I recently wrote about Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint's new book Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.
I am now in the midst of a workshop on promoting diversity on campus. I am entirely in favor of promoting all kinds of diversity on campus, especially diversity of thought. I am here as a presenter about one such program. Just because I am in the middle of such a conference, it has gotten me thinking about how we might think about being a minority (of whatever kind).
Sometimes it is taken for granted that the aim of diversity consciousness raising is to show the history of minorities as victims. The minorities are meant to come out of the event thinking of themselves as victims; the majorities are meant to think of themselves as oppressors.
I think Cosby and Poussaint are right. It is better to seek to be a victor than to think of yourself as a victim. Being a victim is weak. Sometimes this can't be avoided, especially during the worst of the oppression. But thinking of yourself as a victim keeps you weak. It is partially a self-inflicted wound that furthers the work of the oppressor. Being a victim runs counter, I think, to the best of American self-identity, too. We are a can-do people. If you are down, it is better for you (me, each of us) to find a workaround. This builds up the nation, too.
Victimhood is a reality. But it is not a good objective.