Friday, February 16, 2007


It was actually conservatives who first warned me about the "culture of victimhood". To them it was something inherent in liberals who seemed to strike out for the causes of the underdogs, the oppressed. There were some good points raised by this concept and I've struggled with it over the years. Was this a real issue? What are we doing about it? Are we just playing "the victim" or is there really something deeper going on here? Most of the time, my convictions remained true, but there has been the rare occasion when I could see a "victim" mentality playing rather than a real issue.

Of course, no one likes to be left out of such parlor games, so conservatives were quick to jump on the victim mentality as well. You hear social conservatives, for instance, wailing on and on about the "attacks on Christianity" in this country. Even people who are in the majority groups in the U.S.A. play the victim card. Hence, this conversation from yesterday between myself and a white, male with generally moderate to liberal views:

Him: "Do you feel harrassed at this time of year?"

Me: "What time of year? February? President's Day? Valentine's Day? Winter?"

Him: "No, Black History Month. Do you feel harassed by all of the messages being tossed at you about the history of African Americans?"

Me: "No. Why?"

Him: "Well, I'm just saying, why does the government push this upon us? I mean, we get hit daily with messages about black history and we're all supposed to learning something and so one and it's forced upon us. I think, by singling them out, we are perpetuating racism rather than dealing with it. Why don't we have a white history month?"

Now, this is a line I've heard off and on over the course of several years. It was said rarely when I lived in Detroit, but it's said more often since I've lived in the Northwest. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it's because fewer black folks live out here so that the opportunity to interact with them, to understand their feelings and politics, to celebrate their heritage and to acknowledge their plight is a rare thing for most white folks living out here. Despite the tensions that exist in a city like Detroit (and I think it is a parasite that is slowly killing that area), most of the white folks seem to acknowledge the positive aspects of Black History Month and even appreciate it's necessity. To be fair, so do most of the white folks in the Northwest, but there seem to me to be more of them who are emboldened enough to make similar remarks to the ones above. Perhaps it's just the people that I've interacted with, but these people come from a variety of socio-economic paths. The desire to be the victim is great. My stock reply has gotten more intemperate over the years:

Me: "Well, maybe it's because in my 42 years on this planet, we've celebrated white history 365 days a year. Hell, we're white males and frankly, white men own the fucking world. What the hell do you think Thanksgiving through Christmas is? It's fucking whitest of white history month. Oh, sure, it's a Christian celebration which includes blacks and Asians and other races, but for goddsakes it's based on a view of Christianity that at it's essence and in it's execution and promotion in this country is white. I don't know about you, but when I grew up there was very little black history taught in our text books. Exposure to it now is a positive for me. My only regret is that they don't expand it beyond the standard figures that are often taught at this time like Frederick Douglas and George Washington Carver. If you don't want to be exposed to it, then ignore the messages like you do most commercials. Why get your panties in a twist over this? Why choose this issue to play the fucking white make victim? Jesus, get upset over something that significantly affects your life, something that you can find solidarity with many African Americans in like the unfair scale of economics in this country."


Scott said...

Sounds like you're dealing with a passive-agressive racist. I've said after being stationed in Florida and Georgia for 7 years it's my experience that racism is no less prevalent here. The balls to own up to it is less prevalent.

The only reason I know it is Black History Month is because I read for fourth graders on Mondays, and one of the resources I use for finding appropriate and timely books mentioned it.

Why haven't I been inundated I wonder? Oh, I don't spend much time with the white trash Tranquilizing Vaccine (TV). Maybe if he disconnection from FOX, got his passive-agressive white behind detached from the polyester couch his conservative talking point style racist feelings would fade.

I'm certainly not typically Seattle passive about my feelings about racists, eh? Years ago my brother made comments about how it isn't "their" fault, "they" learn to be lazy from things like "reverse discrimination." I told him that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, that he was a passive-agressive racist.

I don't think he ever understood my point that the one bad black employee he had spoke well for "them" over all. After all he had worse luck percentage-wise with white guys. Why didn't he apply some passive-agressive logic to explain all the bad white employees? "That's different," he said, "the white guys choose to be that way." Then he made up imaginary examples of other black guys he'd had trouble with. You can imagine how the rest of that conversation went.

I'm confident he is still racist, but at least he hasn't spewed that crap to me since -- as he's had some problems affecting him emotionally and it would have been more than a conversation.

I just hope he doesn't spew racial crap around his (half-Korean) children either, but I assume he does. Maybe being exposed to it from different sides of the family it'll be easier for them to see how stupid racism really is. It does seem once ignorance is embraced people have a hundred times the trouble letting go.

B.D. said...

Good story about your brother. Like you, I'm not fond of racism in the least. I was profoundly moved towards a pretty strong anti-racist position when I was bussed as a 6th grader in the first year of the bussing program in Louisville, Kentucky. Later, living in Detroit, I was certainly exposed to the conflicts between the races and learned the amount of deep racism that my parents carry within themselves. It's pretty ugly. I recall a rather shocking conversation with my father at breakfast during which he was spouting off against too many holidays in our calendar. The subject of his vitriol was Martin Luther King Day, which was being passed by Congress. My father, whom I couldn't ever remember saying much about race in front of us as we were growing up, told me, "Back in the day, Martin Luther King wasn't considered a great man. He was nothing more than an uppity nigger."

The blunt force of that remark forever changed the way I viewed my father. It was hateful and the manner in which he said it was also hateful. As I said, I never recalled him making more than a handful of racist remarks before, all of them when I was older and none of them so spiteful and personal.