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December 2014

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criminal minds pentiss and reid back

with one fist raised in anger. with one foot in the fire.

So let's talk about Charles Ramsey and Amanda Berry (and Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight).

Let's talk about the fact that Amanda Berry is a hero, and that she rescued herself, her daughter, and two other women from a horrible situation.

Let the record show that she did what she had to do, and if she hadn't, those four women would still be in that house.

Because the media seem to want to cast her and the other women only as victims, and that narrative is a lie.

Let's talk about the fact that Charles Ramsey is a hero, too. Because he saw a person obviously in distress, and he acted. And the fact that that person was white and female, and that he was black and male, living on a job as a dishwasher, and that his police record would be brought up afterward, definitely entered his consciousness; and he did it anyway. Because he saw a person who needed help.

That does not decrease his heroism. It increases it.

Let the record show that he did what he had to do, and if he hadn't, those four women would still be in that house.

And Ariel Castro might be getting away with it for another fifteen years.

And now I'm speaking here as an abuse survivor.

That Mr. Ramsey allegedly has a record for domestic violence is not beside the point; it is the point. It's people who abuse other people, and it's people who help other people. And people can learn better, or make a mistake one time and do something to repair it another.

Ramsey doesn't have to be perfect to be a hero. Berry didn't have to be perfect to be a hero. Michelle Knight was a hero when she delivered Ms. Berry's baby daughter, with no experience and no support, and she doesn't have to be perfect for that to stand, either. Gina DeJesus has no doubt done some pretty heroic stuff in the last ten years or so as well.

Our absolutist cultural narratives do nobody a service. People do not have to be perfect and blameless to be worthy of respect and admiration; they only have to be trying.

And one of the effects of that absolutism is to tell survivors who are not perfect and blameless (and who is, and who who has been abused can see themselves as perfect?) then they are somehow villains too, or responsible, or that they bear guilt for what they've suffered.

Another effect is that people who are capable of making a change may not, because they are scared of how they will be perceived if they aren't perfect.

***

(As for Mr. Ramsey's drug charges: if you don't understand the interplay of race, class, and drug-law harassment, I suggest you do some reading, and understand that middle class suburban white people can get away with a lot more than some black guy from Cleveland.)

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