The New Outbreak of Reverse Victimization

I can't sleep. I have been thinking about the recent outbreak of what I call "reverse victimization." This is a recent phenomena whereby white, mostly Christian, privileged Americans feel that they are being put upon when minorities and other diverse groups are afforded either equal rights or other demonstrations of equality.

The latest instance is the recent outcry over the new TV version of "The Wiz Live." I myself did not see the production - I did not know it was on TV and by the time I found out, it was too late to watch. But I did see some of the tweets and I have to say I was outraged.

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I grew up in the 1950's and 1960's when TV was dominated by white, Christian, middle-class folks like Ward Cleaver and Jim Anderson and their families. They lived on tree-lined streets in nameless states. These men went to work wearing jackets and ties. Their wives cleaned and cooked wearing starched dresses and pearls.

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I, on the other hand, grew up in the Bronx in a Jewish household. My father went to work early in the morning by subway, and returned after dark. He was a pressman so he stood on his feet all day, coming home with ink-stained fingers. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment - I slept in the same bed as my sister and our parents slept on a fold-out sofa in the living room.

When I watched TV, I did not see myself, my parents, or our friends and family represented. The only TV show back then that featured a Jewish family was "The Goldbergs" and that didn't stay on TV for very long. Other than that, the only Jewish characters I remember were one or two "tokens" on a few soap operas. There were Jewish actors; however, most of them had changed their names and they did not represent Jewish characters on TV.

I did not see many black people on TV either. There were no black families represented until the 1970's, and certainly no black actors in TV commercials. The same for Asian and Latino people.

You could say that these groups were victimized. Most black actors in the 50's were relegated to playing maids and elevator operators. Asian actors portrayed sinister characters, living in the underworld, or else were cast as houseboys. Latino actors usually were in Westerns, playing sidekicks.

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Oddly enough, I don't remember much outcry by these groups. They didn't write into the newspaper to complain that they were not being properly portrayed on television. They did not whine because they were not taken seriously. They did not carry on because their real lives were not being portrayed at all.

My response to this, as it is to other demonstrations of this type of victimization, is that these people are scared. They see their world changing, and they cannot understand it or deal with it. They behave as if opportunities are being taken away from them. They are afraid that their nice little packaged world will burst apart. They see any hint of diversity and they run scared.

I don't know how this can be fixed. I think social media contributes in a big way, enabling people to share thoughts and ideas - not all of them rational. Some of our political leaders and news pundits certainly don't help - rather, they encourage this type of discourse. I can only hope that one day these so-called victims will "get it" and realize how easy they have had it all along. Until then, they will continue to behave like spoiled children who are not getting their way.