Is Shame Moving Jay-Z Away, Against, or Toward Us?
Brené Brown says shame moves us away, against, and toward other people. I keep thinking about how shame moved Sean Carter in relation to poor people in that Twitter space clip.
No doubt other wealthy people agreed and co-signed. It moved some toward him no doubt. But what about those who were moved away and against?
Brené Brown describes shame that moves us away from others as shame that causes us to hide, cover, and perform. Basically, we can’t expose our true selves because it makes us feel too vulnerable, so we go ghost so to speak. I didn’t really see this aspect of shame showing up in that clip of Jay-Z.
He’s not hiding, although, we can’t see his face, so. But that’s by design based on the platform he was speaking on, so we can’t fault him for that. Was he performing? I don’t know. It seems he’s speaking his truth with vulnerability, being transparent and honest. So again, we can’t say for sure if he’s being fake, or performing. Although I think all celebrities put on some sort of a show when in public because they have an image to uphold.
He was vulnerable and talked about his younger years. He shares the things that he overcame. He speaks about coming out of Marcy Projects. It’s clear he feels shamed by other people. But he didn’t talk about whether or not he felt ashamed. And if so, how that shame made him feel. Or if it had to do with him being so defensive.
He equated the term "capitalist" with slurs like the n-word.
That reveals some real hurt feelings right there. He’s hurt he’s been labeled as a capitalist. He knows it means it in a sense “sold out.” That he’s more like “them.” But instead of saying he resents being called that. Or being honest that it shames him to be compared to his oppressors, he seems to have projected right back on us, which none of us are above.
We all project, to say we don’t is denial. In my opinion (which, who cares what I think, I get it, but I’ll give it anyway). In my opinion, the “you sold out,” gets projected right back. Now we failed him by calling him a capitalist. Don’t we see all he’s doing for us? If we don’t recognize his efforts, he can go back to last year and tell us in detail every single thing he's done for the community. What have you done, he asks.
He chose violence. He knows it.
But that’s how shame works. We fight shame with shame. Oh, you wanna shame me, lemme shame you even harder. That’s the shame that moves us against, as Brown’s work suggests. Again, none of us are above these dynamics. We all find ourselves doing it, myself included.
I shamed the rich in an interview I did with Kiersten Brown on Shame and Money. Any one of them that heard that message would have shamed me right back. I know that. I expect that. Because that’s how shame works. I can’t catch feelings when they come for me. It's normal. That's how emotions move us.
You Can't Escape Emotions Just Because You Deny Them
It's quite a human experience, how we dance with shame. It’s a painful emotion. We all will do anything to avoid shame. We don’t want to associate with it. I bet Jay-Z and the other billionaires would deny feeling any shame for their wealth. Of course, they are proud (pride and shame are 2 sides of the same coin). And also, a lot of hard work went into that. But no human is self-made, meaning there are others who helped make them billionaires that are likely still living in poverty themselves. I dunno about you, maybe it's the Aquarius in me, but the thought of using others for financial gain makes me sick. I struggle with major guilt. It’s why I self-sabotage myself in so many ways. I see posts on Instagram like, “you can’t become rich if you’re complaining and resentful of rich people.” Well no shit. My subconscious is obviously pushing that potential away. I know that. I’m okay with it for the time being.
It’s also part of my politic. As a critical Black feminist, I have to make peace with that until I figure out a way to live a wealthier lifestyle without compromising my integrity. I’m not like everyone or for everyone. I’m okay with still being poor if it means I get rich in a way that is in alignment with what I was sent here to do. I haven’t connected all of those dots yet. Who knows if I'll ever even be rich? At this rate, it's highly unlikely.
I’ve shamed rich people my whole life that the idea of becoming rich myself makes me feel like a hypocrite.
It physically makes me sick. I don’t care for money in that way. Never have. But I need it to live. I don’t respect money. But it will never pour in until I find value in it. It’s complicated and I make it that way. Again, I know that.
The question is, how can I become what I’ve shame? That feels gross. Imagine shaming rich people your whole life, now you’re in the room with them? Getting rich. It's uncomfortable. And yet, for some of us, if that is our path, we eventually become what we shamed, like Jay-Z. That feeling like a hypocrite, like a sell-out, like you could do more and try to overcompensate, what was that like for Hov?
Maybe he’s talked about it before? Because the emotions tied to upward mobility are A LOT. Why aren’t they, the so-called, Black elite, talking about that more?
I’m sure that conversation would still piss some of us off. I already don’t care to hear how getting rich made them feel. That’s a double-edged sword. But I do think that is a way more productive conversation than what he was spewing in my opinion. Here’s why it’s productive.
It gets us to start talking about the messiness of it all. The complexities that forge a new way forward. Once we get real about the problem before us, without denying or getting defensive about it, then we can start to find solutions that are creative.
Freedom, liberation, leisure, it all will mean more access to more capital. We can’t necessarily deny that, try as we may. There isn’t yet a new system in place to reach toward, not entirely, or collectively. We’re all still trapped in capitalism, whether we like it or not.
I’ve seen self-proclaimed Black revolutionaries like Black Lives Matter-Toronto founder Ravyn Wingz talk about how it’s time we stopped expecting activists to be poor and broke. That the struggle for liberation should not mean that those fighting for change continue to suffer and stay poor. This is not a critique of being poor per se. Or to say that we need to take flight from our neighborhoods or change certain aspects of our lives. But they deserve to be compensated for their labor, especially given the level of surveillance and violence that they face.
Because people like Henrietta Lacks should not have family members that are living in struggle given how much wealth she has generated for the medical field. Zora Neale Hurston should never have died poor giving all the art she offered us. Marsha P. Johnson should never have died broke given the revolution she contributed to. See the dilemma?
There’s a strange something that has to happen that we’re all not comfortable talking about because it brings up shame.
I think of Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors getting dragged up and down the streets for the homes she purchased. I stay out of that conversation because I don’t have all the details and tend to mind my own business. But that is the dilemma. How can you be a revolutionary and scoop all of these homes when people are still suffering, this is the charge many have. Valid. But would we be more comfortable if they were tiny homes? What is the appropriate level of wealth one is able to attain? Where do we draw the line? When is it excessive and greedy?
You can’t be a revolutionary and capitalist, true. But how can you be a revolutionary and self-sustaining? Community is the answer. We know this. Turning to the community, building healthy abolitionist futures, growing our own shit. We get it. But where do we get the resources and means to take care of our communities currently? From selling or exchanging things, be it labor, our bodies, our intellect, items, artisan, etc., etc.
How do revolutionaries eat and survive, better yet, thrive, without engaging in capitalism in our current age?
Money, like most things, is socially constructed. It was an idea that manifested as real. Anywhere globally, even in Indigenous communities that have very little access to the modern world, there is bartering or some sort of exchange that has to take place between each one of us in order to survive. What does that exchange look like that we’d be happy with, outside of capitalism?
Because we still have to find a job, or sell our art, and, and or.
We can’t escape the capitalism problem, not even Black revolutionaries. So where do we go from there? When we’re tangled up in it, but still recognize the harms. I wish instead, Jay-Z would have addressed some of that complexity and how he as a billionaire is struggling with that tension.
Can he be a model on how to build shame resiliency enough to say, "yeah, I’m proud I got out, but it sucks that I left others behind me, and try as I may, the system is set up in a way that will continue to leave others behind because we need the underclass in order to not collapse completely?"
What if instead, he said, "I feel some type of way that I’m being attacked when I’m trying to find solutions?" What if he said, "I don’t have the answers, where can I look for some creative solutions?" What if instead of sitting with members of the NFL, he sat down with members of different Indigenous communities globally and sought their wisdom on ways forward and compensated them accordingly without the extractive'ness we see going on?
I don’t have solutions myself. I’m still learning from others. From the past. Paying attention to what arrives from the future. I’m studying Octavia Butler because she stays knowing what’s to come. I value the science and knowledge of Indigenous communities. I’m following abolitionists. I’m tuning into spiritual communities. I’m doing my personal work.
I still feel uncomfortable with money, and for these very reasons. No shade, no disrespect, but I’d literally rather be poor than wealthy and live like a lot of Black rich people who forget where they came from, and can’t connect (I already can’t connect, so there’s that). Its judgment, my emotions, the feelings, all of that gets in the way. I’m honest about it. Can you?
Also, again, I do emotions work.
The structural and systemic are what we all need to address. Interwoven all throughout is that conversation too. Like I said in the first post, others are having that conversation. I’m trying to stay in my lane and use these moments to teach us about emotions.
It’s also important to note as others have that emotions cannot lead us to revolution even while political. These conversations and asking Jay-Z and others to talk about their emotions is actually futile in itself. Contradictory, I know. It might make us feel good to know he's human and feels ashamed of his proximity to the powers that oppress so many of us, but in the end, talking about emotions doesn’t get us that far. Not even healing our emotions will get us all the way free.
This is not to say we don’t have these conversations, because they do move and shift things around. Dialogue is important. But so are legislative changes. So is equal distribution of wealth. So is canceling student debt. Safe and adequate housing for all. Accessible and affordable health care. Those things won’t change by themselves. The work involves emotions, true, but it’s not the entirety of even the most crucial part.
Until next time, in solidarity.