Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Just Because You're A Victim Doesn't Mean You Can't Be A Perpetrator

My cousin figured that the world owed him something. He'd had an awful life, passed from home to home, neglected and physically and sexually abused. And he figured that his past excused pretty much anything he did, no matter who he hurt.

By all measures, he has had much less privilege than me. I'm white, he was Metis passing for white. I grew up in a household on the borderline between lower middle class and working poor, he grew up mostly in households dependant on welfare. And most importantly, I had two parents who loved me, consistently cared for me, and never abused me. He had been abused by several different caregivers, and had no one he could count on to even be there consistently - much less actually care about him.

But none of that excused his choice to sexually abuse an innocent child. No matter how rough his life was, no matter how much better I had it, none of that changes how wrong his actions were.

Because that's the thing - being a victim doesn't make you any better than someone who was spared the same suffering. It doesn't give you more rights than they have. And it certainly doesn't give you the right to drag them down with you.

And this is why I believe that 'reverse discrimination' is a real and important thing to discuss. This is why I think that just because you're part of an oppressed group doesn't mean you get the last word on what is and isn't oppression. And this is why I think the argument "I have no privilege, I can't oppress anyone" is terribly, terribly wrong.

People make excuses for their behavior. People falsely accuse others to shut them up or deflect attention away from the issue. And people generally do rotten things to each other. None of that depends on having privilege over someone else.

We should listen to oppressed groups. But we shouldn't listen to bullying and manipulation, no matter who it comes from.


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