Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Victimology Game

"You running and you running but you can't runaway from yourself.." ~~~Bob Marley~~

I recently saw a 2004 article from the National Review while googling "black bloggers" on the web. The article was by some guy named Dan LeRoy and it was basically a praise job of conservative and right of center black bloggers. No problem with that, if you know anything about me you will know that I encourage opposite points of views on damn near everything. One of my favorite writers on the net is a guy named Cobb, a conservative from the left coast. I met the guy, and I found him to be a decent person who really cares about his race. So I totally embrace the notion that black folks aren't monolithic, and it really bothers me when right wing black folks try to imply that their voices are being drowned out by those of us with dissimilar views.

The language that these right wing black folks use to describe other blacks who are to the left of them always pisses me off as well. They throw around words like "defeatist", "victimology", and "victimhood". And they swear that left wing progressive black folks always play that role. Personally, I am tired of hearing it, and my question to them would be this: Is someone being defeatist if they want black people to work harder and be more self sufficient? Are they playing the victim role if they want white America to be accountable for past injustices to their ancestors and older family members? Are they succumbing to victimology, if unlike their right wing brothers, they don't want to depend on the majority population and the crumbs from their table? I don't think so. And I don't think it's playing the victim role at all to demand accountability from a country that claims to be the greatest democracy on earth.

Black conservatives remind me of a girl I dated once.(Stay with me on this analogy) She was from a very poor family; single mother, brother doing hard time, older siblings on welfare, the whole nine. On the other hand, she was a hard worker, did very well in school, and ultimately ended up getting a law degree and working for a very large law firm. Girlfriend got hers and never looked back. She was always admonishing me for caring so much about black causes and things that effect black folks. She said it's because I never had it as hard as she did so I could never understand the hard work that it took to get out of her condition. "No" she said "If those other black folks want to make it they can. Just like I did, look at my family and what I made of myself; what's stopping them from doing the same thing"? And I always tell her; "the same thing that could have stopped you. They didn't have an even playing field from the jump, you were lucky because you just happen to be an extra hard worker". Of course our relationship didn't last too long. Too many fights, and too much of me pulling her back into something she just wanted to get away from. I think that's how right wing black folks see us, and thus the victimology tag. Most of them, I suspect, come from circumstances where their families had some serious struggles, and some people would have considered them victims, (look at Clarence Thomas) and like Catholic alter boys, they are trying to suppress those bad memories. That's why when field Negroes like yours truly comes along to remind them what and where they are running from, it really pisses them off.

So no my conservative black friends I am not a victim, and neither are you. But our ancestors and those who came before us were, and America still suffers from its effects. Actually, I take that back, we are all victims; not just right and left wing black folks, but until we get this shit right; you can include everyone else in America as well.


Mega Rich said...

Ion kno' about this one my brother from the field. On the one hand I'd like to think it's a choice. Either you want to make it or you don't. My daddy talked about the white man, d'em crackers as he called them, at length when I was growing up, but I decided not to let the white man be a factor. I feel that ultimately we all have been given the power to excel.

Then on the flip side I know that the mental oppression that exists is real and not always easy to come up from under.

As I said at the onsight, I'm not sure how I feel, but I will say this. Slavery did a number on us my brother. So, much so, that if some of us (not me) could, we'd wash the black, brown, tinted hue right out of our skin if we could. So it's like you said, we are all victims on some level because race shapes our outlook in one form or the other.

Anonymous said...


That mental slavery is a hard one to both recognize, and to get over.

I freely admit it's been a journey for me to get over my ignorance and start to break that "rusty cage".

Presently, my wife and I are seriously planning having a kid. And I am seriously thinking about an overseas assigment. I don't want my kid to grow up with the baggage I and most of our people carry. I can't help but think that there are less mentally toxic environments with which to raise a black child.

My parents were great, and I am wildly successful. However, I can't help but wonder how much further my progeny could go without the psycological bonds and stigma that come with being african american.

Maybe it's just me....

-Caged Lion

Anonymous said...

Let me clarify. It's not being of african heritage that is the problem, but being raised in american cultural environs.

-Caged Lion

Anonymous said...

Caged Lion-

I'm a well-traveled white guy, let me give you some advice: London.

If you were Pakistani I'd tell you never to go there, but London is the closest I've seen of white and black people living in relative harmony, intermarrying freely and all, in a developed society.

Paris; no way. South Africa the same. And I've met black guys over in China on business who tell me the Chinese look at them like they're space aliens. But London, if you can swing it, is the best I've seen.

Unless you're a South Asian, then avoid it like the plague.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and I just thought of another one. And this may throw you, Caged Lion, because we Americans often overlook it: Toronto.

I knew this one black guy from work who was from Detroit. He told me every time he crossed the border it felt like a weight came off of him.

And don't laugh; Americans always laugh when I tell them Toronto is a world-class city. It is! It really is, and more ethnically diverse than you could possible imagine.

Only problem; the cold.

Anyways, not trying to be obnoxious w/unsolicited advice. But that's just what I've observed from my travels.

Liz said...

That whole victim mentality thing is just verbiage designed to keep us from really addressing the issues. And if we're victims, what the hell are my victims rights? Do I get free therapy or something so I can heal from the trauma?

My family lived in Montreal when I was little and my mom loved it because she said it was the first time in her whole life that she didn't feel the overt weight of racism. When I lived in China, yes, I was looked at like an alien. But I didn't mind as much as when I get those looks know the, "I can't believe she's fly, black and articulate" looks.

Anonymous said...

FN, I think you're being far too easy on them. That "defeatist" and "victimology" language is exactly the same up-is-down, day-is-night bs that white rightists use on black folk. It's language that is meant to obfuscate, frustrate, and destroy. Given that, they are the enemy, and should be treated as such. It's a serious mistake not to treat them as the enemy.

field negro said...

Jimbo, I am feeling you on London (great city) but as Jamaican (the British colonized my people) I just couldn't set up roots in England. Still, I feel you on the tolerance thing. I also co-sign with you about Canada, I have mad love for those people up there.(Liz is right about Montreal) Although I suspect that it's one of those nice places to visit deals. I am sure they have their share of the bull shit as well.

Damn "caged lion" looks like you will just have to teach the little one that no matter where they are they will just have to stay strong, and keep a strong sense of self worth.

anon., I know I was somewhat soft in that post on conservatives, but I am trying to be a kinder more gracious field this week ;)

Symphony said...

Its the same mentality they have that tries to say if black people demand something they are asking for a handout.

NRA, corporate America, evangelical Christians, Jewish groups, etc can all hold their vote in one hand and ask, "What do I get?" to politicians. And its called the political game.

Black people do it and we're whining asking for a handout.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Liz is right: "That whole victim mentality thing is just verbiage designed to keep us from really addressing the issues."

Blacks ARE victims in America, but one strategy that whites have found to discourage us from pointing this out is ridiculing the idea that anyone can be a victim of anyone else's behavior. Since they can't prove that we are NOT victims, they try to make the word "victim" a pejorative word. If they succeed in convincing American that victimhood itself doesn't exist, then they can create victims by the thousands and have no fear of being called "victimizers."

This is a rhetorical boon for white men in many ways, because white men have also been found responsible for abusing their wives, and girlfriends, raping and date-raping women. But, now that the word "victim" has itself become suspect, white men can continue this behavior without fear that anyone will say they are the "victims" of this behavior. So, date rape and rape and spousal abuse become victimless crimes, rhetorically.

Is your water polluted. Stop the victimology!

Were you denied a job because of the color of your skin? Stop playing the victim!

Stop "whining."

Did strangers drag you behind a pickup truck? Stop playing the victim role!

Mega said, "I can't help but think that there are less mentally toxic environments with which to raise a black child."

Since I live in a less toxic environment, in Brazil, I can tell you that your suspicions are correct. I've been to seventeen countries and I have never experienced the anti-Black toxicity anywhere else that I have experienced in the United States of America.

(But, there is a little hamlet in the South of Chile, about twenty minutes drive from "Villa Rica," that is populated by Nazis who fled Germany after the Second World War. In that little town, I remember feeling the same looks of hate and deprecation that I often feel from whites in the United States.)

When a cat is pregnant, it seeks out a safe and quite place to give birth and raise its kittens, right? If Blacks were seeking a safe and quiet place to raise their children, is there any way that they would choose the United States?

We couldn't be any less safe in the US if they tattooed bull's eyes on our children's backs in the maternity ward.

mark said...

"I don't think so. And I don't think it's playing the victim role at all to demand accountability from a country that claims to be the greatest democracy on earth."

mark bey: Amen. All of us should be accountable for our actions, especially those who grow rich and fat on the backs of others.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...


You have to read "Supreme Discomfort; The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas", because while the authors tried their best to make Clarence a sympathetic "victim of race and circumstance", the facts they discovered through their research forced them to tell it like it is about Clarence.

He is still insecure about being named to the Supreme Court to succeed Thurgood Marshall because he knows he's not as qualified as Marshall was - yet those facts also piss him off and that's partly why he rules on civil rights and affirmative action issues the way he does.

The book made him sound like your ex-girlfriend. It is the same reason I'm not with the guy I was dating, too.

Brother makes over six figures and is well connected here in DC. But he figures that if he could pull himself up by the bootstraps, any one can.

I kept pointing out how the system facilitates our "victimhood" and leaves us with no boots with bootstraps upon which we can pull ourselves up.

I was taught that if you succeeded, you kicked that door open for someone to come behind you. Those who want to come through the doors you open, they will, and they will also pay it forward to the next person.

Those who don't want to come through the doors of opportunity, you leave them where they are until they get tired of being "sick and tired".

If you want to help people pick themselves up by their bootstraps, give them some damned boots, first.

Brother man couldn't understand that, and said he couldn't be with me because I was a "bleeding heart liberal".

Of course, he was the guy who might see a homeless guy on fire and would cross the street to keep from pissing on him to help put the fire out.

mark said...

Yo Field I just wanted to tell you that your arch enemy LaShawn was on news and note with Fariah Chydeya along with some other bloggers she actually said something that was making sense although the coon was still shinning through bright and clear.

This interview was from the bloggers round table on News and Notes I heard one with Cobb here is the interview with LaCoon .

Field I suspect you will be contacted at some point to participate in one of their round tables. You are well respected around the Net my philly brotha. Much love from this blogger in DC. Mark

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Jimbo. I have heard that England is just as bad as the States.

I have been to China several times, and know that stares there stem from unfamiliarity, not hostility. There is racism there, but the anti-black sentiment can't hold a candle to the near-perfected brand in the US.

-Caged Lion

Anonymous said...

Jimbo here. Yeah Caged Lion, I should qualify my statement about England: I'm not counting the Jamaicans in the estates. I know that's wrong, but I stand by what I said. It's all relative, but compared to the states, I saw a thriving black middle class, and I DO look at interracial marriage as a barometer of society's tolerance. No one is going to tell me that based on what I saw over there, they are not a more mature society.

Only place I've been in the states with anywhere near a healthy, robust black middle class is Atlanta.

As for China, when I was there they were only used to seeing white men in the context of old white guys skeezin' after young Chinese women. A young white guy would throw them; walking around EVERYONE would look at me... I remember a bus driving by and 50 pairs of eyes fixated on me at once.

And it's just what you said; not once did any of those stares indicate hostility, just bemusement.

Still, the black businessperson I spoke to said he was treated badly. I don't know if it was a case of what happened to me happened to him, but he couldn't distinguish or contextualize, or something else.

Yeah, Montreal. America's best city that no one knows. Hell, maybe I'll move there.

Anonymous said...

London is no Mecca,
Yes there is interracial marriage between black and white, but that alone does not equal harmony. What kind of jobs do blacks have in London. They are not moving up in society and most often the idea of claiming their blackness is submerged in the racial monolith of just being British. They are actually tracking black men and boys in England on a database through the school system. The black crime rate and out of wedlock births match the U.S. Take off the rose colored glasses about black life and interracial love in London. Who do you see on TV over there?

Myclette the Cocoa Goddess said...

Ah, Field Negro your ex-girlfriend analogy was a good one. Some people truly have the mentality of, "If I can do it, anyone can do it." They rarely see that they are viewing people and situations with a very narrow, yet convenient scope. When you use yourself as a measuring stick it's hard to see why others don't measure up.

I may not get to visit your spot often, but I'm always impressed with what I see when I do. Keep giving us that daily dose of reality!

Anonymous said...

The conservatives and GOP have really gotten their mileage out of the "victimization"soundbite, that one and its cousins culture of victimization, political correctness, and others

The GOP and the wingnuts are doing nothing more that playing the blame game to avoid being called out for being the race baiters and racial whore that they truly are.

It is really amazing how many republicans from the 80's now openly admit that they did not care for attacting black voters or were willing to use negative racial stereotypes to attract white voters. They now have admited to being successfull at the cost or polarizing he country.

fairlane said...

It's Stockholm Syndrome.

The captives identifying with and defending their captors.

I never got this "work hard" crap. I know many people who work their asses off white, black, red, whatever and they never get anywhere.

Personally I think it's a load of shit. I have two degrees and I'm still treading water.

What the hell are we working so hard to get anyway?

A Benz, a big house, dinner with the Bush's?

I look at these so-called "successful" people and every damn one of them looks miserable.

Does Clarence Thomas look or sound like a happy man?

Victims? We're all victims, and if we don't do something soon, and I mean real soon, it's only going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

"Take off the rose colored glasses about black life and interracial love in London. Who do you see on TV over there?"

No rose coloured glasses here, anonymous. Every society has problems, and unfortunately, let's be honest, blacks shoulder a disproportionate burden in the majority of developed societies. So a black man poses the question of where in the industrialized world to best raise his black child is comparing a series of imperfect choices. But some are better than others, and London is better than where I'm at. Others: would you want to be in Paris? Shunt you off in the banlieue, stringing you along with with just enough social support to keep you from going destitute but not enough to feel 'really' French? Or how about Australia? They were kidnapping Aboriginal kids up until the 1970's, dude. They even call the ethnic whites 'wogs' down there.

All I'm saying is, Britain and Canada are farther along on the scale, not that they've reached any endpoint. Don't conflate everything I say with the lazy racism-is-dead complacency we hear all the time. This white boy gets it; racism is alive and well.


Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Christian Progressive Liberal said...


I know my ex looks very miserable, despite the six figure salary and the stick insect women he thinks he's supposed to be seen with in order to fit in with the elitist crowd.

If you want to see how "successful" pulling up by the bootstraps work, mix in that crowd for dinner just once. You will see every figment of debauchery in the way of group sex orgies, alcoholism, drug abuse (the finest their money buys), domestic abuse and partner swapping like you change your underwear.

I think Liz said upthread that to use yourself as a measuring stick does narrow the focus and the standards upon which to measure actual success. Like you, I have two degrees, working on a third because I've gotten all the milage I could out of the first two (think Hummer gas milage), and was given the choice to continue treading water or go for that third degree to get ahead.

What I'm seeing is that when too many African-Americans start showing up in eschelons where we're historically never seen, the establishment raises the bar. What you used to get with a Bachelor's doesn't cut it - you need a Master's Degree; and when too many of us get Master's degrees, the system upgrades to demanding PhD's.

When we understand that sometimes, it's not the person, but the establishment continuing to raise the bar for achievement, then we can get stratigic about how we deal with it, and not only that, we teach the generation coming after us how to deal as well. That's the only way we reduce our "victimhood", by pointing out the distinction between what we can do about our circumstances, and what is stacked against us.

We have the "race card" but let's not forget who brought the cards to the game and who's doing the dealing.

Hathor said...

What you need to remind people that, if you got that job or promotion, someone else did not. Quite of bit of pulling ones self up by their boots straps has to do with luck. Use their terminology, making the right choices doesn't always guarantee the right outcome.

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