You might have heard the meme that “respect has to be earned”. Whether this is true or not depends on what you man by “respect”. There are different kinds of respect, and the problem with the meme is that it doesn’t make any such distinction.
Lets start with differentiating between three forms of respect, which we can call “general respect”, “personal respect” and “basic respect”.
With general respect, I mean the kind of respect where we don’t treat anyone badly unless there’s a valid reason for that, and give everyone a reasonable level of the benefit of the doubt.
With personal respect, I mean the kind of respect where we hold someone in high esteem for their virtues or accomplishments. This is the kind of respect that needs to be earned, and earned fairly. It is not okay to demand this kind of respect without earning it, and it is ESPECIALLY not okay to demand it through coercion, extortion or bullying.
With basic respect, I mean that even IF we have reason to treat a certain person in a negative way, and no matter how strong and valid those reasons are, we should STILL acknowledge that this person is a person – and thus entitled to universal human rights.
The meme can easily be interpreted as a way of dismissing general respect as well as basic respect, which is extremely bad.