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Is Racism A Mental Illness?

  • Broadcast in Women
Host Naimah Latif

Host Naimah Latif


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"Racism is as American as apple pie" is the highly publicized quote from student activist Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Toure) during the 1960s protest movement. As supporters of white police officer Darren Wilson collect money for his defense in the killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, members of a white supremist hate group send out a message referring to Michael Brown as a "N-----r Thug" and praise the work of the Ferguson police department in killing him.  For them, Darren Wilson is a hero. Racial hatred is as American as apple pie. But is it also a reflection of serious mental instability, an irrational fear that could prompt people to commit violent acts? Is it a condition to be isolated and treated, the way one treats those who suffer from schizoprenia or dementia, or any other mental illness that produces delusional thinking? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the racist whites that threatened his life as "our sick white brethren." Those who are treated badly by sick racists often spend a lot of time trying to convince themselves that they are worthy of respect, rather than recognizing that the illness is within those who do not know how to respect others. A healthy mind has the capacity to recognize the good in others. A sick mind does not. Would you vote someone into office who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and might become a serial killer? Then why allow those with the mental illness of racism to continue to get elected as mayors, appointed as police chiefs, or sit in courtrooms as judges? Should racism be identified and treated like a mental illness? If so, shouldn't the responsibility for removing mentally sick people from positions of authority rest on those who are mentally well?