I strongly reject the concept of respectability politics, which postulates that a style of dress or speech justifies injustice, and often violence, against particular groups of people or explains away the ravages of their inequality. I take enormous exception to arguments about the “breakdown of the family,” particularly the black family, that don’t acknowledge that this country for centuries has endeavored, consciously and not, to break it down. Or that family can be defined only one way. I don’t buy into the mythology that most poor people are willfully and contentedly poor, happy to live with the help of handouts from a benevolent big government that is equally happy to keep them dependent. These are all arguments based on shame, meant to distance traditional power structures from emerging ones, to allow for draconian policy arguments from supposedly caring people. These arguments require faith in personal failure as justification for calling our fellow citizens feckless or doctrinally disfavored. Those who espouse such arguments must root for failures so that they’re proved right. They need their worst convictions to be affirmed: that other people’s woes are due solely to their bad choices and bad behaviors; that there are no systematic suppressors at play; that the way to success is wide open to all those who would only choose it. Any of us in the country who were born poor, or minority, or female, or otherwise different — particularly in terms of gender or sexual identity — know better. Misogyny and sexism, racism, income inequality, patriarchy, and homophobia and heteronormative ideals course through the culture like a pathogen in the blood, infecting the whole of the being beneath the surface.
It’s very discouraging that there are so many knuckleheads who think such things today, and that they get to write columns for big newspapers. Take that second sentence for example. 10x the number of boys are born today (versus 50 years ago) in homes without fathers. It’s arguably the greatest problem the country faces. Now take a moment. Consider also the last sentence quoted above. The big problems are patriarchy and heteronormative ideals? Help!!! The country is doomed. (We have a feeling we know who the author would vote for if he lived in Venezuela.)