Power, Humiliation and Suffering in America

Edited by Daniel Rothbart, New York: Routledge, forthcoming, 2017.

The subject matter of this volume centers on a powerful emotion that on the surface seems to be localized to one or a few people but in fact constitutes a powerful force in the stability of large-scale social systems. I’m referring to humiliation—the emotion of feeling disgraced, mortified, self-abased, and degraded and shamed. The primary theme of this volume is that certain systems in America exert controls over targeted population groups through mechanisms of humiliation that are designed to invade their mind, warp their thoughts, annul their self-esteem and render them docile to the more powerful social forces. With this volume we introduce the term “systemic humiliation” to refer to a social system’s routine norms, the “taken for granted” rules, the “common sense” administrative decisions, and the seemingly innocent procedures, all of which are strategically deployed to diminish the self-esteem of a certain population groups. Such norms, rules, decisions and procedures comprise the outward form of a system’s internal power. The chapter authors of this volume delve deep into such power that is virtually faceless, woven into webs of organizational activities, institutional policies and professional practices. Consider for example, the criminal justice system that imposes severe punishment of various sorts to people of color. The norms, rules, decisions and procedures of this system carry with them a power of mind control that is woven into webs or organizational activities of the system’s operations and rationalized by its administrators, operators, bureaucrats, staff members and low-level operators as necessary to promote the common good, necessary for meeting long-term objectives, innocuous to most people and simply “the way things operate” for a segment of the population. No one person is solely responsible, so culpability cannot be localized to a single person. In fact, the intentions of the system’s operators, agents, or leaders may not be consciously malicious at all.

Abridged Outline of Chapters 
Chapter 1: “Humiliation, Dignity and Power” Daniel Rothbart [editor]

Unit I. Racial Injustice
Introduction by editor.
Chapter 2: “Can Systemic Humiliation be Transformed into Systemic Dignity?” by Linda Hartling, and Evelin Lindner.
Chapter 3: “Transforming the Systemic Humiliation of Crime and Justice: Healing and Awakening Black Consciousness” by Tony Gaskew.
Chapter 4: “The Civil War at 150 Years: Keep Wounds Yet to Heal,” by Joseph Montville.
Chapter 5: “Prisons in the United States: System Maintenance & Historical Trajectories of Dehumanization,” Patricia Maulden.
Chapter 6: “Insults as tools of systemic humiliation,” Karina V. Korostelina.

Unit II: Mental Illness and the Quest for Dignity
Introduction to Unit II [Editor]
Chapter 7: “Madness, Violence, and Human Dignity: Transforming Madness for Dignified Existence,” by David Y.F. Ho.
Chapter 8: “‘To Wander Off in Shame’: Deconstructing the Shaming and Shameful Arrest Policies of Urban Police Departments in Their Treatment of Persons with Mental Disabilities” by Michael L. Perlin, and Alison J. Lynch.
Chapter 9: “Systematic Humiliation in Family Dynamics” by Connie Dawson, Ph.D., Clinical Social Worker.

Unit III: Empathy, Healing and Dignity
Introduction to Unit III [Editor]
Chapter 10:  “Black Lives Matter and the Role of Education in Addressing Systemic Humiliation,” by Arthur Romano.
Chapter 11: “Structural Change:  Empathy and Hope” by Michael Britton.
Concluding Themes [Editor]