Friday, October 26, 2018

Not Everybody Loved My Brave Magic Article Last Week – Here’s Why:




Victim

A person harmed, injured, or killed

Synonyms: Casuality, loss, loser, prey

Victimized: Singling out someone (or a group of people) for cruel and or unjust treatment.

Synonyms: To be persecuted, bullied, discriminated against, terrorized.

When we stop feeling sorry for victims it’s called Compassion Fatigue. 

Compassion fatigue is used mostly use to describe the phenomena of walking by homeless people and not breaking one’s stride or interrupting one’s cell phone conversation. It’s a numbing out, it’s also called desensitization. Many of us felt at one time or another, genuine compassion for these folks without homes.  But now because of the sheer number of homeless people, we as a society have wearily decided to turn a collective blind eye.  We no longer feel as though we have the resources or the wherewithal to continue to address the problem on a daily basis. 

Like: I hate to say it, but I’m just tired of dealing with this.

I wrote a story about an experience that I had last month about being the only black person at a 600-person retreat, called Brave Magic.  Five minutes after the story went live, comments started pouring in.  Most of the comments were positive and supportive.  Others were actual rebuttals to my essay and many of these “rebuttals” were aggressively negative.

I wrote:

“And it hadn’t even vaguely occurred to me that out of 600 people, I might be the only black one. I am more than just shocked, I am deeply saddened.”

A commenter wrote back: “This woman is playing her victim card by showing up to this event preoccupied with her race and she's complaining about having a lousy time?”


I wrote: “Really?! How is it that an event this big, in twenty fricken eighteen can be so incredibly homogenous?”

And another comment wrote: “So?  My wife and I were the only white people at an Eritrean wedding and we had a great time!”

I wrote: But in this age of “Hamilton” and inclusion riders, how could the organizers of a 600-person event have not even considered the optics and possibility of an all-white audience?

And this commenter wrote back: I’m sick of this victim mentality.  This writer is desperately seeking some way to blame racism and not just her own awkward feeling of being the only black person.”

Victim mentality?

Victim mentality: The feeling of being unfairly singled out for persecution.

At first these comments stung me.  I felt frustrated that my words and intended message were so misconstrued.  But then I read a little further and realized a deeper truth. These commenters were unable to read the words that I wrote as anything less than an indictment of the current culture of privilege in our society. It wouldn’t have mattered what I wrote in the article, because they had made up their minds that I was suffering from a “victim mentality” the moment they read the title:

I Was The Only Black Person At Elizabeth Gilbert’s And Cheryl Strayed’s Retreat

I think I get it now…

Slavery was hundreds of years ago, right?  The civil rights movement was what?  Decades ago now?  And affirmative action is currently charging colleges, universities and corporations to diversify their populations, right?  And they’re doing it, right?

They’re thinking: We’re ready to move on now, why aren’t they?

I understand that there were thousands who saw my article as a complaint, my observations as indictments.  They think that writing about being the only one who looks like me in a room of 600 people is tantamount to irresponsible whining. 

I write about what I’ve experienced and all they hear is “Oh poor me!” 

They do not know the difference between a victim and “victim mentality.”  They have not bothered to look up the definition of the word victimized.  In other words, they are ignorant (sorry, I know that word is harsh, but it’s actually quite accurate in this case).

A little education on this subject for those who don’t know or may have forgotten:  

Black people in this country have been victimized since Europeans decided that we were literally worth less than them (3/5 of a man?  Wasn’t that the math?)  -- this is a fact. Victimized, as I stated up top, means, discriminated against, bullied or terrorized. So, by this very definition, I and everyone who looks like me here in America is, in fact a victim.

But my Brave Magic piece was not written in “victimese.”

I did not write it as a victim.

I wrote it as a reporter.  I was simply reporting my observations to whoever cared to read about what was like to be me, Laura Cathcart Robbins, a black woman at an all-white event.

But I do think these comments are really just a sampling of the way so many American’s feel about all marginalized people in our country.  This whole “you guys need to just get over it” mentality has permeated our society from top to bottom.  The men and women who negged on my essay were really voicing their frustrations about having to deal with the realities of living in this “melting pot” that we call America.  They want us all to just shut up about the “past” and be grateful for where we are now (which is where exactly, by the way?). 

Well here’s something you may not know: We want to move on too.

With the exception of Kanye and a few others, most of the black people that I know don’t subscribe to the notion that America was ever great – for black people.  And we don’t have any interest at all in going back to any calendar period in American history. 

So why can’t we just forget about the past and move on?

Mainly because there are so many Americans who won’t let us.  We can’t move on because we’re still being disproportionately arrested.  We can’t move on because we’re still getting shot down in the streets and our murderers aren’t getting convicted.  We can’t move on because we are still being pulled over for driving while black, getting the police called on us for shopping, sleeping or babysitting while black. We can’t move on because our votes and voices are still being systematically suppressed.  We can’t move on because we’re still getting stared down when we enter a convenience store or asked to leave when we take too long to purchase something.

We can’t move on because in the eyes of a great many Americans, we are still worth less.

So, it’s not for lack of effort.  It’s not that we don’t want to “just move on” (believe me, we do).  But we can’t, not as long as these daily injustices continue to occur.

Anyway, I’m starting to go down a tangent hole, and I’d really like to (as my friend, Chariesse would say) “keep it classy” – so I’ll end here with this:

Victimized people do need somewhere to share their collective voices – we are all responsible for not only making sure that that space exists, but that it continues to get more expansive and inclusive.

For I believe it is then, and only then that compassion fatigue can slowly be replaced with compassion invigoration.  So, let’s keep this conversation going.  And let’s really make America great “again” – but this time for everyone.


#idontspeakvictimese.

13 comments:

  1. Love this sooooo much!!! I loved your last article and this follow up feels spot on for me. I don't want to go back to the past either, but the future isn't going to be different if we don't get intentional about changing it. I want a different future for all of us and that means I have to face the past and notice my bias'. As a white woman I can't fully comprehend the marginalization of others. No matter how hard I try, I will not get it. That is not my job anyway. My job is to listen and to get intentional about keeping compassion alive and to creating a world where we all feel we belong. That is always an inner job, but it is also an outer job. We have to walk the talk and speak up for the changes we want while also taking actions that matter. As an event host, coach and writer I can expand my focus to a greater sense of diversity awareness than I currently have. I can seek out more diverse experiences. I do this now, but I can do better and better and better. My actions can influence others. That is the power we have.

    Sorry for the ramble...

    What I really want to say is thank you. I enjoy your articles and your perspective. You are touching my life with your words.

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    1. No! Thank you for the ramble. I appreciate your POV so much and thank you for your words. THIS is the conversation I was talking about. I appreciate you.

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  2. Laura, I loved your article. It reminded me (and believe me...I need reminders. I assume we all do on occasion) that I don't always see things from the most objective perspective, and a situation that feels perfectly comfortable for me might ignite an entirely different reaction from another person...a reaction which I honestly...and I feel I have to out myself here...would never have otherwise considered -- not because I am insensitive and unwilling to see things as they are -- but because I live in my own mind, which selfishly tries to convince that what I see and experience is the only truth. I NEED articles like yours, and I'm pretty sure we all do in some form, to REMIND me to regularly consider that things are not always as they appear in my immediate field of vision. I appreciate your willingness to openly write about your discomfort so that hopefully, in the future, I will consider in various situations what others might think or feel may not legitimately coincide with things as I see them. I hope this all makes sense. You are an insightful, sensitive, talented writer and a beautiful woman inside and out. Thank you for your blog and your willingness to share your experiences and perspective. There is tremendous value in your words. Love to you always. xxx ooo

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  3. Hey Laura, Patty here. That's my comment above that begins with, "Laura, I loved your article." I guess I don't have a profile that would identify me here. Lol...

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  4. Laura, I thought I wrote a response to this a few days ago but apparently it didn't take. OK, let me try again. First of all congratulations on your writing and the fact that it's bing recognized. You are surely a wonderful writer. Along with that, in telling your unique story and your truth you are also an activist. I'm very proud of you, but know this, everyone is not going to applaud your work or even like it. And that's a good thing. It means you have touched those people deeply and upset their safety net and existence in their world. That's a good thing. If they are responding it's because you've made them uncomfortable and they need to be. That's why we write, not of the adjulations but because we have stories to tell that hopefully will give people a new way of looking at the world. Stay up, be fierce, and don't let any of that noise effect you. Just means you are doing your job. Love you.LL.

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  5. I enjoyed reading what you wrote and feel for you as a fellow writer. I would of felt the same way. There is certainly nothing wrong with acknowledging where there is a lack of diversity at an event like that. I would of expected more empathy from those who made those comments. It is they who need to get over it! I feel that type of insecurity and insensitivity has got to be curtailed. I always wonder about what the overall consensus is about diversity in America.Have we made progress or are we not much different than we were say 30 yrs ago. It makes me feel almost like I am in this west coast or left coast bubble where most feel that there should be more diversity, and racial in sensitivity is more frowned upon than say in the south or the plains states .Reading those reactions to your blog made me feel like wow! there are people out there that don't get the concept of privilege and why it exist as you stated in your response.If it were my blog I would of responded in a similar way and also requested people to not bother to comment if they only had the ability to make in sensitive comments and not be considerate of the authors viewpoint. I think their comments were to say the least tactless and down right rude. Keep on doing what you are doing. I totally support your observation.

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  7. I wanted to say thank you for the article that you wrote in Huffington post; it voiced how I've felt as an Indian woman growing up in Canada. I've also been the only woman of my colour in schools and even found myself to be the only one at various spiritual retreats. It's been difficult especially feeling so detached from activities that originate from my country of ancestry. I'm so grateful that I'm not alone in this but I am so sorry that you had to experience this once more. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your experience, it is truly appreciated.

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  8. Hi!! Loved your Huffpost article - I moved from the Caribbean to the UK many years ago and was the only black person at numerous things - like yourself I am sure throughout your life. I am now coming around to adding the words author/writer to how I think of myself, even though I am about to release my first two books! Just wanted to send you some big love from a small island (I moved back to the Caribbean - best decision ever!!) and say keep paving the way. If there is one thing I realized recently is that representation is everything. It is so important for young black women to see themselves in the places that they don't think they belong if anything is going to change.

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  9. The kind of writing that our world desperately needs now, more than ever, is writing that develops perspective in and for others. When we can actively listen to and acknowledge another's perspective we begin to develop tolerance which hopefully but not always will lead to acceptance. However, being able to acknowledge someone else's perspective relies heavily on the ability to recognize our own. We may all be living at the same time but we are, none of us, living the same life. I'm not surprised by the comments you received but in writing them, each of those people are beginning to hear their own voices; hopefully once they stop shouting, they'll be able to hear someone else's too. Your voice, Laura, is beautiful, strong, relevant, and truthful; it's a voice that needs to be heard. Please keep writing, keep speaking because when what you say elicits such strong reactions, positive or negative, it means that your touching people, that your voice resonates. Some people are only able to hear you with their ears and all they hear are words and all they will do is make noise; the rest of us hear with our minds and our hearts and we breathe you in and we thank you!

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  10. Hi, just wanted to say I loved your Huff Po piece. The way you wrote about your experience was so vivid and powerful. I look forward to reading more!

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  11. I stumbled across your article about your ex-husband and the baby and felt compelled to thank you for sharing such a deep and meaningful lesson of life. It takes courage to reflect inwardly as you have, but only special people are strong enough to share those reflections and lessons with the world.

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  12. I also stumbled across your article about your ex-husband and the his new child. I had no idea who you or he was. So I GTS, holly cow, I know you loved him but he was punching up three or four weight classes. A person with your physical beauty, compassion and empathy will find a new and significantly better mate. Also, you'll never not be part of the family, ever.

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