Black self-victimization: a myth created by people that don’t want to address the realities of racism

Sophia Ibrahim

For about a period of six months in 2019, I was followed every time I went outside alone. I quickly developed the mindset that I was constantly being followed, even if there was no one behind me. My white neighbors watched me with unease as I walked down Connecticut Avenue. The same white neighbors, specifically the male ones, followed me as well. My Blackness was a threat to their safety一despite me being a young girl. Being followed is a fear I’m still grappling with today, long after that traumatic period came to a close. Now imagine that period of stress, anxiety, and fear for my safety, in tandem with rape, lynching, assault, and being treated as “suspicious” and sub-human just because of the color of your skin, lasting 400 years. 

Virtually every system in America was built upon racist principles, and thus the degradation and dehumanization of Black people. Therefore, it’s not outlandish for Black people to think in the back of their minds, “maybe this bad experience happened to me because I’m Black.” 

If you’re consistently seeing people be covertly racist and microaggressive to people who look like you (Black people), it’s a lot easier to believe negative experiences involving non-Black people would be a result of racism. 

Skin color isn’t the reason for every negative experience Black people have. However, when all that you’ve been taught about your people revolves around racism, and you’ve seen and experienced countless instances of racism, it gets increasingly harder to find the difference between it just being a bad thing that happened to you, and a situation that was made worse because of the color of your skin. Especially because issues BIPOC face, more often than not, have roots in racism.

This conversation gets even more complex when non-Black people, specifically white people, try to diminish or trivialize these Black experiences. “I’m sure it’s not actually that bad,” “Maybe if they had been following the law…” and “Well, tell me what we should do about it,” are all phrases heard by Black people at least a dozen times in their lifetimes. Having to be constantly ready to debate and pressured to educate others about these topics is draining. It isn’t a Black person’s job to be Google or a politician, nor is there one universal “Black opinion” regarding all of these topics. 

The myth of Black self-victimization blames Black people for their position in America, and ignores the actual problem at hand. Self-victimization is not a valid conversation against those oppressed, especially if it has been proven time and time again that they are not willing victims, either. One cannot self-victimize if there are crimes being perpetuated against them. If the people in power, Black and non-Black, want to see Black people stop “victimizing themselves,” they have to make sure there are no structural inequalities on the basis of race at all. Dismantling the police system, ensuring equity in all public schools, and establishing food and home security for all is just the beginning. Black people in America have been traumatized for the past 400 years. If you want Black people to heal, present them with systems that would refuse to hurt them in the first place.