I need to vent.
I overheard two women talking in the locker room at the Y yesterday. They were far away, not in my area, but everyone could hear them loud and clear.
One woman was talking about her Caribbean vacation. I'll call her Vacation. The other woman - let's call her Listener - was agreeing with Vacation and asking questions. It was mostly mundane small-talk, and although I could hear every word, I wasn't paying much attention.
After a while, Listener asked, "Where else have you been down there?" Vacation named a few islands, including Aruba.
Listener: "They never did find that girl down there, did they?" Here my ears perk up.
Vacation: "No, they didn't. She was sold. Kidnapped and sold into prostitution. I saw her parents on Dr Phil. They said she was a good girl and wouldn't ask for trouble. But you know, when you go on vacation in a strange country, you don't just wander off by yourself, it's not safe." Now I'm listening intently.
Listener: "Well, no one could expect something like that to happen."
Vacation: "No, but it's just common sense. Her friends asked her to come along, and she said no, and she went off by herself. That's putting yourself in a position for something to happen. I won't say it's asking for it, but come on."
Listener: "Well, like my sister-in-law says, no means no." [Wow, her sister-in-law's a genius. I guess this was Listener's attempt to shift blame away from the victim.]
Vacation: It's just stupid. You do stupid things, you're going to get hurt.
Listener: Yeah, I suppose.
Vacation: Plus, you know, they're all dark people down there. They like blondes.
They say their goodbyes and head off.
At this point, I'm seething. They're dark people down there. They like blondes. How many myths and stereotypes can we fit into one sentence?
If the women had been nearby, I would have said something. But they were in another cubicle, hidden from me by rows of lockers. And I've matured to the point where I know better than to charge over to someone else's conversation (although it took several decades!). So I just continued getting ready, quietly seething, and left the gym.
In my head, I know why people say things like that. It's very simple, really: it makes them feel safer. She did that, that's why she was raped/abducted/assaulted. I would never do that, therefore it won't happen to me. No one wants to believe they are vulnerable. No one wants to believe the truth, that violence can be totally random and can happen to anybody. I know this in my head. But when I hear it out loud, it still hurts in my heart.
Folks, if you ever find yourself talking about one of the many personal tragedies that becomes public fodder, please watch what you say. Chances are very good - statistically speaking - that someone listening is a survivor of violence of some kind. She or he has probably believed, at least for a time, that they "did something stupid" to cause their misfortune - and may even believe it still. So, please. Think.
As for myths about skin and hair colour, I offer no excuse for that trash. They have no basis in reality.