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Salon Discusses Respectability in Politics

Kayleigh Rhatigan ’19, Clarke Forum Columnist

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On Friday, February 10 at 4:30 pm, the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, Phi Beta Kappa, and the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity co-sponsored a salon discussion entitled “Respectability Politics in the 21st Century.”

The term “respectability politics” references the ways in which people of color, LGBTQ+, and other systemically oppressed populations are expected to assimilate into dominant culture or behave in ways deemed “respectable” in order to counteract stereotypes.

The discussion was moderated by Drey Battle ’18, an American Studies major; Linda Brindeau, Assistant Professor in French and Francophone Studies; and Vincent Stephens, Director of the Popel Shaw Center. Participants discussed the ways in which respectability politics affect race, gender, sexuality, and class in the wider world and on the Dickinson campus.

“I enjoyed the intergenerational nature of the discussion” said Stephens. “The mix opened up space for the group to consider how respectability politics and social codes have morphed over time and in a variety of social contexts.”

Participants in the salon, which was open to the entire Dickinson community, were also provided with a series of articles by Stephens. The articles highlighted the issues with respectability politics among African Americans, Asian Americans, [email protected], and the LGBTQ+ community, and included one article, written by prominent Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy, in favor of respectability politics.

“The salon was heavily intersectional and therefore educational for everyone involved,” said Leda Fisher ’19.

According to Stephens, this was the second time the Clarke Forum has collaborated with the Popel Shaw Center, Academic Advising, and Phi Beta Kappa on a Salon.

“Salons are an excellent space for civil and informed dialogue about vital topics that draw on the personal experience and intellectual awareness of its participants.”

Approximately 25 students and faculty attended the salon, which was held at the Clarke Forum at 249-255 W. Louther Street.

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Salon Discusses Respectability in Politics