redneckgaijin (redneckgaijin) wrote,
redneckgaijin
redneckgaijin

On respect.

Well, I just got chewed out, and probably deservedly so, for my knee-jerk reaction to the word "respect", i. e. "Anybody who demands respect doesn't deserve it."

Yes, I know and agree that blacks, women, gays, and a ton of other groups who get treated like crap demand respect because they won't get it any other way. In theory, at least, I'm on board with that, because my brain tries to compartmentalize "group respect" from "self-entitled loudmouthed stuffed shirt who wants an ego fluff."

And while trying to figure out a way to separate the two, I realized something: I really, really hate the word "respect."

Growing up (in the rural, conservative, Christian, and very white South), "respect" did not mean "treat as an equal." I don't think I ever heard it used that way.

"Respect" was something you did to your -superiors.- You shut up, listened, and obeyed... respectfully. You didn't disagree; you "respectfully suggested." You respected your elders, police, elected officials, but nobody ever thought that your elders, police, elected officials, etc. were under any obligation to respect you.

To respect someone else was, in short, to admit your own inferiority.

This is something worth thinking about: that our language and culture uses one word for two concepts which are not merely different but mutually exclusive- equality and subordination.

And in my adult life I admit that I've dealt with a lot more people (invariably male, usually but not exclusively white) who demand respect not as an equal but as a Cartman clone- "respect mah authoritah."

Another thing to consider: how gun advocates routinely refer to the "respect" people give a person openly carrying a weapon. And what that says about (almost universally white) gun advocates' definition of "respect."

I don't know if there's anything rhetorically to be done about this, or if it's even worth trying. (I mean, "honor" is even worse, and "acknowledge" falls far short of equality.) But I think there's an insight here somewhere that bears closer analysis, and might yield something useful.

But for the moment I will amend my statement: those who demand the respect of authority do not deserve it; and the best way to get the respect of equal treatment is to give it.

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