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.
“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: 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.