I’m a white woman. I’m also writing this post while I’m very upset, which is never a good idea. I’d really like to hear from woc/poc in comments, because I know the power of racism and white privilege, so I know that maybe I’m not getting something so fundamental, so important, that I’m missing the whole point.
There’s a discussion over at Sly Civilian’s about whether racism is a mental illness. Max Julian says:
The reason I conceptualize racism/white supremacy as a mental illness, is not because I don’t want to do something about it, but because of the chronic nature of the illness. I’ve talked to more than enough white folks about racism, seen their inability to grasp plain English (and these were highly educated people), cringed at their illogic, observed them strain and do verbal and mental backflips in order to sidestep the implications of their own behavior. From what I’ve seen, my diagnosis still stands.
The chronic nature doesn’t mean that racism is an illness. Hate fuels itself and has remarkable staying power. White people refusing to see racism, to see the damage done by racism, comes from obstinacy. A person who is psychotic is truly incapable of seeing reality. A racist chooses to be racist. I’ve seen a lot of highly educated white people, and I’m not impressed on any level by them. They choose to be hateful and to do stupid things on a regular basis. Their actions don’t spring from an illness, they result from both deliberate and unconscious choices that each individual makes.
Max Julian is right that all white people are born into a system of white supremacy, and that there is no escaping being in that system. But I maintain that all white people have a choice: go along with the status quo or fight. Racism is learned, mental illness is not. People don’t learn to develop mental illness, just like they don’t learn to have lupus. People have to avoid thinking critically, avoid seeing the harm they cause to continue to be racists.
Racism deserves to be stigmatized; mental illness does not. Unfortunately, the amount of stigma attached to racism is still very small, while the amount of stigma attached to mental illness is huge. I simply can’t understand why anyone fails to see why I find classifying racism as a mental illness to be highly offensive. Please, offer your thoughts.