Stop Telling Black Americans They Are "Playing the Victim"

Why White Americans Need to Stop Telling Black Americans to “Take Responsibility”

I’ve been reading lots of conversations about racism in America lately, which is refreshing. Conversations are important, especially about a topic that resides at the very heart of our diverse society.

Of course, it’s also frustrating. People come at racism from different perspectives, and people are at different stages of understanding of the cause-and-effect of America’s racial issues. There are a hundred different sentiments that can (and should) be analyzed in these conversations, but one keeps coming up that always gives me pause:

Slavery ended a hundred and fifty years ago—isn’t it time for black people to get over it? At this point, they’re just using it as an excuse for higher crime and poverty rates. We all have equal rights now. They need to stop playing the victim and take responsibility. That’s not racism; that’s reality.

I’ve seen various versions of this over and over lately. I could go into all kinds of academic rhetoric about it, but instead, I’m going to tell a story.

Once upon a time there was a handful of blue houses in neighborhood of yellow ones. Each day, the yellow house owners would dump all of their trash into the blue house yards. Blue house owners hated it, of course, but if they complained, the yellow house owners would beat them senseless. If they went to the authorities, they’d beat them senseless, too.

Day after day, so much garbage filled the blue house yards that it was impossible to clear it all. So the blue house people did their best to live their lives around it.

After years and years of this, the blue house folks said enough was enough. They banned together and blocked the road so nobody could get home. The yellow house owners tried to beat them up like they always had, but the blue house owners refused to move until the trash dumpers would listen.

The blue house people explained the obvious fact that it was unfair to dump garbage in their yards and vowed to continue to block the road until it stopped. It took a while, but finally, the yellow house people conceded.

It was a new day for the blue house people as they cleaned the yellow house owners’ garbage out of their yards once and for all. Hallelujah!

But the blue house owners’ woes weren’t over. Their lawn was dead from years without sunlight. Their shrubs were withered from the toxic sludge that seeped in year after year. Some of the poison even penetrated the foundation of the house, causing structural issues. The blue house people tried many things to remedy all of this, but there was so much damage, it proved difficult.

Meanwhile, the yellow house owners’ yards thrived as they always had. And soon, they started complaining about how the blue houses looked.

“What’s the matter?” they asked the blue house owners. “We don’t put garbage in your yard anymore. Why aren’t you fixing up your yard?” The blue house people explained that they’re trying, but were running into some problems. Their tools were rusty from years in storage. They needed new plants, some good soil to restart their grass, and maybe some fertilizer.

Since the yellow house owners had caused this damage with their garbage, perhaps they could be a little understanding? Maybe even help with some of what it would take to fix it?

“Nonsense!” said the yellow house people. “You’re just looking for a handout. You just need to work harder. Look at your yard! What a mess! We don’t dump our garbage on you anymore. We’re equal now. There’s nothing wrong with your soil or your tools—you just don’t want to work at it like we do. I bust my butt to get my lawn looking this way. It’s your own fault that yours isn’t thriving and your house needs work.”

See the problem? This is what it sounds like when people white people refuse to acknowledge the generational, societal effects of America’s racial history. This is what it sounds like when people place the blame for crime, poverty, and other socioeconomic issues in mostly black communities solely onto black people themselves. It is patently unfair to deny that so many challenges those communities face are a direct result of centuries of white supremacy. And it is blatant arrogance for white people to expect black people to take responsibility for the racial disparities in our economic and justice systems when white people are the ones who caused them in the first place.

You cannot enslave a group of people for 300 years, systematically and legally oppress them for another 100, and think that everything is hunky dory a mere 50 years later. I know that many white people want to “move on,” to leave that ugly history in the past, to start with a clean slate. But there’s no such thing. We can’t just wish away the far-reaching effects of oppression. We can’t pretend that a mere two generations after the Civil Rights Movement—which was opposed by a good portion of our population—we have successfully weeded out the deep-seated racism that fueled centuries of mistreatment both inside and outside our justice system.

This isn’t about “white liberal guilt.” (Man, enough with that stupid phrase.) The very least—and I mean the very least—that white Americans can do is to acknowledge that our skin ancestors gave birth to our current mess, even if we directly had nothing to do with it. Of course we haven’t personally enslaved anyone, but if we deny the ongoing effects of our country’s legacy of racism and refuse to own our role in helping remedy the problems it’s caused, then we are no better than that yellow house owner chastising his neighbor for the state of his yard—dishonest, unjust . . . and yes, racist.

So please. Stop telling people of color they are “playing the victim.” Stop telling black people to “get over” the past. Stop pointing to “black on black crime” as if black people themselves created the poverty-ridden neighborhoods where such crime takes place. Start listening to people when they tell you their experiences, and stop policing their feelings about those experiences.

Just stop and listen and acknowledge. Just start there. It’s really not too much to ask.

 

P.S. I realize that the yard analogy is not perfect. To make it more accurate, I’d have to start with the yellow house owners forcing the blue house owners into the neighborhood to take care of the yellow houses for no pay, in addition to raping their women, stealing their children, and murdering them publicly. But I figured a simpler illustration would make the point more clearly.

Why White Americans Need to Stop Telling Black Americans to “Take Responsibility”

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 24

  1. Shirley

    Dear Annie. You need a dose of reality! I totally agree with the previous response by Amanda. I’m caucasion. I like Amanda tried being color blind by dating black men (3 of them). What a Mistake! In each relationship the men were so sweet and affectionate at first. As each relationship grew, so did the truth about each of the 3 men. Unbeknowing to me eveyone of them had criminal records, did drugs, and tried to play the poor pitty full black man gets no respect game. In all three relationships they tried to get me to do drugs and each time I tried to leave tje relationship I was subject to physical abuse and intimidation. I now know why more and more black women stay away from black men! Long story short. Blacks Do play the race card to minipulat whites into feeling sorry for them. STOP! Blacks Do play the system and are fully aware of what they are doing. They are just down thugs! Worthless lying system playing hooligans. Take my advice. NEVER EVER date a black men or fall for their Black lives matter crap! They do, do the crimes and need to do the time! WOMEN BEWARE!!!!!

  2. Amanda

    Your article is a JOKE! I made the mistake of dating a black man and they are fully aware of what they are doing. Crimes, race baiting, feel sorry for me. Etc. They truly think that they can play the public (mostly white women) into feeling sorry for the terrible oppression we cause them. B.S. PEOPLE WAKE UP! You are being played for fools like I was. To the majority of blacks we are just stupid white suckers that keep giving and giving. I wish they ALL would take a boat right back to Africa and our country would be great again!!

  3. Bill

    Why should any white person today need to pay for what happened so long ago? No one can tell their own personal story to what happened. People now a days play victim still so much like the world owes them anything and the world doesn’t. We all want respect and should be able to give it as well just out the grace of their heart. For anyone to say white people are privileged- yes they are. Because they work hard and don’t pity themselves. Blacks just keep themselves in the same mindset and don’t move forward and that’s their fault. Do people know anyone from that time period? No. None of us do. You cannot possibly and logically play a victim.

    I’ve lived in the north and the south and I must say the north is way worse than the south. These people also teach their children to hate white people and that the world is going to hate them because of their skin color. This is their fault and their problem that they create. I’ve heard it from many people that that’s how they are raised- and that is beyond TERRIBLE parenting. I could go on forever but my rant is over.

  4. Angelic Distortions

    Why though? Black people need to stop playing the victim and acting entitled because oh 200 years ago their ancestors were slaves and now the white people of today need to pay for that.

    I am all for ending racism, sexism, all that, but when black people act like whiny, self-absorbed bitches, that’s when I’m like nope, get off your high horse and work for what you want/need. You are not enslaved, you have rights and can better your life as much or as little as you want.

  5. Dose of Reality

    The typical suburban, white guilt, stay at home, middle-aged mom. You and this article are a joke. To believe you can’t be held accountable for current actions is utterly stupid. You don’t think the African American community should judged by their actions because of slavery? How many years until it’s acceptable? Should we just lie down and give them any reparations they ask for till they decide it’s fair? Look up Ashleigh shackleford she’s got a pay pal you can donate to if this is how you feel.

  6. Whyat Youdin. Edina

    Yes they need to take responsibility. Their actions cause their consequences. But what I don’t understand is always blaming the white people for the reason why they got a girl pregnant at 16 and the reason why they chose not to go to college but the reason why they have 20 kids with 20 different baby mamas. None of this is the white peoples fault. Explain to me ever since welfare and the Jim Crow laws in the 60s that black people are worse off now and have a higher single-parent household rate in a nation where they have equal rights and affirmative action? Why are they worse off now than under Jim Crowe? That’s nothing to do with white people that’s their choices. When you go to school their kids act up their kids get in trouble and then you want to know why the incarceration rate is higher in the black community. It’s because they keep committing crimes. Stop blaming the white people. white people today have absolutely nothing to do with the slavery back then stop trying to hold us accountable. explain to me ever since welfare and the Jim Crow laws in the 60s that black people are worse off now and have a higher single-parent household rate? That’s nothing to do with white people that’s their choices. When you go to school their kids act up their kids get in trouble and then you want to know why the incarceration rate is higher in the black community. It’s because they keep committing crimes. Stop blaming the white people white people today have absolutely nothing to do with the slavery back then so stop trying to hold ass accountable. Now you take this article any replace black with white and white with black and see if that would be an acceptable article. White people are dying to being over it. Every time you scream racism on something people don’t want to hear anymore because it’s just oh is it because I’m black

  7. Mada

    “Skin ancestors”
    Holy fuck you have really gone off the deep end. Just please…all if you move to Madagascar please…just get out of the western civilization.. you are not worthy and need to live with the tribes m

  8. Michelle Pitot

    This is a great post and needs to be read by all. I take exception to only one thing, which is the phrase about how we have legally oppressed black people for 100 years. It’s written as if it’s in the past tense, when legal oppression of people of color is taking place right now, everywhere. The system of Mass Incarceration creates second-class citizens every day. People who have lost the right to vote, who can’t sit on juries, heck, can’t even get a decent job. All perfectly legal. “They did the crime, now they should serve the time” some will say. How then do you explain white people who commit the exact same crimes but are not prosecuted for them? Read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and you won’t be able to look at the Civil Rights movement as a thing of the past but as a necessity of today.
    Thank you.
    Michelle

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    2. Aurore-Denise

      Two other good books are “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” written Joy DeGruy. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology [I believe]. She also worked with the director of the National Institute of Mental Health on axiology, how different ethnic groups develop their core values. Her website address [http://joydegruy.com/]. Lots of good stuff on her website.

      The other book is “Slavery by Another Name”, by Douglas A. Blackmon. PBS has a cd of “Slavery…”. Our library carries it.

      So glad I found this site. I was looking for children material for our children’s class.

    3. Nelson Hernandez

      Too bad it’s a bit of a myth. By the pure nature of being the majority in America, white people are incarcerated more often. But we don’t care about them being second class citizens due to their skin tone right? Nonsense.

  9. April

    Thank you for writing this. I loved it. Poor JD read this with a heart already filled with hate, so s/he never intended to get the point of your post. The way you wrote this article, I thought the most ardent racist/person who believes black people “whine” over their lot in life, could at least TRY to get it. However, I think some people just don’t want to get it. They enjoy being full of hate. Once again, thank you for trying to enlighten people.

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    2. Nelson Hernandez

      I guess I must be self hating since I am a mixed minority person. Perhaps could it be that this article is trash as it espouses excusing peoples actions because of their past. Why is it that someone who was not among those discriminated against in the past gets a pass? Meanwhile, you’ll ignore the abuse, physically and mentally of rapists, murderers, theives, etc. Then you’re like, “oh boo whooo. you were touched when a kid, that doesn’t give you the right to…”

      Pure hypocrisy.

  10. JD

    My God that was ridiculous! Actually to make it more accurate, you should have started with yellow house owners, from an almost completely yellow house neighborhood selling some of their fellow yellow house owners to the blue house owners. After they, of course, raped their women, stole their children, and murdered them publicly.

    But hey I hear ya…..we don’t want to bog down this conversation with too many details, right?

    After all, yellow house owners have no shot to make it in this neighborhood, do they? Well unless you want to be president, or attorney general, or an actor, or a singer, or a professional athlete, or a decorated military hero, or a successful business owner, or a Supreme Court justice. But I got ya, other than that, these yellow house owners have no chance.

    Good luck with your unfortunate condition called liberalism (or progressivism). The main cure is a healthy dose of common sense, and personal accountability.

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