Crissle From “The Read” Sounds Off on Respectability Politics and The Zimmerman Trial

For those of you who listen to the popular podcast “The Read,” featuring Kid Fury and Crissle, you know that they have been talking about the George Zimmerman trial (and his acquittal) for a few episodes now.

But, it was this week’s episode, “Well Deserved Laughs,” that was particularly striking and thought provoking.

During Crissle’s Read this week, she explains the idea of “respectability politics.”

She describes it as, “[the idea that] acting a certain way, the way that the majority, or the mainstream would like for you to act, will make you better than other Black people, or it will keep you safe from crime.”

This goes hand in hand with the idea that Trayvon Martin’s fatal interaction with Zimmerman was heavily influenced by the way he may have dressed or acted, which was at odds with the idea behind respectability politics.

Crissle on the other hand, has a more critical view of this notion.

“If someone wants to discriminate against you because you’re Black, that’s going to be what the f*** they do.”

She goes on to note that it doesn’t matter that you wear, how educated you are, or what your hair looks like, the social stigmas and stereotypes that accompany being African-American in this country affects anyone and everyone who is black (or even just looks like it for that matter).

The bottom line is this: The idea that you should change yourself for the sake of making other people more comfortable with who you are because of their prejudice against the mere idea of who you might be is wrong, and only works to perpetuate the issue.

Though Crissle’s Read may be obvious to most, her explanation comes at a time when the country is engaging in a serious dialogue about racism and prejudice and how it played a role in the Zimmerman case and why it affects people of color in this country on a daily basis.

This point was one of many that Kid Fury and Crissle made during this episode. Check it out online at or on iTunes.  If you’re sensitive to explicit language, however, know that this podcast does carry an “E” for explicit.

What are your thoughts on Crissle’s read?

Note: Looking for more on respectability politics? Check out Tamara Winfrey Harris’ article “No Disrespect,” published in Bitch Magazine last year for an in-depth analysis of respectability politics and it’s historical implications here (add link:

*Vanessa Walker is a student of Journalism and Women’s Studies at the California State University of Sacramento. She periodically writes on her blog “Limitlessons,” which is about the many different lessons young people can learn from moving away from home and going off to college. Check out her blog at


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