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Friday, July 5, 2013

Social Psychology Application Essay

Social Psychology Application Essay: Blame it on the Victims
            One of the most pressing problems in modern society today is poverty. But a more alarming response to this issue is the attitude of some people towards the poor. Americans are known to be self-reliant and possesses the attitude that ‘only they can help themselves’. Hence the mentality of blaming the poor for being poor has been rampant. Most believe that poverty is not pre-determined and each poor individual has the capacity to overcome such predicament. It is also easy to blame the poor for their condition because of the government indirectly tolerating mendicancy and even encourage charitable works for the poor.

            The term victim blaming was derived from the book of William Ryan where he stressed the term as justification for racism and social injustice in the US. Ryan refuted an earlier claim by Daniel Moynihan who claimed that slavery has direct correlation to the poor state of African-Americans in the US (Bieneck and Krahe, 2010). Ryan attributed the economic state of African-Americans to the father’s inability to provide and the reliance to dole outs from the government and concerned groups and individuals. The term created by Ryan became popular especially among groups who believe that every unfortunate event that happens to someone, most of the blame should be placed on the victim. Such mentality has been embedded in several people’s mind and passed to generations without even inquiry.

            The poor are easily blamed for their condition because some stakeholders of the society view the poor as reason for their ineffectiveness. The government blames the poor for being unproductive and cites their lack of resolve to improve their situation. Some believe that the government uses the poor as scapegoat for their failures. Also, in some countries, politicians use the poor to ensure their positions are maintained. The media also uses the poor to create materials for their current affairs programming. With poverty all over the place, media has materials to constantly harp their own agenda.  The private sector also targets the poor for their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. But most of these programs are temporary and are not sustainable to further improve the lives of the poor. Also, these efforts are used by companies to avoid taxes and improve their reputation.

            Michael Harrington, a psychologist provided an insight as to the condition of the poor in America. According to him, “there is a a language of the poor, a psychology of the poor, a worldview of the poor. To be impoverished is to be an internal alien, to grow up in a culture that is radically different from the one that dominates the society.” Harrington’s assessment focused on the poor being less ambitious and hardworking. This might not be the case generally, but there are situations when such observation is made. 

            In the US, some are poor because of bankruptcy. There is also a misconception that bankruptcy is caused by overspending and debts. But several Americans filed for Chapter 11 because of costly medical bills. Although their condition as poor and sick could be a personal circumstance, it is not their fault that healthcare in the US is expensive. The role of ensuring affordable healthcare services is part of the government’s main thrusts. Other people are poor because they lost their jobs. There might be some conservatives who think being fired means inefficiency at work. But the recent economic problems of the US and ongoing outsourcing have costs several jobs in the country. Of course this time, it is hard to blame those who lost their jobs for companies failing and looking for other options abroad.

            The notion of blaming the victim has deep psychological roots. The social conditions in the US may have improved, but the historical precedence suggests an orientation of blaming the victims for their conditions. The idea of blaming others needs to stop because there is no point in adding salt to the wound.


Bieneck, S. and B. Krahe. “"Blaming the Victim and Exonerating the Perpetrator in Cases of
Rape and Robbery: Is There a Double Standard?” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 26 (9). 2010: 1785-1797.
Harrington, M. The Other America: Poverty in the United States, New York: Scribner. 1997
Moynihan, D. P. “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,” March 1965.

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