Thursday, December 14, 2006

Backhanded victim blaming.

Updated Please read comments.

An acquaintance of mine was the victim of a mugging and a savage beating. The story was related to me via a post on the blog of a friend close to him.

An apparently well meaning and rightfully angered commenter argued the following;
This is a class thing, not a race thing. The most desperate use the most desperate measures as these two pieces of shit proved. Their intentions will never justify their actions, especially when they hurt someone. But, on Average, I’d say such people, if rich, wouldn’t resort to such actions at all.

If you’re lucky enough to have the choice, simply never wander through the dark, quiet streets of a lower-class neighborhood at night. You’ll get mugged by the black man, raped by the hispanic, your car pimped out by the asian and murdered by the white serial killer.

(emphasis added)

While I took mild issue with a few of his points I took offense to his flippant statement. (Honestly, had he not used the word "simply" I probably would have ignored it) I added the following to my comment after expressing my condolences;
“simply never wander through the dark, quiet streets of a lower-class neighborhood at night”
Blaming the victim is quite the spectator sport it seems...

To which he replied;
Existingthing, you, my friend, are a classic idiot. I like how you took out the first words of that sentence, “If one is fortunate enough to have a choice…”

Being a true bitch seems to be quite the blind-spectator sport.

Ah but say what you want. I’ll just consider the source.

Oh darn, was that a personal attack? Even so, I didn’t manage to reciprocate the shit you threw my way. Now lick your palms and pray to Jesus for forgiveness.

Misquoting IS a cheap trick; though, were it my intention I probably wouldn't have done it 1/8 of a page away from the original quote. I didn't use the full quote because I found it even more offensive in its entirety. I thought that including the word "simply" would make the intent of his statement clear. Clearly this was ignored.

A voice of reason requested that we not argue on such a tragic post, and I didn't post my reply there.

My reply to this fellow is below. I expect he will find it, as the only way he could attack me personally is if he knew me personally (he doesn't) or read my blog.
(I overlook one possibility; that he was just personally attacking me without knowing anything about me. In which case I could care less if he read this.)


"If you’re lucky enough to have the choice, simply never wander through the dark, quiet streets of a lower-class neighborhood at night."

This is backhanded victim blaming. You're having it both ways, and it's bullshit. You begin talking about choice; one always has a choice. "Hey man; that was a bad time to head home; why didn't you just sleep there? Rent a hotel room? Take a cab? Cower in an alley under some loose newspapers?" What, then, is the definition of NOT having a choice? I could argue that no place is safe; light or dark, quiet or noise, lower-class or upper. Crime can strike anywhere at any time. Does that make ANY victim of ANY crime at fault for "bringing it upon themselves"? Or are YOU the all-knowing, all-seeing final word in what's safe or not? And if so, why won't you impart your wisdom?

I took particular offense to the use of the word "simply". There is no street light indicator which lets people know when the streets turn from "safe stroll home" to "dangerous straits". Situations are constantly changing, and a walk home that was safe the other 261 times can suddenly becomes a life-threatening trek at any moment. Anyone who argues that there's anything "simple" about assessing potentially dangerous situations has clearly never been in one. No one walked up to the victim and said; "Hey buddy, tonight's walk home is going to be a life threatening one. Press 'A' to call a cab; press 'B' to walk home anyways." This wasn't someone who was "asking for it" or "tempting fate". This was someone who was just living his life.

More to the core of the issue, what if you DO have the choice and you choose to walk home at what some may argue was a dangerous time; or through what some may argue was a dangerous neighborhood? Two guys decide to break the law and your spirit by mugging you and beating you savagely. Would your argument be that this fellow got what he deserved? So, there's no blame on the bastards who attacked the victim? Or would you be so callous as to imply that there is shared blame? There's no gray area here. One party is innocent. One party is guilty.

Either way; it's bullshit. You ARE blaming the victim, and if you were not yet aware of that fact; you need to sit down and think seriously about how you view life's challenges, and the compassion you feel (or don't feel) for the others who face them as well.


NotClauswitz said...

The class-obsessed are easily mislead by their own simpleton calculus. It's not at all necessary to lever wealth as a precondition for virtue, or "desperation" as a precondition for malice and evil - Fidel Castro has millions and runs his own country yet has people beaten up regularly.
It has more to do with pathology than economics.

Fletch said...

Jesus, that was insightful.

Well put!

Anonymous said...

Existing thing, this is Practical Radical. I do see your point, you elaborated on it well and it is clear to me only now.

However, your eyes are closed. Without knowing me either, you jumped on a supposed lack of clarification on my part and assumed the very worst for a reason I cannot begin to comprehend.

It's not as ironic as you may think it is that I agree with your blog. I only disagree with the fact that you poured out a vat of emotion on the time-sensitive subject at my expense. No one's going to lose sleep over this, I just hope you don't commit this same mistake twice if you care about whatever reputation you hope to have.

Fletch said...

Honestly, when I first commented I suspected you were just angry, and bore the best intentions. But it's clear to me now that my first comment was flame bait. After your reply, I thought the possibility of a lack of clarification on your part was soundly put to bed.

I admit to being emotional about your response; this is kind of a touchy subject for me, and this incident really struck a nerve.

I don't suppose I can defend my vat of emotion. I just realized that you were not understanding me, so I set out to make my response as clear as possible (hence the long post). However, the tone (and italics :) I adopted while doing so is not something I can defend. I was careful not to leave any links to the comments, so I could attack the comment, and not you personally.

As to the reputation I hope to have; I started this blog for me, myself, and I. While it is comforting to know that a few people agree with me most of the time; confrontation and debate are a healthy way to grow our ideas and ideals. I've changed since I started this blog, and I'm proud of that. I strive to make this blog as uncensored as possible. There are quite a few posts that I had a tough time publishing or felt the need to delete for various reasons, but have restrained myself in all instances. I suppose this allows for a little bit of emotion to seep through (though I do try to keep it out of the debate). But that still doesn't defend flaming. (and I WAS flaming)

I think we both kind of jumped the gun.

Best wishes to you PR; I look forward to reading your comments and thoughts in the future.

Anonymous said...

I think this was a touchy issue for all of us, considering a friend was involved. I suppose that I opened the door when I started my rambling about social/class/area issues...and I hope that no one took offense that I curtailed the debate, because I didn't want this incident to be one that caused dissension. I wanted to bring attention to an occurrence, and wish Josh the best.