Sometimes it can be difficult to know for certain when you have been victimized and it can be even more difficult to understand why, who, and exactly how you have been victimized. Obviously in cases of bullying, or violence, or rape, the victimization is very obvious, but a film like “Lean On Me” causes the viewer to question whether or not victims can sometimes go unnoticed. One example that is subtle, but present in the film, is the idea that all of the kids in East Side High School are victims of a larger social and political world that they probably could not fathom even if they had a chance to view it in its entirety.
The social class-systems and economic distribution in America, the idea of “free markets” and of “haves” and “have nots” is at the bottom of their difficult and crime-infested existence. The great irony of the movie is, of course, that only by getting an education can the kids at the high school escape their dismal lives and earn something better, but the very decadence and violence of the schools has created an atmosphere where learning is impossible. Everyone, including myself, has probably experienced at least one obstacle, if not many more, to receiving their right to an education.
In my own case, I have been victimized not only by school bullies, but by negligent or outright hostile teachers. In one case, I remember having been given a “C-” on an assignment in Math where the teacher had incorrectly marked many of my answers. The assignment deserved a “B” but when I asked for the teacher to take another look at the assignment, I was told to accept the grade I had been given, period. That is a kind of victimization which is very slight compared to the vents portrayed in the movie “Lean on Me,”but it is an example of how sometimes victimization can go unnoticed.
People that I have known have experienced much more extreme victimization, whether it be a female friend who is in an abusive relationship, or a close friend of mine whose own family continuously criticizes him while relying on him to run errands and help with financial obligations. Victimization seems to follow a pattern where one person or group of persons takes advantage of someone whom they perceive to be weaker, or of lesser consequence than themselves. If you are a victim, that probably means that the person or group who is victimizing you has decided that you are of lesser power and importance than they are themselves.
While it is a common belief that victims are the “innocent” party, it is entirely possible for somebody to be a victim while at the same time victimizing others. One good illustration from “Lean on Me” is the school drug-dealers whoa re making victims out of the people they deal drugs to, but they are also victims themselves of the same social injustices and social inequalities that plague the others. Because you are most likely to be noticed first as a perpetrator of crime than as a victim in most cases, this kind of victimization goes unnoticed.
Many forms of victimization rest on the fact that the victims are usually not regarded at large as being valuable or desirable. In many cases they also view themselves this way: as of little or no importance. The best remedy I can think of for victimization is self-empowerment. That doesn’t mean violence, but it does mean that — because victimization implies that one is viewed as being weaker or of lesser value — the natural response to remedy victimization would be the demonstration that either or both of these assumptions are false.
In the case that I related about my own math grade, the proper response would have been to seek out whatever official protocol the school offered to challenge an “illigitimate” grade and maybe through this means I could have had the grade changed, which, in turn would have demonstrated to the teacher that I was not of lesser consequence than the teacher themself. In the case of “Lean On Me,” of course, the sense of self-empowerment came through learning adn self-discipline, which is the very best method to address victimization and prevent future victimization.