On Sunday I was flipping through the television trying to kill time before all of the football games started. Knowing that the Seahawks and Eagles would be aired nationally on Fox, I turned to that channel and left the tv on while I made breakfast. Sometime before the big match, a Fox News show came on, where the topic of discussion was around Michael Brown and Eric Gardner. The host asked panelists, “Are the officers to blame for these events?”
One of the guest speakers, a middle-aged White man, started to answer and I thought “Oh, he must have something very intelligent and wise to say” but then quickly stopped myself because I remembered that stereotypes can be harmful, even when they are flattering (ask any Asian kid).
The man replied (and keep in mind I am paraphrasing here) that the police officers could have shown more restraint and probably needed better training but we should critically examine why Black culture causes such high rates of crime, drugs and violence in the first place.
It was then that I decided an infomercial on the Nutribullet—a revolutionary new kitchen tool that unleashes hidden nutrition inside food—was more intellectual and entertaining.
I’m not sure how we got to this point in our country. As a kid I was taught to accept personal responsibility. It feels like a very American thing to me. If you make a mistake, own up to it.
So how come when we talk about the trauma of minority communities…everything is our fault? On matters of race, gender, sexuality or teen fiction, we’re always quick to redistribute blame. We throw out clichés like “It takes two to tango” or “I think we could all learn from this lesson” or “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Redistributing blame! That’s like the socialist form of finger pointing.
Blaming Blacks and African Americans for misfortune that befalls them…
Is like blaming women for getting raped, assaulted, harassed, and catcalled.
Imagine if the man had said “The rapist could have shown more restraint and probably needs better training, but let’s examine why feminism causes women to get raped.” In fact, you don’t have to imagine it, because people have actually said this.
Is like blaming veterans for being unemployed, homeless, or for struggling with mental health and well-being.
Imagine if the man had said “America could have done more to support our troops, but let’s examine why ‘military culture’ causes veterans to be unemployed and homeless in the first place.” No one says this. Ever! The mere idea is laughable. You’d probably get punched in the face by someone.
Is like blaming Japanese-Americans for their own internment.
Imagine if the man had said “The US Government could have shown better judgment, but let’s examine why Japanese culture caused Japanese-Americans to be interned. They should stop being so passive!”
Is like blaming turtles for being an endangered species.
Imagine if the man had said “Human beings could respect to wildlife more, but let’s examine how turtles failed to use natural selection to their advantage.”
It’s not like turtles are just walking around thinking “Man, I been alive a long time,” a giant tortoise lives a hundred years, “I wish someone would just exploit me. I’m ready to sleep now.”
Is like blaming the Earth for allowing humans to bomb it.
Imagine if the man had said “Humans could have done more to address climate change, but let’s examine why the Earth gave us uranium and plutonium in the first place. I mean, what else we were supposed to do with it? Make batteries?”
Is like blaming the 13 Districts for always sending tributes to the annual Hunger Games.
Imagine if the man had said “The Capitol could have given the 13 Districts the right to vote, but let’s examine why their culture caused them to lose the war and be enslaved.”
No! It’s the Capitol’s fault! Katniss understands it. And so does Peeta. And most of the United States gets it too; especially if you’re an adult between the ages of 18 and 34!
The Capitol created an oppressive system which forces each district to send two tributes each year to fight to the death. It’s not like the children do it willingly—except in District 2, whose tributes actually do volunteer, but you get the point.
Going back to what’s happening in Ferguson and New York, we, society at large, need to stop blaming people for their own tragedy. We have a bad habit and history of focusing blame on the people who suffer from injustice, rather than critically examining, and holding accountable, the perpetrators of injustice.
And I use the term perpetrators loosely; to also include systems and institutions that contribute to prejudice, biases and oppression. We must acknowledge these social problems at the level in which they exist, otherwise our solutions will continue to be haphazard and ineffective.
Imagine telling every woman to wear a body camera when they walk down the street. “Because men will be nicer when they know they’re being recorded.” Seriously? Have you watched a football game lately?
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