Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The movie, "Precious" has gotten a range of reactions in the African-American community, from praise for the way it calls attention to some real and widespread problems associated with poverty and neglect, to condemnation for a one-sided, negative, portrayal of African-American life. This latter reaction seems to me to reflect shame about the severe dysfunction, abuse and neglect, portrayed in Precious' family.
The early psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi wrote about how when there is sexual abuse in a family, the victim will often feel the shame and guilt that the perpetrator disavows, in one way or another does not feel. The child-victim takes on, becomes the receptacle for, the perpetrators shame.
When and if African-Americans feel shame about a film like Precious, I suggest that they are taking on the disavowed shame and guilt of white people for the oppression of African-Americans, or collusion with such oppression, or failure to take action to stop such oppression, from slavery onwards. Why do we not hear about white people feeling shame and guilt for the conditions of life on view in the film?
As I mentioned in an earlier blog posting, negative reactions, like that of Jesse Jackson's, toward Barack Obama's call on black men to take responsibility for their children, speak to a similar shame that is taken on by black people, when whites might very well be thought to have at least as much cause for shame.

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