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    « My 2016 Election Bucket List | Main | Taking Down a Known Gunman vs Men of Color »

    It's Time to Recognize Extreme Bias is a Mental Illness

    Last night's massacre is about to be examined for the next news cycle from all sides: gun lobbyists, the LGBT community, and those who want a ban on Muslims entering the US.  Its shameful however that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association issued no position statements on this horrific act by a person who is almost certainly mentally ill.  While acknowledging support for the victims is standard course for any professional organization, the events of the last few years that highlight the degree to which bigotry can motivate an individual to horrific actions---killing African Americans in bible study in Charleston, killing fellow employees at a staff holiday party in San Bernardino, and killing gays in Orlando.
    The condolences and the statements of support are not enough.  A clear statement that points to the fundamental danger of extreme racism would clarify for policy makers that extreme racism is as dangerous to the health of an individual as is depression, psychosis, or addiction.
    The two largest organizations representing mental health professions may want to listen to one of their most noted member.  In 1999 Harvard professor and psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint wrote in the New York Times "Like all others who experience delusions, extreme racists do not think rationally. Instead, they create fantastical theories about who is responsible for their problems."  More recently he wrote about the Charleston shooting,   "Racist attitudes that interfere with an individual’s ability to work with people from a particular group should not in itself be considered mental illness. However, if that person believes he has to kill black people, such ideation must be examined as an expression of a mental disorder. Acting out extermination fantasies is readily classifiable as a delusional and a psychotic disorder. To continue perceiving extreme racism as normative and not pathologic is to lend it legitimacy."

    While its not enough to label a problem, it does create a different set of reactions.  Poussaint raises a vital part of the debate on extreme prejudice and bias.  Both Associations have a responsibility to engage the full extent of their resources in addressing one of the nation's greatest challenges with conviction.  Extreme bias is extreme delusion. 


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