Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2008

Some too quick to wear ‘victim hat’

June 22, 2008


Someone is going to think this column is racist.

That person - he or she will be white - will be unable to point to so much as a semicolon that suggests I believe in the native superiority of my, or any other, race. Rather, the accusation will be based in the fact that the column discusses race, period.

It's a phenomenon I've seen many times, most recently when a friend of mine told me that a friend of hers regards me as racist because I write about race. To which I gave my standard answer: If that's how it works, I'll start writing about money. Then I'll be a billionaire.

I offer the foregoing as a gesture of solidarity with a California elementary school teacher who wrote to ask my opinion of two incidents that happened in her class.

In the first, a white boy - we'll call him Bobby - disagreed with a black boy. The black boy, who had been explaining something about his family to the teacher, told Bobby he would not understand because he was white. Bobby said this was racist.

In the second, Bobby complained that a classmate had called him a white boy. The classmate was a white girl. Bobby said she was racist.

For those of you playing along at home, here are two salient facts: 1) according to his teacher, Bobby frequently complains about racism against white kids; 2) 85 percent of the students at the school are white kids.

So, what do I think?

I think Bobby is troublingly eager to wear what I call the "victim hat," i.e., to be the one who gets to declare himself morally affronted, the one whose hurt feelings we are obligated to assuage, the one whose complaints we are required to listen to. In this, he is an accurate reflection of the nation in which he is coming of age. He is learning what we have taught.

The need, the abject "eagerness," of some white people to wear the victim hat is something I have noted with alarm in recent years. They are motivated, I think, by the fact that some black people make wearing the victim hat look like so much fun. Meaning that African-America has too often cried "racism" reflexively, refusing, where perceived racial insult is concerned, to differentiate between the profound and the petty. We cry racism when the justice system is unjust or a Don Imus spews vitriol. Unfortunately, we also cry it when a Michael Jackson gets hauled up on charges of child molestation or a white bureaucrat uses the unfortunate, but inoffensive, word "niggardly."

If you are white, I suspect, you get tired of being on the receiving end, especially when much of what is called racism plainly is not. You figure two can play at this game and besides, you wouldn't mind being the one catered to for a while. So you grab the victim hat and, like Bobby, present yourself as mortally wounded by "racism" against you.

The problem with that is, if you represent 85 percent of the playground, no other group can organize to deny you access to the swings. Granted, they might call you names and I don't condone or minimize that. But there is a qualitative difference between suffering only that and suffering that plus exclusion from the swings. There is racism and there is racism, if you catch my drift.

And Bobby? I wish his black classmate had phrased his observation more tactfully, although since we're talking about kids, I understand why he did not. Still, Bobby is ultimately a "victim" only of his desire to be a victim.

I don't blame him for that. I blame us, his elders, for lacking the ability, the willingness, the vocabulary and the guts to talk about race frankly and intelligently. Some of us think talking about race equals racism, others cry "racism!" with spasmodic frequency, and yet others fight for their turn to wear the victim hat.

In short, we act like children.

Bobby, at least, has an excuse for that.

- Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


Brent Garner 9 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Pitts,You make a very valid point. Minority groups in this country have played the "race" card too often. Many times where "race" has nothing to do with anything. But the comment from Bobby's black schoolmate that the fact that he, Bobby, was white, he would not be able to understand, is racist. I am a middle aged white guy and I grow tired, very tired, of being accused of being a racist. I have never done anything racist in my life, yet constantly I am affronted by those locally and in the news who tell me that simply by being white I am a racist. Let me assure you that racism, and by this we really mean discrimination, knows no color boundary. I have had first hand experience with this. In 1992, as the military was being reduced by 1/3rd as directed by Congress I was teaching AFROTC at the University of Kansas. My position was eliminated by this reduction in force and it became quickly apparent that I would be forced out of the USAF. I began looking for work. There was a position available in a department on campus that I thought looked promising. A member of our AFROTC unit had previously left the USAF and was now a member of that department. So, seeking information I called him. This person had always been a straight shooter. He always told me the truth. If he said something was so, it was so. I knew I could rely on anything he told me. Sadly, he told me to not even bother applying. Why? He told because I was neither black nor female, my application would be ignored or passed over. Needless to say I was stunned. Also, needless to say, I did not bother applying. So, Mr. Pitts, Bobby may have a point. He may have a point, sad as it may be.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

While both of those posters have been kicked off of here under various monikers, beatrice, they are not the same poster. Right-thinker's posts were generally pretty odious, but unlike restorereason/Kevin, he at least occasionally displayed a sense of humor.

Godot 9 years, 10 months ago

The message here is that one little white boy is a whiner. Once upon a time, that disagreement would have been handled on the playground, little man against little man.My question is, why would an elementary school teacher write to Pitts for advice about handling a disagreement between and black boy and a white boy? I think she is the one with the problem.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

"A classic example of creating controversy where there is none."The controversy is very real, and merely noted by Pitts. If you don't believe me, just watch this thread.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

"My question is, why would an elementary school teacher write to Pitts for advice about handling a disagreement between and black boy and a white boy?"Likely because she respects his opinions.

oldvet 9 years, 10 months ago

"...some black people make wearing the victim hat look like so much fun"If by "some" you mean "many" than you have chosen the right word... led by the likes of Rev. Wright, Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton and many other leaders of the black community who scream "racism" at any offense, real or perceived, and then wonder why we ignore the real ones because they scream it every time...

beatrice 9 years, 10 months ago

Jimbo, you missed the fact that bozo is aware that "RestoreReason" is likely a longtime poster here who has been kicked off several times under different names. Under the name "Rightthinker," on at least one occassion he even quoted from and posted a link to a white supremacist site to support his racist views. Under his recent name, he has already posted almost 200 messages in less than two weeks. The guy is a plague to these boards and will no doubt get bumped again before too long. Do you think someone who would quote from and provide a link to a racist hate-group's website might possibly have racist views himself? Though many may not want to hear about, racism does exist in America.

SouthernBelle 9 years, 10 months ago

I agree. It is frustrating to automatically be categorized as a racist simply because I am white and "could never understand". I am sick of the race card.

manplanner 9 years, 10 months ago

I don't get it. This article seems very arbitrary and anecdotal if you ask me. A classic example of creating controversy where there is none.

Robert bickers 9 years, 10 months ago

Bozo: I think you missed the intentional irony of reason's comment.I actually agree with Pitts on this one. Where's my winged bacon?

sdinges 9 years, 10 months ago

You have a problem with Bobby, but not with this other kid's inane "You'll never understand because you're not black" response. No one will ever understand and no problem will ever be solved unless people respond intelligently to debate and criticism. You really think "White people can never understand, so why bother trying to breach this divide" is an appropriate and constructive response?Bobby might be a whiner, but you can pretty much guarantee he'll never try to understand "black issues" because of scenarios like this. If the teacher had encouraged these two kids to talk it out, she might have actually accomplished something.

beatrice 9 years, 10 months ago

bkgarner: "I am affronted by those locally and in the news who tell me that simply by being white I am a racist."Really? This happens to you? Please direct me to a single instance of this happening ... to you ... personally. You see, I too am white, yet I do not feel as if I am called racist in the news. I do, however, recognize that there are aspects of our society that favor whites with far greater regularity than they favor blacks. These are sometimes demonstrated or highlighted in the news as a means of pointing out inequality in our society, but rarely is it directed at the individual, much less you personally. In the story of your job, it sounds to me like you didn't apply for a position and then blamed others for your not being granted or simply given the position over another. Your assertion that it was to go to a woman or a black suggests that neither candidate could possibly have been as qualified as you, which is something you couldn't know. Instead of looking within for not going for and getting the job you desired, it sounds like you want to play the race card yourself. It is "their" fault, not mine. Studies have shown that among job applicants with identical qualifications, the person with the "white" sounding name will be called for an interview far more frequently than the person with the "black" name. This apprehension of a "black" or "foreign" name is the basis for the racism of those who insist on inserting Barack Obama's middle name every chance they get. It has nothing to do with his views or qualifications, but with the racist fears the writer intends to stir up in others. So yes, I am sure the "racist card" is often played when direct racism wasn't a factor, but in America today racism still is a factor in many parts of our society. To deny this is to deny reality.

situveux1 9 years, 10 months ago

It's too bad Pitts couldn't bring himself to come right out and say that a black kid telling a white kid he wouldn't understand because he's not black was racist. It sounds like he thinks this from the column, but he never comes right out and says it.It's also too bad that Pitts couldn't discuss the downfalls of playing the 'race card' when it was being played by blacks., like Jesse Jackson et al. Instead, he has to wait until a school teacher emails him about a little kid crying racism before he can discuss it? If playing the race card unnecessarily is bad, then it ought to be bad every time, and he should have discussed this long ago. He's had many opportunities to do so.It's too bad he couldn't stand up to the national leaders who play the race card and instead has to find some no-name school kid to be able to do it.

beatrice 9 years, 10 months ago

bozo, you mean there is more than one? Yikes. Well, I guess for every Timothy McVeigh there is also a Terry Nichols.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

It's not rocket science, Godot. Kevin is easy to spot (he doesn't try much to hide it,) and he was never RT.BTW, I've never asked for anyone to get bounced, or even have a post deleted. Are you finding it that difficult to argue your perspective that you need to have me bounced?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

Hey, BG, maybe we should just start calling you Bobby.

Godot 9 years, 10 months ago

If Bozo were on the staff of the JWonline, or close to someone who is, it would explain so many things.

Godot 9 years, 10 months ago

Does Bozo work for the JW? Otherwise, how does She/He/It know the identity of new posters? And isn't against the JW rules to identify users?Bozo needs to be bounced.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure you'd be pleased of there were no posters here who don't share your party line, Godot.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

"It's too bad Pitts couldn't bring himself to come right out and say that a black kid telling a white kid he wouldn't understand because he's not black was racist. It sounds like he thinks this from the column, but he never comes right out and says it."If this is the message you got, then you didn't understand the main point of the column at all. While he may not have approved of what the black kid said, his entire point was that it still wasn't "racist."

Godot 9 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, your post, assuming your were right about Kevin, violated the JW rules. period.

bearded_gnome 9 years, 10 months ago

pitts' ref to 85% and 15% for defining racism is completely useless and meaningless. yes, I've been the victim of racism. the racism of blacks, who assumed that becausse I am white, I am racially prejudiced, that I am exploiting blacks. pitts', as usual misses the most important point in his essay. assuming I am racially prejudiced because I am white is a race-based prejudice itself. it wouldn't be tolerated in this society if it were reversed! somehow, it is okay if blacks promulgate this prejudice? barry h. obama threw his grandmother under the bus in his alleged "race speech." yet, he sat under bigoted rev. wright for 20 years, he and his wife gave tens of thousands of dollars to that church which teaches from james Cone's theology of black liberation theology "kill the white oppressor." and, bea, you are full of it once again. we have always referred to our presidents by their three names, or in the case of #41, four names. now, we have a guy running, the least qualified candidate ever to run, and his supporters say we have to change the rules about his middle name? riiiiight. assuming that I refer to his middle name in a racist name is falling into the same race-based prejudiced view I described at the beginning of this post. and, the circle has now been closed.

situveux1 9 years, 10 months ago

So if I were to say to you, you don't understand because your black and I'm white and you'll never understand me because I'm white...that's not racist? Believing another person of a different color will never understand you, just because their skin is a different color...that's not racist? Tell me, what is racist then?If I'll never understand simply because someone is black...then we really do have a problem. And if folks can't come out and say that's not true, that just because someone has a different skin color doesn't mean we can't understand each other and get along, then we have an even bigger problem.And bozo's like yourself advocating that position, well...

Brent Garner 9 years, 10 months ago

beatrice:You missed the point, so perhaps I shall elucidate a bit more. You see, the former USAF member working in that office was black. I had great respect for him. He was well educated, holding 2 master's degrees. He was honest. I had contacted him to find out more about the job. That was when he dropped the bomb shell on me. What my former USAF friend was telling me was that it would not matter how well qualified I was. I would not be considered because I was not one of two favored groups: blacks and women. Inasmuch, as I stated in my post, that he had always been truthful with me I saw no point in wasting my time since, based on what he told me, my application would not be considered fairly. And, yes, I consider that discriminatory.I have also, here in wonderfully "progressive" Lawrence, been called a racist for simply disagreeing with someone. It has happened numerous times. Usually the other person is black. If I challenge what they say, I am often called a racist. The premise being that since they said it, whatever it is they said, must be true. It makes it very difficult to discuss matters with such closed minded individuals. Finally, how should I respond or feel when the likes of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton and others run to places like Jena, LA to protest what they call racism. Is it too unkind to recall the Tawana Brawley situation as an example? Perhaps you have forgotten that one. Please note that the grand jury who investigated concluded that Ms. Brawley fabricated the story. Also, please note, that when Mr. Sharpton and others, then accused the DA of racism and being a joint perpetrator they were sued successfully and forced to pay. Yet, Sharpton, and others like him, continue to spew the word Racism whenever there is a black person involved. So, since you seem to be so enlightened, tell me how I am supposed to feel about that?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

"If Bozo were on the staff of the JWonline, or close to someone who is, it would explain so many things."Then you're still looking for whatever explanation you think you need.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 10 months ago

Brent,Have you been unemployed ever since, and if so, is it because a woman or a minority always got the job you wanted?

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