In the last couple of weeks two news stories have come to light that have made me absolutely sick to my stomach. The first is about Shakara, the Black girl from Spring Valley High School who was choked and dragged by a white police officer named Ben Fields in front of her classmates. The second concerns a racist comment made towards Samantha Grant, a Black girl who was shopping at Aritzia when she was told she couldn't afford a jacket because of the colour of her skin.
It's disturbing that in the year 2015, Black women around the world are still being treated like second class citizens, subject to verbal or physical trauma from our peers and even figures of authority. What's more alarming is the outpour of skepticism these victims receive when their stories are told. Instead of the public banding together to defend their dignity, everyone from the trolls on Twitter to influential public figures has something to say about how the victim brought it upon herself. They idiotically argue that if Shakara had only been obedient and docile, Ben Fields wouldn't have had to beat her up. That if Sandra Bland hadn't landed herself in prison she never would've died. That if Janay Palmer hadn't provoked Ray Rice he wouldn't have had to knock her unconscious and drag her limp body out of the elevator.... Victim blaming is so painfully ignorant that it seems like a joke, but it happens all the time. Don't believe me? Read this reporting from CNN:
A student slammed to the ground by a South Carolina school resource officer 'bears some responsibility,' Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday. 'If she had not disrupted the school and disrupted that class, we would not be standing here today. So it started with her and it ended with my officer.'"
This sentiment is shared by all kinds of people in the public eye including those who should know better, like Raven Symone, who thought this all could've been avoided if cell phones weren't allowed in schools, and Don Lemon, who was having trouble understanding why an officer rag-dolling a child half his size was not okay. I could go on about the senselessness of Ben Fields' actions and the fact that Shakara is a young girl who posed zero physical threat to him whatsoever, but The Root has already done a fantastic job of exposing this story for the travesty that it is.
While Shakara's story is one of blatant racism and abuse of power, Samantha Grant's experience at Aritzia － and the ensuing events online － is more insidious. After complaining to the Aritzia head office about their racist employee and receiving no response, Samantha took her story public. It aired on the nightly news last week, and all of a sudden the hate started pouring in. A shocking number of people thought she had fabricated the story. They claimed she doesn't look Black and therefore the whole situation couldn't have happened. They thought she was simply looking for attention, seeking her fifteen minutes of fame. Of the readers/viewers who did believe her story, many felt she was making a big deal out of nothing. The comments section of the article is appalling in its inhumanity.
Of course it's hard to take anyone commenting under the name "Zits" or "oj1234" seriously, but there are real people behind those statements of raw, unrefined ignorance.
The people who hold these misguided opinions are blinded by their privilege. How else could they say such things unless they had never been on the receiving end of a micro-aggression or a hate crime? Regardless of whether we're being made to feel unwelcome in a store or literally dragged around a classroom by our hair, in their eyes the blame always lies with us. This mentality needs to stop. Victims of racial and sexist abuse never "deserve it" and telling them what they should've done differently doesn't help. As a society we need to stop criticizing victims for their actions and instead stand in solidarity with our sisters.
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