Mike Sliwa believes blame has replaced responsibility and therefore reinforced dominant points of view.
Conquerors love to blame the conquered. Oppressors love to blame the oppressed. Those who are abusive love to blame those they abuse. Dominance is a blame game.
Being a white heterosexual male has made me a blame game expert. This skill set is not exclusive to whites, heterosexuals or males. It just so happens that those of us who benefit from dominance have become professionals in the blame game. Why? It’s simple really. When we blame we avoid taking any responsibility. We love to tell people who are not privileged to take responsibility but we forget that responsibility is a two-way street. We may not have personally established dominance but we surely reinforce it and enjoy its privileges.
We often argue that the conquered needed to maintain their moral high ground despite being invaded. That the oppressed needed to pull themselves up by their boot straps and make something of themselves (usually this story is followed by the one about how some great, great grandfather went from rags to riches). The abused needed to just leave the abusive situation and seek help. All of these are common blame-shifting techniques. What’s missing is the responsibility from those who are in positions of power.
The dominant white culture has a long history of blaming those we’ve oppressed. It’s obviously a justification for our actions past and present. Two common justifications for oppressive behavior:
(1) Slavery occurred because Africans enslaved one another.
(2) Indigenous people were “savages” for resisting European aggression.
Today we blame people of color for creating a welfare state and even for filling our prisons with black men. The LGBTQ community has had to live within the blame game. That they caused the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the “assault” on “traditional” marriage are just two of the insane notions put forth by the dominant culture throughout the years.
Men blame women for putting themselves in vulnerable situations. We avoid the responsibility for creating a rape culture by shifting blame upon those who are destroyed by such a culture. We reinforce the status quo by our continual justification of the misogynistic pillars that support it. The blame game has many believing feminism is a dirty word and it goes so far as to portray femininity as a sign of weakness.
All of this blame of course comes from a living arrangement that requires oppression, violence and therefore blame to maintain itself. Civilization is a hierarchy like no other. It is the foundation of oppression and it survives by maintaining a myth constructed in blame. Order is maintained and justified by blaming the oppressed. We believe this is how people live. The reality: This is why people die.
From the very beginning conquerors have lived by this code. The blame game is vital to the psyche of conquerors, oppressors and abusers. Until those of us who benefit from dominance (the privileged) reflect and begin to listen to those who experience the wrath of our dominance, the destruction of life will continue and we will remain responsible. There’s a storm coming both figuratively and literally, and blame will run rampant and consume even the privileged. In the end if we’re looking for someone to blame, truth be told, we need only look in the mirror.
–Photo: Mauro Luna/Flickr