Liberians fear a backlash from Arizona rape but they misunderstand the source

While I was out of town this week a number of news items caught my eye, the rape of an 8-year-old in Arizona by 4 boys among them. Today I took note of a follow-on story about how the Liberian community of which the girl and the boys are a part fear a backlash against their people by the Arizona community and America as a whole.

Afterward, [Liberian Association of Arizona president Robert] Sherman told The Associated Press that the rape shocked and outraged Liberians in Arizona and throughout the world.

“This thing that happened in Arizona has reverberated across the Liberian community everywhere, in the nation and overseas,” he said. “Our concern is if it is not rebutted, it will have ramifications beyond Arizona.”

Sherman said such backlash could include employment or housing discrimination against Liberians.

He said the public needs to understand the alleged rape was an isolated incident, and was not representative of the entire culture.

As I understand it, the rape itself isn’t being held up as representative of Liberian culture any more than a rape in Kansas or elsewhere would be representative of American culture. Where the outrage against Liberian culture was sparked was not in the rape but in the reaction of this poor girl’s family in the aftermath:

The outrage over the allegations intensified after police said the girl’s parents criticized her after the attack and blamed her for bringing shame on the family.

“The father told the caseworker and an officer in her presence that he didn’t want her back. He said, ‘Take her, I don’t want her,’ ” police Sgt. Andy Hill said.

The backlash is forming from Americans’ observation of a callous family more concerned about their image than in helping the child victim of a brutal attack. The pastor of the church the family attends has said the reports of the girl’s father being ashamed of her was “the result of a misunderstanding.” OK, I’m willing to give that notion a fair hearing but simply saying that doesn’t clear matters up, not at all. I notice the girl is still in foster care.

Certainly, the family has no obligation to explain themselves and if they feel the appropriate response to this situation is to wash their hands clean of their daughter and family member then that’s their choice. The rest of us have no obligation to condone that action or even tolerate it in silence and if the Liberian community as a whole would like to avoid the backlash of we Americans who hold such an action in contempt then I recommend they make it loud and clear that the family’s actions are also not condoned by the Liberian community. If they do that I can’t see any serious backlash coming into being.

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