Friday, May 22, 2009

Victims by Choice?

I read this article the other day by conservative radio host, Phil Valentine. Honestly, I had never heard of the guy but the title of the article, “Some members of society just want to be victims”, was so captivating, I could help myself ( He discussed the findings of a recent American Journal of Public Health study of 5th graders that links racism to mental health. Now, being the awesome journalist that he is, Mr. Valentine doesn’t just report on the study. He also gives his readers insight to his thoughts on how “these people” are taught to be victims, walk around with a chip on their shoulder, and are always looking for a way to be offended—his example being the paranoia that springs up when “they” are passed over for a promotion or not given party invitations. He goes on to say that kids will be picked on for one thing or another. For example, he was 4’11” as a high school freshman and although he got bullied, he learned a valuable lesson through those years—never let anyone define you!

Well, as one of “those people” he speaks of in his article, I must say that Mr. Valentine is amazing—a white male comparing the racism to being short. Seriously?! There are so many things wrong with that argument. It’s something I face everyday and I don’t need people reminding me of it, but they can’t seem to help themselves. As a minority and depending on the way I dress (as ridiculous as it is), I am judged as soon as I am seen.

Those judgments may be a careful glance my way as they grab their purse tighter; a cashier who drops the change in my hand as if she can “catch” my color; or random people who ask me why “you people voted for him…”

I’ll take it one step further and tell you as a minority woman, the criticism or judgment I receive is far worse than anything a bully could ever have done to Mr. Valentine in the 9th grade. This touches every part of life—social situations, work environments, you name it. It’s a constant adjustment on my part because as soon as you think you’ve got it down, somebody comes along and you have to find a new way to fend off the foolishness. It is easy to tell someone not to let anyone else define you—it’s another to make you understand that I have been defined since the day I was born by my race and gender.

Look, there will always be those who choose to play the “victim” role. However, they may be of any race, any gender, any ethnicity, etc. so, it is totally unfair to classify the entire group as “victims”—we all make our own choices and react to things differently. I believe it is up to us to encourage openness and understanding. There are more resources out there that will help you understand a culture than hate it. And even if you don’t understand or agree with something, respect it. At the end of the day, we have got to figure out how to live amongst one another without judgments and criticisms that divide us because honestly, we’re more alike than different. It just sucks that there are people that would rather ignore that fact and fight to remain ignorant.

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