The Mark of Shame: Cancel Culture’s Biggest Failure and how begin to repair it

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Slavery and the conditions of slavery is a shame producing emotion especially amongst many white people of current times. This is a welcome reality as one step towards healing.

Shame and its cousin guilt are highly uncomfortable emotions that can serve healing past and current behaviors about what it means to be human. Humans and maybe more so white Americans don’t like to feel shame because it reveals perceived weaknesses in the mythic American Character: think the strong silent (type) white man — a John Wayne persona. The positive aspects of the American Character are feelings of pride and loyalty with regard to our Founding Fathers’ ideals of democracy and quest for freedom — but excluding slaves. The downside of this image is the strong man never admitting to have made a mistake — publicly, a might makes right, stuck in the duality of right versus wrong. In many ways this has been with us all to make some — mostly white male Americans in-power — the mythic — “I want to be like him” or “I want to be with him.” mindset. Besides the enormous pressure of this position and the illusions of strength and invulnerability attached to this kind of “ ‘ole white boy” mentality its sets a dangerous precedent. It sets up power-over dynamics which have become so entrenched they are no longer recognizable as racism. It has infected the Cancel Culture with regard to shame and its desire to eliminate that which represents symbols our collective feelings of shame and guilt as if we could make a swift act of will and eliminate them.

The mistake is removing these statues and /or renaming public institutions that are reminders of public shame and guilt without re-educating ourselves in real-time. If we remove these statues or rename institutions we set-up present and future generations to forget the sins of both the past and the present. Cancel Culture seeks to obliterate white peoples’ shame with regard to offensive statues of historical figures without a middle way. We need reminders of the shame and guilt rich whites used to oppress blacks and whites in their lost for power. Later after the slaves were freed the Rich Landowners paid the lowest wages for blacks and whites too. — The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is. Point being is that The Super Rich used the Jim Crow laws to oppress and make slaves of black people and whites too, so they could remain in power and continue in their greedy pursuits. Sound familiar?

Taking down confederate statues is good but a lost opportunity of educating those about slavery and those that worked for freedom. By reminding our collective society of peoples of color and whites too — perhaps through memorials — of the slavery and oppression by Super Rich Whites then we can go a long way from preventing these travesties from happening now and in the future.

In my mind this is a reminder of shame and guilt we need to acknowledge and feel as well as holding space for heroes that worked to free slaves. By presenting both sides of each of these two historical positions we remind ourselves of the ways of power and oppression. It opens a space for education, it doesn’t erase shame and guilt it hangs it out there for all to see now and in the future. It honors all of our past allows a space for accountability, forgiveness and compassion to emerge. It could promote dialog and a middle way through divisiveness towards compromise so we can live together instead of making secrets of the symbols of shame.

It is a way of paying the debt of our existence, seeing the faults and injustices of treating a group of people with different skin colors and ethnicity as sub-human or less than and makes a way for healing to begin. White man’s ascendancy has a debt to pay to enslaving “others” and seeing the cost of hatred, anger and ultimately fear of “the others” as a way of hardening our hearts towards ourselves and other people.

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Frank Ontario

Frank Ontario

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