Shame and Racism

Below I'm linking to an article that predicted George Zimmerman's acquittal due to colorbindedness ("the belief that it is possible to not notice a particular individual is not white"). It questions whether we can judge if a violent situation was just or not while simultaneously ignoring how a history of racism affected that violent situation.

It's a great article and it references and links to another great article by Dr. Stephany “Stiletto” Rose which should be read along with this article. I have some hesitation to post this because like anything that questions the behavior of those that hold power it causes a lot of defensiveness which usually is incredibly arduous to argue against. It's not arduous to argue because the evidence, history or logic is weak, in fact it's irrefutable, it's arduous because the defensiveness that is encountered is strongly emotional, yet the discussion normally never addresses the strong emotions that cause the defensiveness in the first place.

So, if you don't already agree that racism affected almost every aspect of how George Zimmerman was treated after he killed Trayvon Martin I want you to ask yourself how this article about color blindedness makes you feel? If you comment on my post here I would love if you could share how it makes you feel. You're welcome to comment on logic and evidence too, but don't miss the point. Even if you are uncomfortable talking about how you feel here, think about it with yourself or talk to someone you feel more comfortable with. As an aside, if you can identify the emotion, don't just think about it but feel it, for if you allow yourself to really feel it you can become comfortable with it enough to release it. Whatever you do with your emotions, do not ignore them.

I have a suggestion on one emotion you could think about. Shame. It's something I learned about from Brené Brown who has two excellent Ted Talks on vulnerability and shame. In the shame Ted Talk she specifically talks about how important shame is in the discussion of racism. Think about that for moment. Our nation was literally built on the backs of racism. It was integral to our economy. Racism was still overtly written into our laws only 40 or 50 years ago. Everyone agrees racism is despicable but how can we think we are colorblind so quickly? How can we come to terms with our past behavior, not to mention how it benefits us today? Brené Brown's research says that shame is the result of not being able to disassociate negative behavior from ourselves. If you can acknowledge behavior is bad but not representative of you it's easier to apologize and let go and correct. But if you associate it with yourself you can't apologize or correct because to do so would hurt the self so greatly, you just can't.

In the shame Ted Talk Brené Brown only briefly mentions the connection between shame and our racist history. I haven't read Brené Brown's books or looked for any further discussion on this connection but it's absolutely clear to me that when discussing racism in America we should be centering our discussion not on logic, or evidence or just on history, but on the shame that we feel from our past actions. Only then can we truly become the post-racial-society we imagine ourselves to be.

Here is the article on colorbindedness.

That article links to the article by Dr. Stilleto but here it is to be sure you read it: