Anyone who cares for his or her fellow humans has to be concerned about the recent rioting and killings that stem from clashes between blacks and police.
Because of our perspectives, we each tend to come down more on one side – blacks or police. We likely see some points on both sides, and can acknowledge the exceptions to our general narrative, but the fact that the lines have been drawn and there are two “sides” means that people are going to lean one way or the other – either a lot or a little.
Though the incidence of criminals attacking police or of police brutalizing blacks because of their race are miniscule on average, we humans are easily convinced of things we want to believe, so a few edited videos or out-of-context statistics serve to reinforce our chosen perspectives.
Whether it’s to garner ratings and profits or to legitimize the worldviews they’ve chosen, people in the media tend to highlight one side (and both sides do it). People who care (on both sides) tend to choose media sources and friends that validate the narratives we tell ourselves. Then we propagate those narratives (through raising our children, mentoring co-workers, social media, etc.).
No matter which side one tends to fall on, no rational observer can reasonably conclude that all blacks are dangerous criminals or that all police are brutal racists.
While people tend to congregate with their own “tribes,” we generally want to come together. This short video of a joint barbecue between police and Black Lives Matter would-be protesters is a nice example.
But when people are convinced that they are victims of another group or tribe, they naturally divide. When the perspective is “us against them,” of course there will be lashing out and even violence.
Telling people that they are victims of other groups (of police, of minorities, of majorities, of stereotypes, etc.) sells well because it provides them with excuses. The people selling those victim narratives can elevate their influence by increasing their popularity, and they can feel good about themselves because of their compassion towards the “victimized.”
But convincing people that they are victims does them no favors. Providing means for blaming others leads to excuses, lack of responsibility, and stunted personal development. And, more importantly, enabling the victim mentality promotes despair, hopelessness, and desperation. And we all know that desperate people do desperate things.
Prisons are full of people who’ve taken desperate actions. Cemeteries are dotted with people who were desperate enough to take their own lives. Kids and spouses are abused and scarred by desperate people who don’t know how to deal with life’s pressures and felt like victims.
When we hear people selling the “blacks are victims of police” narrative, or we hear people selling the “police are victims of blacks” narrative, we should remember that all situations have unique facts and circumstances (even though we like to think in generalities).
And before we try to improve our status or how we feel about ourselves by propagating a victim narrative (usually a stereotype on steroids), it would help if we think about the damage to which it may contribute.