A little while ago, I was watching this video of Michelle Alexander. In it, she talks about how struck she was by the silence within the communities most affected by mass incarceration. House after house in these neighborhoods had family members in prison. But people weren’t talking about it. And a big reason for that was shame.
Not long after, some of the people from the housing committee of Occupy DC were telling us how they had a hard time finding people willing to admit that they were being foreclosed on. People were too ashamed to admit it publicly. The shame was so great that they would rather lose their home.
It is incredible to me how we have all been shamed into silence. We are ashamed of being targeted by police. Ashamed of being taken advantage of by shady mortgage lenders. Ashamed of being poor. Ashamed of what we look like or who we have sex with. We are just inundated with shaming for so many things that we have no business being ashamed of.
Meanwhile, I’m researching Wells Fargo and their investments in private prisons. And I’m thinking about these mutual fund managers who shamelessly sit at their desks buying stock in private prisons that torture people. Then they go home to their McMansions or posh condos and bask in the glory of having all the things the rest of us are shamed for not having.
There is a lot of talk about redistribution of wealth. But I think maybe we need to start with a redistribution of shame.