Racism Is Not A Mental Illness
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Politics and Activism

Racism Is Not A Mental Illness

A message with good intentions paints racists as victims.

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Racism Is Not A Mental Illness
NPR

This Matters, a multimedia platform run primarily through Facebook, released a video in late January that claimed that racism is a mental illness.

The video explains that “the United States is traumatized by its origins of slavery and genocide” and that racists’ beliefs and behavior can be explained via having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


With all due respect, fuck that.

This video communicates one of the most sympathetic statements towards racism I have ever heard. The U.S. was indeed built off the backs of slaves and the genocide of Native Americans, but the type of government that benefited from that is still in power today.

The true trauma victims are the African Americans still being affected by slavery, redlining, and a lack of reparations today. The true victims are the Native Americans that had (and are still having) their land stolen and their societies pillaged. Don’t you dare try to victimize the colonialist machine that still perpetuates racism and benefits from the crimes they committed.

Racists do not have, as the video suggests, PTSD. Just because a person sparsely exhibits cherry-picked symptoms of PTSD, such as agitation, irritability, or hostility, does not mean they have it. That is not only a ridiculous claim to make, but unbelievably harmful to both people living with PTSD and people targeted by racism.

Not only does it potentially invalidate the diagnosis of PTSD, but it also provides racists with an "out," an easy way to remove accountability from their actions.

The narrator also states that just because racists are “mentally ill” doesn’t mean we should “let them off the hook.” No, but if someone is mentally ill, they are apt to receive help. They are deserving of resources and guidance. Alcoholics being convicted for drunk driving is an example that’s brought up as a way to say that we shouldn’t let mentally ill people get away with their harmful actions. However, that’s a testament to the state of the country’s attention to and handling of mental illness, rather than a misguided call to hold racists accountable for their damaging ideology.

This type of rhetoric suggests that racism is justifiable and, on some level, worthy of respect and understanding. It isn’t.

Racists do not deserve sympathy. They need education and exposure. Racism is an ideology constructed by centuries of reinforced social structures and enabled systemic oppression. Not a chemical imbalance in the brain.

The narrator even brings up this method of psychotherapy as a way to combat racism. And, sure. Lots of problems can be solved or explained by using methodology employed by mental health experts. But that doesn’t make it a mental illness.

Trying to categorize racism as a mental illness is grossly disrespectful to those targeted by racism and to those who truly suffer from PTSD. Instead of perpetuating this harmful rhetoric, organizations like This Matters could benefit more from discussing how systemic racism affects the mental health of those affected by it. The threat of gentrification, police brutality, and other results of racism can take a mental and emotional toll.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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