Thursday, April 12, 2012

Victim Mentality may be Limiting Your Potentential

VERY CONTROVERSIAL POST! Please read some or all of these articles before you read this post so that you don't get unnecessarily upset. Thank you. 
Victim mentality (great!)
The victim mentality (great!)
How to break out of the victim mentality: 7 powerful steps
Victim mentality (very good)
Victim mentality
Overcome victim mentality
Avoiding victim mentality (harsh but true)
Racism and the Myth of Victim Mentality by Tim Wise. While I agree with some of it I also disagree with some of it probably because the examples were so simplified. Of course it is necessary to talk to Black people about racism and warn them about it. But it can be harmful for a person to look at photos of lynchings, read hate literature, or read detailed descriptions of slaves being tortured and raped. Those things can permanently change the way a person views the world. Constant exposure to such things can be taxing and depressing. So I believe some discussion of racism is fine and necessary like Tim Wise but I also agree with the conservatives that too much can cause victim mentality in Black people. He also ignores the scientific research behind the concept.

“If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.”
Richard Bach

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
John W. Gardner

About five years ago I bought the book "Roots" by Alex Haley at a thrift shop and I read it. It was the first Black history book I had ever read. I feel that reading it was traumatic! The detail of the horrible tortures of Kunta Kinte, his daughter Kizzie, and all of the other slaves was so awful. It was hard to imagine that anyone could be so brutal and think that they were good people at the same time. It was horrifying and I cried A LOT! It changed me and it was almost like something inside me died for about three years. After that I started reading other Black history books and became more and more angry and hopeless about the plight of Black people. I decided to stop relaxing my hair and I stopped listening to music from White musicians. I started reading Black blogs exclusively and decided I should no longer be attracted to White men and that I would only date Black men. I joined an online Black activism group where everyone constantly talked about racism and fighting "the evil White man". In school I wrote papers about racism and constantly talked about Black history and racism. I was suspicious and possibly hostile to some White people. This was because I was so angry about the injustice and I wanted someone to pay for it. When things did not go well for me in school I wondered if it was because of racism. I thought retrospectively about my life and wondered if other negative things in my life happened because of racism and just because I was Black. I thought my future goals would never actually happen because some racist would stand in my way.

Now, five years later I realize that I took on a victim mentality and this was welcomed by other people with the same mentality online. A person with a victim mentality believes that the bad things in their life happened because of other people or forces over which they have no control. They do not feel responsible for things that happen in their lives because someone else is to blame. Due to this mentality they don't feel the need to change anything about themselves or do anything different other than focusing on the person who victimized them. Prior to this unhappy time I wasn't very happy and I did have some victimization beliefs but at the same time I was high achieving and I worked hard for what I wanted. So I had internal motivation, the external motivation of my parents, and some beliefs that I was "cursed" and that life was just harder for me. My Black history immersion, constant reading of Black activism blogs, and frequent online interactions with other people with victim mentalities threw me over the edge. It was fortunate for me that I didn't totally sabotage myself by ruining relationships with all the White people I knew by starting arguments or accusing people of racism when there was none. I'm glad I didn't decide to quit "the White man's education system", remove myself from mainstream society, and join some all-Black activist group. I left that mindset behind and I no longer feel like a victim (most of the time, I still have to watch out for it).

I think that many Black people may be sabotaging themselves because they spend so much time and energy hating White people and expecting an apology for things they are not directly responsible for. They are also too wrapped up in hopes that Black people will somehow take over and come into power the way they were in ancient Africa and somehow that will rectify past injustices. When anyone suggests things these people can do to improve their lives they say (emphatically) that "Black people have no power", "I don't have to change anything because White people caused the problem", or "our lives won't improve until White people stop being racist". This is so frustrating! Although my victim mentality was high, I still had a lot of personal agency, I made plans, worked hard, accepted setbacks, and tried again. I'm sure that these people must have some personal agency in their lives but maybe they just don't see it or want to admit it. What I want to know is if White people apologize for racism what happens then? Even if they were to give all Black Americans $1000 in reparations, what happens after that? What are you going to do then to make your life better? This blog is my way to cope with that question. White people don't have to apologize, give me reparations, or do anything before I can use my power to shape my life and live the best life I can.

Acknowledgement: I readily admit that I may be too middle class and educated/intellectual to really understand how many people are feeling about this issue. I might be "out of touch" but these are my opinions nonetheless. It may actually be helpful for others to hear how someone like me sincerely thinks and that Black people actually differ in opinion. I'm finding that I'm actually agreeing with a lot of what conservatives are saying about this issue and the progressives are looking illogical to me. I guess I have to face the sobering fact that I have always had some conservative values and although I consider myself to be a liberal, I'm becoming more conservative the older I get (*sigh*). I guess when crimes happen I don't focus on them because that's the job of the police and the courts so I don't concern myself with who did what etc. because what's the post of speculating on events that I did not witness? Instead I focus on something I find intriguing about people's behaviour (and their choices) and my reaction to that behaviour; something I can actually examine and potentially change. So here it is... I think that the public reaction to the Trayvon Martin case is maybe the largest, international instance of victim mentality I have ever witnessed! Not only are people dressing like the victim and purchasing his preferred drink and candy but they are actually saying "I am Trayvon"!!! They feel like their sons, brothers, husbands, and even themselves have been murdered or they are at risk for being murdered! Every Black man who has ever been harassed by police or treated poorly by White people is immersed in victim mentality right now. They feel as though they have been assaulted and that they are next to die! They sound very afraid, sad, worried, and helpless about protecting themselves from outside forces.

If someone suggests that these men are more likely to be shot by a Black person than a White person so why worry about White people they call that trying to ignore or excuse racism (I GUARANTEE they will say this). If you suggest maybe they should not dress like gangsters because it scares people they insist the scared people are racist and need to stop being scared. If you suggest anything that involves improving themselves they resist and insist that White people and society needs to change first. Don't even try to ask why they only get outraged after the rare instance when a White person kills a Black person and why they don't try to improve black communities to prevent Black-on-Black crime. Or that rap music has made people afraid of Black men and it makes black men look like aggressive criminals. They won't listen. Fighting racism (if that's even possible. Maybe it can be prevented in children but a true racist won't change just because their hated group tells them it's wrong) is a long-term thing but what are they going to do in the meantime? I think the answer is that they won't be doing anything different.

People are also saying that asking Black men to not dress like gangsters to avoid looking suspicious is the same as asking women to not wear short skirts to avoid getting raped. Well, part of victim mentality is feeling powerless and never looking at your own behaviour in a situation so I guess they are right. Taking on the victim role has it's advantages for people so they don't feel bad after they are victimized but unfortunately there is no place for personal responsibility or taking safety measures with this mindset. Feeling empowered that you control your life, that your power can help you overcome any bad thing that happens to you, and that you can have control of your life again also feels really good too! You have to choose whether you see yourself as having power or not and accept the consequences that choice may have for you mentally. If you want to change your victim mentality you can seek help from a professional or read articles like the ones posted above. I hope you can break out of this mindset.

Alternative views on Trayvon Martin case:
Why Geraldo was wrong for the right reasons (this what what I thought about Geraldo's comments)
Call it 'profiling' but people act on their assumptions
Geraldo and hoodies
Dissecting Geraldo Rivera's hoodie comment
How to talk to young Black boys about Trayvon Martin
Criminals give hoodies a bad rap
The hoodie: Fashion trend, criminal uniform, now symbol of social injustice
LAPD: In stores, keep hoodie on, but lower the hood


  1. For the most part, I agree with everything you wrote, and that's your opinion and of course it's perfectly fine to have your opinion, I respect that - but this is mine:

    These people aren't dressing and buying Trayvon's preferred drink and candy because they think of themselves as victims, they probably do this to pay homage to the young man.

    People are also saying that asking Black men to not dress like gangsters to avoid looking suspicious is the same as asking women to not wear short skirts to avoid getting raped.

    Something about this didn't sit right with me. While people often do (myself included), judging from first glance is wrong. The man who shot Trayvon judged him by his attire and shot him, and while people do decide what they think about you based on first looks, it won't bring that child back to life. Furthermore, my best friend was taken advantage of in jeans and a t-shirt too big for her, so the assumption that wearing less revealing clothes to avoid being raped is ludicrous. Oh, and sure, rap artists may paint this big, hardcore picture of themselves as being criminals and thugs and tough, but I don't know many people who actually, truly believe this. That's like saying white people (and black ones too) who listen to rock are devil worshipers, or they all do drugs and engage in a promiscuous lifestyle.

    I know my opinion isn't a popular one, but I just thought I'd say it ^-^

  2. If someone suggests that these men are more likely to be shot by a Black person than a White person so why worry about White people they call that trying to ignore or excuse racism (I GUARANTEE they will say this)

    I bring this up all the time. Too many of our people have the "mighty whitey" mentality when it comes to how they view white folks. I think it's sadder when blk men kill each other over the most trivial of things.

    Since Trayvon was killed, how many blk men were killed by other blk men? Why has there been nothing but silence about those blk men who were killed by other blk men?

    BTW, I love this blog. It's so fabulous thank you for giving me something worthwhile to read.

  3. Thank you for your respectful comment Risa :)

    Some people are paying homage but some really sound scared for their lives and men they know so I think that could be victimization mentality and they feel wronged any time another Black person is wronged.

    Yes, it's true that women can be assaulted no matter what they are wearing. I think though that some people will 'think' a guy who dresses like a gangster is scary and they might 'think' that a woman in a short skirt has loose morals...of course that does not excuse hurting people in either case but people need to know that others may have those thoughts.

    My point was that judging people by their clothing is pretty automatic and that thinking or saying it's wrong won't stop unconscious, rapid thoughts or protect anyone. I don't focus on whether the reaction is right or wrong only on what reaction is most likely or least likely to occur. I also consider whether behaviours are helpful or harmful to people. It is more objective and removes any moral judgement.

    Actually, I do believe that a lot of guys who look like thugs actually commit crimes because they say they do and say they went to jail. They are scary looking to me sometimes and when I see large men with hoods up (Black or White) at night, especially in a group, I am fearful. Their faces are hidden and they could do anything to me and get away with it because I would not be able to identify them. That's why banks and stores don't allow them.

    No I don't think all people who listen to rock music take drugs or are promiscuous but there are some who do and they act like they do (e.g., they look high, look unkempt, smell like pot, talk about drugs, sing about drugs, say they want to get high or talk about sleeping with a bunch of people).

    So I guess certain thoughts and stereotypes are triggered in my mind and I may have certain feelings but I don't think I have acted on them. I think that everyone has assumptions about people based on the way they are dressed but like myself, they seek confirmation and don't try to hurt anyone.

    I think that based on the studies I've read almost all adults have racist beliefs (even those who say they are not racist have shown bias on tests assessing racial bias!)but some have more than others and some discriminate based on those assumptions while others do not (to a harmful degree). For instance by not being afraid of women and children people are making assumptions that women and children are not likely to hurt them. It's just human nature not right or wrong to have any thought whatsoever.

  4. Hi Chic Noir :)

    It's reassuring to see that I'm not the only one who questions the focus of the outrage. I think it's like seeing people worrying about a rare form of cancer when they should worry and take precautions against cancers that are more common and likely to hurt them. Why focus on something rare?

    People are so stuck on pointing the finger when it won't change anything. I mean if Obama and the U.S. government apologized for slavery would that stop crime, end poverty, create jobs, or improve the education system? If not they why are they focusing so much on it right?

    I think plenty have died including children, including women and that should be the focus not a rare shooting by some crazy guy!

    Oh thank you so much I'd glad you enjoyed reading!

  5. Oh and one more comment for Chic Noir. There are Black people who do marches for Black on Black crime but the media does not cover it! That's why sometimes it seems like people don't care about it. The media pays more attention to crimes where White people or cops shoot Black people and that creates tensions and stirs people up!

    If this case blows up and causes a riot the media had a large part in that and efforts should be directed at changing the media. But since the media only cares about ratings and advertising money how will that happen? We have to stop watching and focusing on those topics but there is no way to control everyone's viewing habits. Everyone wants to do what they want to do and what they think is in their best interest :(

  6. Hello Elegance!

    Thank you for your polite answer! It was thought provoking and extremely sweet of you to respond, I understand where you're coming from, and I hope this opens some eyes.

  7. There are Black people who do marches for Black on Black crime but the media does not cover it!

    You know what, you're totally correct. There is a group of BM in Detroit who are working to clean up the streets. I saw the press confernce on YOutube. I've also seen local blk revs hold marches but like you say when it WM on BM, it gets people worked up.

  8. I think you're awesome. Very good head on your shoulders. Bravo!

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