{Book Review} Shame on me by Tessa McWatt

Book review time.

I loved this one (well, otherwise I wouldn’t tell you about it!) as it explores complexities of Tessa’s background and the forced intimacy of 4 continents. Tessa has Chinese, Indian, Indigenous, Portuguese, French Jewish, African and Scottish roots, and a combination of plantation owners as well as enslaved ancestors. A bit of a lot to deal with and a lot of things I haven’t previously considered when discussing race and belonging and occupying rightful space in society.

The book explores structural inequality and highlights what a difficult thing it is to break down. Attitudes are more difficult to change than laws!

It also explores the longing for tradition and the demands that a community makes on its members simply due to the fact of being born into it.

The plantation is still present. Maybe not sugar and cotton, but cheap products that yield great profits for investors in corporations relying on cheap labor. Cheap food, cheap energy, cheap care, cheap technology – the product does not define the plantation. It is defined by the structure and the labor done by the people upon which its cheap products rely. Let that sit with you for a bit.

My mind expanded when I read that as long as there is ‘otherness’ there will be inequality. Race, class and inequality happen as soon as there is an us and them.

Among my main takeaways is the fact that there is racism even in the language of psychoanalysis, especially around light and darkness. The language of archetypes is rooted in historical racism (shadows are interpreted using language or darkness, blackness) including in Jung and Freud who developed their ideologies in a racists era.

Another favourite takeaway is that all people are already mixed. The lines that have been drawn between us have nothing to do with biology and biology is insufficient to determine belonging. We are all made of movement.

My favourite quote is ‘A master’s tools (structures, language) will never dismantle a master’s house.’ (Audre lord)

Something to ponder on: Words are learned in context and they have power and possibility. They have history and intention. It is possible that each of us is a product of all the words we have ever believed in.

In conclusion Tessa asks for a new language of belonging. A who-are-you space instead of what-are-you biology.

I’m curious, is this a book you’d like to read? Let me know in comments below. x

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