Saturday, October 20, 2007

Victims of Victors?

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.


Jon said...

Hmmm.... Interesting post.

"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 would say the goal is more to make people appreciative of how background shapes possibilities (much like the stepping forward/backward activity you taught the students). But it may be that in practice, people reduce it to blame.

On the question of victor/victim, I think it is important to remember that we worship a God who was nailed to the cross. Christ was early known as christus victor, but it was not a victory through conquest or even accomplishment. Ideally, our faith teaches us to embrace victimhood, but with the knowledge that it's part of our mission.

In churches, I think diversity is to remind us that we are part of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" church. In secular settings, I think the idea of shared humanity is a good analogy. Diversity opens up new possibilities and ideas.

Gruntled said...

That is an interesting question -- Christ was a victim, but wasn't "victimy." Christ turned suffering into redemption in the greatest possible way. We can't do what Christ did [note to WWJD wearers: this is a Calvinist point], but can see that suffering is not the end of the story.

Christina said...

For more than three years, authors Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint have been listening to the voices at community call-outs in cities across the country. Their latest book, Come On People, due out October 9 in bookstores nationwide, combines messages of personal responsibility with practical solutions, and retells the incredible stories shared at these call-outs.

Come On People is for all those who are tired of being used, neglected and undefended—folks who wish to see changes in their governments, their neighborhoods, on their streets and within the walls of their living spaces.

At you will find a forum called "The Cos," that is designed for community members to discuss issues beyond those addressed in the book, as well as a place for people to come together and offer solutions. It's time to have the courage to believe you can do better by asking for help and not being afraid to move forward.

No matter your economic status, no matter your age, no matter your race, no matter your gender, and no matter your religion, we are all allies in changing our future for the better.

You can find downloadable PDF's of excerpts from Come On People at the following links:

We are also willing to send review copies out to the first 100 bloggers who respond to—all we ask is that you publish a review and link back to

Please share this book and website with members of your blog community—the more people who hear Drs. Cosby and Poussaint's message, the better!

Christina Stewart
Respond2 Communications