Hundreds of readers graciously responded to my articles “The Rise of Victimhood Culture” and “Why Critics of the ‘Microaggressions’ Framework Are Skeptical.” Starting today, I’ll be sharing their feedback in a series of installments. Correspondents in this first batch argue that “microaggressions culture” is beneficial. I’ve tried to engage their arguments and tease out our differences. I hope this helps to clarify both lines of disagreement and common ground. And I could always be wrong, so I encourage close attention to each reader’s argument and cognizance that other strong critiques are surely out there too.
Let’s get right to it.
My first correspondent believes that what the sociologists I quoted call “victimhood culture”––a term that many readers will intelligently critique in a subsequent batch of responses––changes the power dynamic between races and genders in a way that empowers the disempowered and gives them a fighting chance.
In any conflict, both sides have a "nuclear option", or a weapon of last resort. Since White men hold the keys to most of the major institutions in this country, the "nuclear option" of going to a more powerful ally will often benefit the male or White individual in the conflict. This "victimhood culture" as you and others have termed it, creates a nuclear option for the POC or woman: to take it to the court of public opinion.
Now this young Hispanic woman mentioned in your article, out of inexperience or just sheer stupidity, took a nuisance complaint to this court. And reasonable minded figures like yourself have denounced her and exposed her case for what it is, as you should. She is the one left with pie on her face.
The system works.
As a person of color myself, I am glad to know that the other party I'm dealing with knows that I have this option in my pocket. I won't use it unless I have a good reason to.
Most POC, I believe, are like me. I am unconnected, my parents are immigrants who were allowed to leave their native country with a few hundred dollars in their pockets. I have the privilege of what you might call "the immigrant mentality," so despite having been poor most of my childhood, I have attained some degree of professional success. However, due to my success, almost everyone I deal with professionally has more connections through their family than I do. In conflicts that arise, I need the stick as well as the carrot. Without the perceived ability to hurt someone back in a meaningful way, people like me have to suffer untold indignities on a daily basis in order to advance professionally.
This "victimhood culture" protects people like me.
It gives us a shield so that we can more confidently conduct our affairs and a sword to let others know there is a consequence to crossing certain lines. Just because some people use this recklessly (in the early days of a new order, abuses will be common), please don't seek to disarm all of us.
Call out the offender and disarm only them.
The reader makes a strong case for what he calls a “nuclear option.” And I favor many existing “nuclear options,” like housing law claims; the ability to file civil-rights lawsuits and hostile-workplace complaints against employers; and the ability to rally public support if, say, a bigot starts harassing a person with racial slurs. There’s a longstanding social stigma that’s applied to hateful racists, and I support it.