Victims Are Not The New Heroes

Damn video.  Without it, they would be building a statue on the campus of the State University of Albany for the three black women who would be victims of a horrible racist attack. A presidential candidate twitted her support. A college president rushed back to campus after sending a note to his community to express his outrage. Hundreds of students rallied to the cause.

The incident occurred on January 30, 2016, and one of the students, Asha Burwell, spread the word:


And on board everyone jumped.

Three black female State University of New York Albany students alleged they were victims of a hate crime when a group of white students harassed and assaulted them on Saturday.

The women claimed they got into an argument with a group of 10 to 12 men and women from their school after they boarded a city bus, according to the Times Union. The women then allege that they were beaten and called racial slurs by the white students. One women told university police that several men kicked her after she fell to the floor.

From there, it took on a life of its own.

Campus community members and activists are showing their support for the three women by using the hashtag #JusticeForUABurwell tweeted she appreciated the demand for justice, but she said she doesn’t know “if I’m ever going to be able to get over this experience.”

And the three black women would have been overnight celebrities, heroes to the cause, adored and beloved by all as victims. Except there was video.

As described by the Albany Times Union:

The shocking allegations of a racially tinged assault at the University at Albany appeared to unravel Thursday as police accused three black students of making the story up and charged the women with assaulting a fellow bus passenger.

In social media posts that spread like wildfire far beyond campus, the women claimed to have been the target of racial slurs and to have been assaulted while on the bus floor.

But authorities now say there’s no evidence any of that happened and that the women were the aggressors in the fracas, which was captured by cameras on the bus and other cameras in the hands of bus riders. All three defendants are charged with misdemeanor assault and are facing campus disciplinary proceedings.

The reaction on campus was muted, to say the least.

Students Ashley Brown and Mikaila Williams said they tried to reserve judgment and avoid jumping to any conclusions until all the video footage was released. Their instinct, though, was to err on the side of the alleged victims.

“I do agree that certain things about this seem to be exaggerated and blown out of proportion,” Williams said. “But we didn’t know how much video they have and we didn’t know what they saw, so it’s more like, until I know for sure, of course I’m going to support them.”

Many said their fellow students seemed to have moved on after the initial incident, and that people outside the campus community are far more “obsessed” with the case than they are.

“Obsession” in one direction gives rise to obsession in the other.  To raise inflammatory allegations such as these is to beg for scrutiny, and scrutiny is what the three women got.  Parallels to false rape allegations are obvious, and shape the question of what drives people to lie, to fabricate claims to victimhood, and by doing so, undermine a worthy cause?

The reaction to this fabricated claim of a racist attack, similar to the false rape reactions, is underwhelming.  While Albany students were sufficiently outraged by the allegations to rally to the cause, there was little zeal to act when it was revealed that it was a lie. The school’s president suddenly learned patience as well:

“This matter is now in the hands of the criminal justice system,” SUNY Albany President Robert J. Jones said in a statement to NBC. “I ask the community for its continued patience and respect as the judicial process continues.”

The tepid reaction serves only as a reminder of the fear and cowardice on campus when it comes to inflammatory issues. As outrageous as the murders of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Laquan McDonald may have been, false claims like this do grave harm and feeds those who would dismiss the existence of the problem.

What drives people to make such false allegations?  In this instance, it could be that the young women sought to cover their own aggression by alleging victimhood. But the combination of celebrity and victimhood, whether on its own or as a defense, has grown into a goal in itself.

Victimhood has become an independent status that elevates a person from facelessness to celebrity.  It takes no special skill to be a victim. It’s not something that makes their voice any more thoughtful or valuable, important or worthy of hearing. To be a victim, one need only be in the wrong place at the wrong time, to suffer harm or indignity. It does not make one special. It does not make one important.

Yet, we attribute a level of value to victims that is unwarranted and undeserved. The media publishes their utterances, as if someone whose opinion the day before was worthless, but who then becomes the victim of some wrong, suddenly has thoughts worthy of national concern. The perverse incentive created is obvious.

After the UVA/Jackie false rape fiasco, and its ensuing cries that we must believe rape accusers no matter what, no lesson was learned.  False allegations prove neither that a problem exists nor doesn’t. What they do prove is that they occur and warrant a healthy skepticism when evidence fails to support their truthfulness.

What they further prove is that we’ve created a culture of wannabe victimhood as a means of turning people into something they’re not. Heroes. Voices of consequence. Celebrities. They’re not. They’re just people to whom something bad has happened. Beyond that, there is nothing intrinsically important about being a victim. They have no place as stars atop a pedestal. And sometimes, they’re just liars.

H/T Jonathan Turley

12 comments on “Victims Are Not The New Heroes

  1. Patrick Maupin

    Been there, done that — apparently when I was 4, I deliberately (yet gently) banged my head with a sliding glass door, because my brother was getting all the sympathy for yet another broken bone.

  2. PDB

    It doesn’t matter what the facts are. We _know_ there is racism (and sexism, and homophobia, and heteronormality (or whatever the hell it’s called)) everywhere, so if we need to make up some stories to help people realize there is racism, etc. everywhere, no big deal. The ends justify the means, as always.

    1. SHG Post author

      But they serve to accomplish the opposite. Lies only feed the other side. And efforts to rationalize the lies turn it into a farce. No one is saved.

      1. greg higgins

        Among true believers the falsity of the claim may never register. In the quotes above, the speakers say they immediately believed the false claims, which had no physical evidence. When faced with video showing the truth, they are bending over backwards to still believe the lies.
        Ultimately, the lie will be remembered by those who want to believe it, regardless of the truth.

    2. Kyle W

      If you’re seeking to convince me that there is racism everywhere, you better show me actual instances of racism, and not a bunch of instances where people claim racism and yet it’s completely wrong.

  3. John Barleycorn

    It’s nice to see that young people still like to touch each other. Buses have never been a good venue though.

    If they only put more maintenence money into the parks these kids could work out their insecurities and sexual tensions in a much more tranquil environment seeing as how the clubs these days have banned the mosh pit, because lawyers no less.

  4. Dawgzy

    There have been a few things that happened to me that were valuable as lessons if unpleasant experiences. One happened when a young woman who was my patient on a psychiatric unit, and who didn’t keep her end of an agreement, lost a privilege that depended on her doing so. She said to me “If you don’t let me go on that pass, I’m going to tell people that you tried to rape me.” Fortunately there was another staff member within earshot. This kinda changed things for me. That said, I have 2 friends who have been raped and 2 daughters who haven’t. This particular little creep was trying to leverage some advantage from the suffering of real victims. Not very bright, but cunning, calculating how things might play out.

  5. Pingback: The False Accusation Excuse: Discuss Killing Yourself? | Simple Justice

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