the law. I did well in school and I’ve had a successful career in software.

I honestly don’t want others to think that I’m judging them so I presume that what I can contribute is money and the less I try to do things like counsel young blacks or poor blacks the better. Of course, what I do with my own kids and grandchildren are another thing.

I have to say, I don’t see how you can have a collectivist mindset without having a strong sense of good and bad. Part of being a collective is unity of thought and purpose. In order to know if someone is down, if you will, you need to know if they think correctly and so it is very important to know who can be trusted and who can’t which invokes the psychology of morality.

I don’t know how old you are but back in the 80s and 90s, being black meant you couldn’t be queer. You could have brown skin all day long but if you were queer you weren’t really black. My experience of collectives and collectivism is grounded in that. I see collectivism as a way for a group to make prior claim on the lives of individuals. In the eyes of black folks 30 years ago, my being queer was selfish and anti-black. I should be part of a strong heterosexual black couple where we raised strong heterosexual black children. If I *truly* loved black people, I was told, I wouldn’t be queer and I would ‘get right’.

I see that kind of prior claim over people’s lives as inseparable from collectivism. I’ve been ostracized by my own people for capriciously arbitrary reasons. I’m a little wary of collectives for that reason.

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