The claimed victimhood of Michael Dunn and Paula Deen


Let’s start with a quiz. Being convicted of attempted murder after actually murdering an unarmed black teenager is:

(a) a sad miscarriage of justice
(b) disappointing, but at least some measure of punishment for a heinous act
(c) a clear sign of racism embedded in our culture and judicial system
(d) like being raped

If you answered (d), you would probably get along with Michael Dunn. The man who shot and killed Jordan Davis had his ludicrous use of self-defense validated by some members of the jury, leading to a mistrial on the murder charge. It turns out his views on women are about as enlightened as his views on race (which aren’t remotely ambiguous given his abhorrent prison letters).

Last week, it was revealed that Dunn sees himself as the victim in this situation, comparing himself to “a chick [who] got raped” and is blamed because of how she dressed. I shouldn’t have to waste words on why this is offensive, but since I’m sure there are other people out there who will back him up, I’ll spare a few. It’s telling how he still clings to the idea that he was threatened by unarmed teenagers listening to “thug music” while he was the one who brought deadly force into the situation, with tragic consequences for Davis and his family. And of course it’s disgusting to compare his facing some measure of justice for his crimes to a traumatizing experience faced by millions of survivors.

Dunn is just one of the recent notable people to claim victimhood in this way. Paula Deen, sued for discrimination and unapologetic about planning a plantation-themed wedding with staff dressed up like slaves, got on the victimhood train recently as well.

“I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name,” she tells People. “It’s like that black football player who recently came out,” referring to NFL prospect and former University of Missouri football standout, Michael Sam.

“He (Sam) said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”

What better way to show that you don’t understand systems of power and privilege than to view accountability for your actions as analogous to facing actual oppression. Being taken to task by people, many of whom have less power and cultural capital, is supposed to somehow be similar to suffering under institutionalized injustice. As if the co-opting of others’ suffering weren’t enough, the terms they throw around are icing on the cake. They’re not survivors of sexual assault, they’re “chicks.” He’s not Michael Sam, he’s “that black football player.”

These are obviously not the people we would expect to be attuned to racism, sexism and homophobia and how they interact with privilege. But it’s a window into the psyche of some oblivious sector of this population that constantly feels under siege. Their lashing out at that perceived attack can have harrowing and often life-threatening consequences.


Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

2 thoughts on “The claimed victimhood of Michael Dunn and Paula Deen”

  1. I have lived a long life and never in that time have I been harmed by teenagers of any ethnicity listening to loud music. The fact that he brought violence into the situation would have been enough for me to vote for a guilty verdict. To compare yourself to a rape victim in this situation dishonors and minimizes tru victims. I am disgusted.


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