Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Soapbox: The American Victim

It was a late October night when my best friend Heather and I made the pilgrimage to school to meet the bus after a long day of footballing with our boys. Two Southern Belles giggling and recapping the day’s experience, we were an inseparable pair of wives and moms without a care in the world as we navigated the dark rural highway where we had not seen a car for miles.

“What’s the speed limit?” I kept asking Heather, but we had no clue. Cruising along at a safe 65 MPH in the middle of nowheres-ville, I was completely shocked to see the blue lights that appeared behind us.

“Step out of the car!”

This was the scariest moment of my life. As I stepped out, there was nothing but darkness. I was overwhelmed and blinded by the brightest white light I had ever seen. It hurt to look at it.

The ominous voice behind the light continued to give me aggressive orders that bordered on angry, while Heather sat in the car and did not move a muscle. I knew that this is what people were referring to when I had seen them on television chanting Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!  I instinctively put my hands up just to make double sure the officers knew I was not wielding a weapon. As the orders continued, I knew that these were going to be my last moments on earth and I could already feel the hot lead penetrating my chest.

In a final attempt at life, I cried out in my Mom voice, “You are scaring me!!!”

There was a brief pause when a form of a man begin to break the barrier of the white light to reveal scarcely more than a boy, acting alone. The young man was shaking, more afraid than I. He put his police voice back on and demanded to know just WHERE was I going at ten miles an hour over the speed limit.

We gave him our day’s story and things seemed to calm down once he recognized our naiveté.

“Well, don’t let this happen again!” he said, and we were on our way.

I wondered what might have happened had I not been a white, educated woman with roots in Southern charm, realizing that this same fear is truly more than just a perceived notion in some communities. That there is a type of injustice when innocent men die without cause or understanding is not a myth.

I need to make that point clear before I pen what I have to say at the risk of being inflammatory without intent or incurring misdirected accusations of racism or gender bias. Sometime before writing this column, I got into my car and drove to Selma where I spent a few hours at the Lowndes Interpretive Center. The park ranger, a young woman of color, invested in speaking with me from a place of wholeness. I took the time to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I abhor the heart of the actions that occurred on Bloody Sunday and would hope to think I would not have remained silent had I been there.

Having now established my point that injustice DOES exist at times and that it, along with the most unjust events of American history, should not be overlooked, my story begins.

In the late summer of 2018, the stage was set for one of the most intriguing US Open women’s tennis grand slam finals of all times. The aging champion verses the new generation held the potential for a regime change that would not be the first of its kind. Federer had once dethroned Sampras and captured five consecutive Wimbledon titles only to be dethroned, albeit briefly, by Nadal in 2008 during one of the most thrilling matches of the open era. Nobody left pouting. It happens. It’s part of sports. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. It’s a casualty of the game. Sportsmanship is expected.

In basketball, if you or your coach curse or yell at the referee, you get a technical foul. Nobody protests. There is a respect for authority and the system of rules. In tennis, a gentlemen and ladies’ sport, players give their all in a hushed reverence after being presented with a bouquet of flowers, and when in England, are expected to curtsy to the royal box.

Ladies wear skirts. There is a dress code defined by the particular stadium. Tennis is a sport of highest etiquette, defined by a code of ethics, both written and unwritten.

I watched the horrific 2018 US Open finals twice in full, not just the advantageous clips presented by the media to promote the sexism/victim theory. I am and have always been a huge Serena fan, but the sexism discussion following her loss was a diversion tactic for what actually happened in that match—a narcissistic abuse tactic called deflection and a huge disappointment to all of us that love Serena, the girl who was WINNING in the second set.

Nobody was preventing her from taking the trophy. It was hers to lose on her own and she did. Osaka, a woman of color, beat the aging champion fair and square. BIG. Not just by a hair. This, just before Serena had a public meltdown.

Does there need to be a discussion regarding sexism and abuse of chair umpire? Perhaps. But THIS is not what cost Serena this match. Yet THIS is what was played ad nauseam in the media to the tune of Serena’s $180 Million voice. THIS was what the highlight reel steered the uninformed public to believe.

I did not write this article because of the color of Serena’s skin, rather I wrote it for the content of her character in those isolated moments of despair. I wrote it as an athlete and a woman who feels strongly that her actions did not speak for many of us. Serena, a woman to whom much has been given, was the real thief who stole the glory of an inaugural championship moment from the young girl who beat her. She played the American victim game:

I can buck authority. When rules are imposed, deflect, and make a claim that I have been victimized. In order to boost belief in my platform and detract attention from my bad behavior, I will make sure to select some sensitive area such as gender or race in order to attract a celebrity activist who will likely garner attention for their own cause by making me a poster child. Get the media to buy in as their marketing executives enjoy champagne toasts about the boost in ratings, and pretty soon the civil war I have created will be such a maelstrom that no one will have remembered to check me in my bad behavior.

This is a cancer in the heart of some Americans that will not be addressed until a few brave souls teach our current generation to walk in the ways of God while embracing both justice AND mercy.

I am not only calling out all Mama lionesses to get in the face of our own young and address any rebellion, but also to all people to choose honesty, admitting mistaken claims of injustice when rebellion has occurred within the communities we call our own.

Take American journalist Jonathan Capehart, a man of color who likely identifies with the LGBTQ movement courageously stepped forward to admit that the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot movement was based upon a lie. Upon the release of the facts regarding the Ferguson response that resulted in the killing of Michael Brown, Capehart names Brown nothing more than an inappropriate symbol for the movement, challenging his own readers to continue standing against institutionalized hardship and injustice, but to first get the facts straight.

Again, Capehart exhibits journalistic integrity when he called out Bernie Sanders for placing himself in photos at a civil rights rally, a place where in truth he existed only in spirit.

In addition, more houses of worship than ever are stepping up to lead reconciliation events in their communities, but have not defined what reconciliation IS and IS NOT. Leaders need to cease calling reconciliation the act of NOT speaking about issues. What our communities need is a reconciliatory process that includes leaders who can put the venom aside while pursuing understanding, considering others better than ourselves, and that if tolerance is good for one, it is good for all.

The American victim game, whether based on race, gender or moral character assaults, needs to be called into account by honest leaders among our respective tribes. In the current geopolitical climate, it is time to slow down and quit solely looking to the national media as the source of truth. We need to bring back the Golden Rule and truly mean it, seeking not only to be understood, but also to understand. This is the first step toward healing the wounds of every willing man and putting an end to the American victim mentality for good, irregardless of perspective.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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