(AllHipHop News) It was the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin that initially sparked the Black Lives Matter movement against racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality. The 17-year-old Florida native was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer who believed Martin was dangerous, partially because the teen was wearing a hoodie in the rain.
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The idea of black Americans conducting themselves in a certain way in order to not scare white Americans has been a contentious topic for years. Some activists argue “respectability politics” is a form of victim blaming, because the focus should be on questioning the person that performed the violent act and not on the person that was harmed, especially in situations where the victim was unarmed and not committing a crime.
Others believe the actions, appearance, and history of the victim does affect the outcome in situations such as Martin’s death or incidents where police killed black citizens. From Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, respectability politics has been brought up in nearly every case of law enforcement officers being involved in the death of unarmed African-Americans.
It appears Wu-Tang Clan member RZA is on the side of the argument that says appearance does play a part in white police officers assaulting black youth. RZA told Bloomberg:
When you think about some of the brothers who are being brutalized by the police, you also got to have them take a look, and us take a look, in the mirror, at the image we portray. If I’m a cop and every time I see a young black youth, whether I watch them on TV, movies, or just see them hanging out, and they’re not looking properly dressed, properly refined, you know, carrying himself, conducting himself proper hours of the day—things that a man does, you’re going to have a certain fear and stereotype of them. I tell my sons, I say, if you’re going somewhere, you don’t have to wear a hoodie–we live in New York, so a hoodie and all that is all good. But sometimes, you know, button up your shirt. Clean up. Look like a young man. You’re not a little kid, you know what I mean? I think that’s another big issue we gotta pay attention to. Is the image that we portray that could invoke a fear into a white officer, or any officer.
RZA also added, “Of course black lives matter. All lives matter. I stopped eating meat because their lives matter to me. I don’t think it’s necessary for us to grow a cow to kill it.”