So I’m mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed per usual, and I come across this video that immediately caught my attention. It’s titled “Race is a Mental Disease.”
It’s a video essay produced by “This Matters” creative platform (a emerging Buzzfeed-like platform). The video addresses the idea that racism is a result of a mental health illness which raises a lot of eyebrows. The video is below for available viewing purpose:
The argument includes the concept that racism is a form of PTSD with signs including, “agitation, irritability hostility, hypervigliance, and social isolation,” in which these racist individual are “traumatized” for the United States long and shameful notion that racism still exist despite the insistence of school history books creating this allure that racist time are over and justice will always serve equally. Calling out that “every new racist episode is like a flashback,” the video argues that racism is a coping mechanism for the painful history of genocide, segregation laws, and the slave culture developed in this country’s beginnings.
It uses clips from multiple real-life accounts of racism filmed by bystanders and news clips of Tomi Lahern because why not? Of course it doesn't excuse racists for their behaviors and actions but wants to find a way to hold them “accountable.”
Although the video is thorough in it’s argument especially comparing it to symptoms of PTSD, I cannot agree with everything. Racism is a social construct that was created to categorize the superior, or the one gazing towards “The Other.” It is to mystify the object the superior observer is viewing.
Racism was not raised white—it was raised within all colors of the racial rainbow with prejudice, with hate, with refusal of an more open perspective which is natural. Many people prefer to enclose themselves within a community that is more familiar to their culture and upbringing. Also the video used an immense amount of clips of white racists—which I’m not denying. However there are racists of color too. I’ve personally have been called “ching chong” by a girl of color (not going to enclose what her ethnicity entails) that hated me in elementary school. I mean, I think she just had a personal vendetta against me for me (not for my race), but still her racist comments about me were intolerable and unacceptable. And I, as an Asian-American, raised in the Asian church culture can note that there are some seriously racist Asians out there (the old-school ones). My conclusion: everyone is racist, some way more than others.
Everyone is born with the possibility to change his/her ways. If someone was a racist, they can change their ways. However it shouldn’t be categorized as a “mental illness” just because they are “traumatized” of change. The one inflicting the racist comments shouldn't be coddled to trauma because that would undermine those that have been victims of racism. If people who have experienced racism aren't able to have the advantage of undermining their conditions just as the racists, that just isn't fair. This is about education and social realization that a group of people that inputs prejudice against a group of people based on the color of their skin.
However I feel like racism can be relieved over “exposure,” not the “exposure therapy” the video was talking about as a solution. People need to have a civilized discussion about race, understand the other side. Maybe the girl that was teasing me at school was insecure about her ethnicity and needed to feel superior in a way. A play I had read in my upper division English Course, The Wash, implies certain Japanese people held negative, racist sentiments towards white, black and hispanics due to the fact that no one stood up for the Japanese during the internment camp period in the United States. Conversation needs to open up, issues must be solved, the discussion must continue until we fix it “Racism will always repeat. Until we interrupt it.”
Also, the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of a mental illness includes, “[a] health condition involving changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illness are associated with distress and/or problems function in social, work, or family activities.”
Being racist doesn't affect your health or does it affect your social life. Yes, people will hate you if you are racist but being one doesn't affect your work, school, social, or family life. Ask the current Executive Branch of this nation. It seems to functioning effectively despite all the racist executive orders and systematically oppressive education system bill it passed recently that will effect a ton of low-income students (especially ones of color).
Racism isn't apart of one’s biochemistry, it’s apart of your cultural upbringing. If someone had a mental illness, their brains are wired a certain way, the neurons are not communicating well together, and/or there is some sort of physiological damage of the brain’s structure. This notion undermines individuals with actual mental illnesses. Alcoholism affects the brain’s neural chemical activities and PTSD alter’s the brain’s defense mechanisms and hormones. Racism is brought up from cultural conditioning.
I get what the video was trying to do, it was considerate to understand where the roots of racism comes from and how to end it. It is pretty flawed but the attempt to finding a solution to end racism is pretty noble and a discussion that should spark.