People love to project blame onto victims. Part of this is because, while we can’t always control how others treat us, we can control our own actions. Regardless, reattributing blame, or trying to share blame between two parties, minimizes the severity of the action. It makes it, on some levels, okay.
There’s been a lot of this on social media. From victims of racial profiling, sexual assault/harassment, and idea theft, too many people are blaming the victim to various degrees and it’s misplaced. Here’s two reasons why blaming “both sides” or the victim is misplaced.
It’s About Entitlement & Perpetuating Entitlement
When a person gropes another or makes sexually explicit comments without the other party’s permission it comes from a place of entitlement.
When a cop or white person questions a Black person about what they are doing, demanding identification and proof, it comes from a place of entitlement.
When a a person or group steals an idea, art, or any other creation it comes from a place of entitlement.
In the first one, it is usually a man who, thanks to society, education and upbringing, has been taught that their value is higher than a woman’s. They are taught that women exist solely for the pleasure of men. When you try and blame a victim, you reinforce this belief that the man, because of how the woman talked, danced, was dressed, was within their right to assault or harass the woman.
In the second, when a cop, white person, or person of color approaches a Black person demanding, however politely, answer to questions and you go “why didn’t they just answer”, you perpetuate the belief that only group A are entitled to ask questions and everyone else, group B, is required to answer them.
When a white person is stopped by the police and refuses to answer questions or show identification, it rarely escalates to the point where 6 more cops are called and the threat of violence is in the air. Because white people have the right to refuse.
However, a Black person is not allowed to without repercussions. There has to be a dehumanizing punishment to remind them of “their place” and when you use that worn excuse to justify their treatment, you are saying the same thing.
When a company, individual or group steals a creation of another, it comes from that same place. They feel, because of where they rank in this society in regards to fame and money, that they are untouchable and can take what they want. They crush the unknown or aspiring because they want to and because they can. Because they believe they have the right to and every time you blame the victim for speaking up you make it clear that you believe this too.
No one has the right to demand answer from someone just because the person they’re questioning isn’t white. No one has the right to touch another person without their verbal permission. And no one has the right to steal a creation you put your heart and time into just because they want it.
Our Way Is The Old Way
Another tired excuse is the, “this is the way it’s been done”.
For groping and assault or harassment, the version men use is the “I was brought up during [insert decade] and it was a different time”.
For racial profiling it’s pretty much the same. It’s not profiling it’s just, “the way we’ve always done it and crime is low here because we do this”.
For stealing a work it’s the, “all companies and groups do it and we’ve all had it happen and I didn’t complain”.
Again, we shift the blame from the person responsible to the victim and “time”. This mentality is only comforting in its familiarity. Most people are scared of change and this mindset cripples positive change. This is the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
But change never came with a shrug of the shoulders and an “oh well, it is what it is” attitude. With this, there would’ve been no affirmative action. No civil rights movement. No desegregation. No end to slavery. No women’s rights. No workplace laws protecting employees. No LGBTQ rights. No fights for better schooling for our children. And the list goes on.
Rewire your thinking from, “this is the way things are” to “does it have to be this way?”
The people who don’t believe things have to stay the same are the ones who are going to make all our lives better. With our help. They understand their value as a human being even if you don’t. They understand we are all worth something.
Rather than blaming a person for speaking out against racism, sexual harassment or idea theft at work, encourage them and more to come forward. Don’t tell them that, for the sake of money, they should’ve given up a vital part of themselves. Don’t threaten them with being blacklisted because they spoke out.
If the brightest and best of us avoided working with or dealing with companies, groups, politicians who don’t want positive change, change would inevitably come regardless because without our support, without our silence, without our complicity, they would cease to exist.
We, as a whole, outnumber them. Their power lies in our fear of the unknown, our fear of change, our fear of stepping out of the crowd alone.
There are people already risking so much for themselves and us because they believe in a better way.
Let’s take that step forward with them.