What a wild ride!
The intellectual self-stim of reading all of y’all’s work out there has been a roller-coaster. Thanks everyone.
Last night, the roller-coaster took me down down down into some white supremacist bunkers. The drip-drip of slippery stalagtites, and sightless creatures with the teeth of angler fish, snapping at the light.
My terror is that someone may interpret some parts of the shame bucket concept as apologistic for the diseased racist. Don’t do that. That’s not what I’m up to.
The shame bucket you carry is your Achilles heel, your self-debilitator. It has the manipulative power of original sin.
I’ve used the expression for a while, and used it in a comment on a thread in All About Race. Now I want to explain it at length. With all of the various warps and wooves, the shame bucket is the central pattern.
My original understanding of it’s power came while watching some cableTV biography of Jeffery Dahmer (sp?). From childhood, his progression of aberrant behavior spiraled as his self definition rotted. Until he believed he had no choices, that all outcomes were pre-determined based on his self-prejudice, “I am evil.”
I’ve read accounts from WW II Germans who were involved in some of the first mass killings (before the efficiencies of scale were applied). How many of them would vomit before they became, in the words of one, “used to it”.
Capacity for evil built upon recognizing one’s capacity for evil. This self-recognition born of inescapable self-judgement.
You know what you’ve done. You’re bad. Therefore, when given a choice you must take the bad one. That’s what bad people do.
“Forgive me Father, for I have…”
What a tidy way of institutionally dealing with the dangerous human element of self-loathing. ‘Cause these people are not just a danger to themselves.
One of my high school teachers (really, a teacher at my high school – I was never in one of his classes) had a reputation for being very strict. Mr. Brown taught geometry, and everybody loved him. Often, he wore high leather motorcycle boots. Badass cool with twin baby girls dressed in flower-print dresses following him around after-school. To me, he looked like Jimi Hendrix, but taller.
One day, while working on a project in the hallway, I noticed Mr. Brown looming over me (oh no ! What am I getting busted for now? And by Mr. Brown!)
“You know,” he said, “you’ve never been in one of my classes, but I’ve been wanting to tell you how much I admire your work.”
Did I tell you he was also a liar?
It was years before I figured that out. There was no opportunity for him to see any of my “work”. I know that because what little I turned in was mediocre and careless. What little was completed, none was displayed.
Starving for those magic (daddy=subjective love) words, “proud of you”, I found his ersatz bread to be coffee cake. Thumbs-in-my-armpits – chest-stickin’-out proud of myself, because Mr. Brown admired my work.
Like a secret coin held in reserve, I held onto that moment through some crippling times- counting my coin again and again.
Not until I was ready did I allow myself to see what Mr. Brown had done. He was not one to lavish saccharine praise, and his class (my friends complained) was hard. This wasn’t false praise a-la- go along – get along; social promotion. This was honing in on someone who’s self-punisher was in overdrive, and offering him an alternative self-definition; saving a fellow human from debasement (th’ basement ? Like I said, I was there last night).
These lessons roll around in my head and guide my daily work. I’ve begun to allow the shame bucket concept to nibble at my understanding of our racial misunderstandings.
Carmen, in her post on All About Race, asked the question,
“Do you believe MOST white people are offended by a “sense of black grievance?”
My answer was that I am not offended. I am ashamed. The bucket is unwieldy, and sloshing all over us both, though. I can’t be forgiven because I didn’t do anything. You can’t forgive me, because I haven’t harmed you.
Memory has indeed put it’s hand upon my breast, and I do know (of) your hatred (everyones, it seems).
Now what? (and don’t tell me kumbaya)