In comments at the Racial Realist blog to a post entitled, Top Ten Dishonest Comments about Race, Bronze Trinity recounts the following color-aroused anecdote:
A while back I told a white co-worker I went for a drive by myself in a real nice (all white) neighborhood. Now, I drive a fairly new SUV without “bling”, but yet a white male called out to me and proceeded to show me the MAIN road out, with a smile (as if I was lost). I got offended by that, because it was like saying I didn’t belong for what ever reason. If I was white he might have thought I was visiting someone else who was also white in the area.
I didn’t even have to mention anything about race. However, because of the said area and simple mathematics, my white co-worker performed her “defending” duty and didn’t see it that way. She said he was just being “helpful” (as if she even knew him personally).
I thank Bronze Trinity for sharing this experience, because most of us feel angry or at least annoyed when we suffer these color-aroused insults. Dr. Alvin F Poussaint, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School asserts that "racism" is a mental illness. If so, what are the specific emotions, ideation and behavior that constitute that illness and to what level of severity do those emotions, ideation and behavior have to rise in order to be considered "racist"? Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness? Yes.
I would like to focus first on the matter of the white man in the car who offered Bronze Trinity (BT) the unsolicited driving directions. Only later will I discuss the white woman co-worker.
I propose that investigators must look at the specific emotions, ideation and behavior involved, and the severity of each of these, as well as the duration, to determine whether a particular individual has the illness of "racism," (which I call Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder (ECEIBD), abbreviated as Extreme Color Arousal (ECA) ). Each of us experiences color-aroused acts at the time the occur, and we respond emotionally based on the effects that the acts have on us.
But, to be clear in our thinking and avoid referring others to psychiatrists unnecessarily, we must distinguish between individual and discreet behaviors that are sometimes symptoms of Extreme Color Arousal and, on the other hand, the overall syndrome of ECEIBD, because one snowflake does not necessarily mean a snowstorm. The problem with using one word like "racism" to describe all behaviors, from the least significant to the most severe, is that we simultaneously exaggerate all that is "mild" and normalize all that is "extreme".
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association "employs the basic strategy that, given the absence of knowledge about the underlying nature of psychiatric disorders, clinicians should convey the maximum amount of descriptive information possible. . . The strategy is to encourage the clinician to record the maximum amount of diagnostic information, as a way of characterizing the complexity of clinical presentations."PubMedCentral
So, I find Bronze Trinity's experience very useful because it offers very detailed and specific observations about the behavior and apparent ideation of a white man who shows color-arousal that allows to to characterize and measure relative quality and severity of the symptoms. Alvin F. Pouissant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that the condition that has been referred to as "racism" is an illness.
In this case, in a virtually all-white neighborhood, when a white man saw BT and perceived BT's skin-color, the white man's perception of BT's skin-color, combined with his pre-established beliefs about Blacks' color-determined "place" in societyaroused preconceived ideation in the the white man that (a) BT couldn't belong there in the mostly white neighborhood, and therefore (b) BT shouldn't belong there. That Ideation became manifest in the Behavior of trying to show BT how to immediately leave the white neighborhood, which has the effect of enforcing segregation.
We can only infer from his behavior and the circumstances the color-aroused man's emotions, since we cannot see them; we look to his behavior or deduce his emotions from his speech, unless he expresses them directly.
In 98.5% of cases considered to be “hate crimes”, it is the offenders own “negative comments hurtful words and abusive language” at the time of commission of the crime that enables us to make the link between color-aroused emotion, ideation and action. ECEIBD: New Pathways to Diagnosis and Treatment
For example, in hate crimes, the Color-Aroused Perpetrator often issues overt threats like "I'll kill you," threats from which e.g. "anger" can be more easily inferred. In this case, although the white man did not threaten to kill BT, he did seem to be "jealously" enforcing a de-facto whites-only rule, and offers insight into the co-workers emotions.
If the white man was aroused by BT's color to behave in a way that BT found offensive, does that necessarily mean that the white man had Color-Arousal Disorder? Traditionally, psychiatry looks at the emotions, ideation and behavior from the perspective of the patient and asks whether the symptoms are problematic for the patient. Although this may seem fundamentally unfair and disadvantageous to Blacks, there still may be some logic to this clinically. Patients seek help with symptoms that bother them or that greatly disturb others with whom the patient has a relationship that the patient wants to maintain. The psychiatric therapeutic relationship is based on self-interest.
This presents a problem that is evident in the thinking of the American Psychiatric Association, whose Position Statement of "racism" describes the problem mostly in terms of its negative effects on others while little exploring the psychic trauma and dislocation of the Color-Aroused Person that might motivate him to enter treatment and endeavor to change his ideation, emotions and behavior.
And since fundamentally psychiatry and all medical sciences are first and foremost about helping the patient, those who wish to demonstrate to the APA that racism is a disease will need to focus much more on how this disease affects the patient. Position Statement of the American Psychiatric Association
It is often assumed that color-aroused people experience feelings of pleasure at the moment of abusing others, and this may be true. But, like the abusive husband who is actually tormented by low self-esteem and morbid fear that his mate may become unfaithful, some whites may actually experience considerable internal turmoil as a result of their ideation and emotion, and also when their behavior leads to consequences that are negative for them. This negative side of the abuser experience may offer an opportunity for abusers to experience the need for help with their feelings, acting-out behavior, and subsequent unmanageability.
In assessing a situation like this, it is easy to fall into the conceptual trap of believing that the harm is done only to the victim. Although we might assume that the white person feels nothing or his feelings are limited to reveling in victory, some whites seem to experience pervasive anxiety and fears about "encroachment" of Black people upon "their" territory? Even when their intention is to take the territory of others, they may experience apprehension and insecurity about their ability to obtain and keep that territory.
When whites endeavor to enforce segregation, do they feel constant anxiety, as though they are beset from all sides? If so, does this anxiety ever rise to the level of pervasive paranoia? Do they fear that integration will lead to their children having increase interaction with Blacks and, if so, does this lead to anxiety and, perhaps, intra-familial conflict?
Abusive partners are often described as having as excessive need to control, but this, although accurate, is only part of their story. The important omission is why they have this need. Their early childhood developmental needs have not been met. They have not learned how to care for themselves or their families in an adult way, and attempt to avoid facing their feelings of inadequacy or having others discover their secret.
When frustrated, they react with rage. Because of their feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, they expect their partners to parent, nurture and protect them, and react abusively when their partners do not. Abusive partners usually do not realize that they experience these frustrations or that they vent their feelings of inadequacy and helplessness through violence toward others. SabbathofDomesticPeace.Org
Even if the Color-Aroused Perpetrator habitually hurts himself and others severely, the American Psychiatric Association is not convinced that such behaviors is symptomatic of a mental disease process. Dr. Alvin Pouissant says,
The American Psychiatric Association has never officially recognized extreme racism (as opposed to ordinary prejudice) as a mental health problem, although the issue was raised more than 30 years ago. After several racist killings in the civil rights era, a group of black psychiatrists sought to have extreme bigotry classified as a mental disorder. The association's officials rejected the recommendation, arguing that because so many Americans are racist, even extreme racism in this country is normative—a cultural problem rather than an indication of psychopathology.
The psychiatric profession's primary index for diagnosing psychiatric symptoms, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), does not include racism, prejudice, or bigotry in its text or index.1 Therefore, there is currently no support for including extreme racism under any diagnostic category. This leads psychiatrists to think that it cannot and should not be treated in their patients.
To continue perceiving extreme racism as normative and not pathologic is to lend it legitimacy. Alvin Pouissant, Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness? Yes
From Dr. Pouissant's discussion above, if color-aroused behaviors are placed on a continuum from the most benign to the most harmfully "extreme," it seems unlikely that the behavior of Bronze Trinity's co-worker would find itself on the extreme end of the spectrum. In fact, even characterizing such a relatively minor individual act as "racism illness" per se, without more information, might have the unintended effect of discrediting the "racism" diagnosis entirely.
It would be more appropriate to first observe that the behavior may well have been evidence of arousal to skin-color, and then secondly endeavor to place this evidence of arousal to skin-color - the emotion, ideation and behavior manifested here - on a continuum from the "benign" to the "mild" to the "moderate" and "severe." Although this might seems like a lot of meticulous effort, it is just such effort that distinguishes science from mere story-telling.
How do we determine whether emotion, ideation and/or behavior are "mild," "moderate" or "severe"? In the definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the DSM-IV uses symptom qualifiers like "that cause marked anxiety or distress" and "rules that must be applied rigidly" and "compulsions cause marked distress" and "significantly interfere with the person’s normal routine." DMS reprinted at BiologicalUnhappiness.Com In that case it's clear that although the patient might have symptoms generally characteristic of the disorder, the symptoms must also rise to a certain severity before the person can be diagnosed as suffering from the disorder.
Constant vigilance in the enforcement of segregation, I believe, is an obsessive and compulsive behavior such as we see in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The DSM-IV says of OCD that, "the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive." Perpetually reminding Blacks to stay out of white neighborhoods might also be a behavior of the type targetted by the OCD diagnosis. DSM-IV Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Criteria.
In the case of "racism, "unfortunately many people are content to diagnose another person as "racist" without considering the spectrum of symptoms that should be present for this diagnosis and without considering the required severity of those symptoms for the diagnosis to be found. Clearly, without the adjectival qualifiers present in the OCD diagnosis, literally anyone might be diagnosed as having OCD, and it is not practical to treat everyone even it were desirable. Medical resources have to be focused on the people who actually need help.
Had the man sworn at BT or shown anger, then that certainly would have been "severe" level behavior consistent with a Extreme Color Arousal (ECA), because it would have been unprovoked by the particular victim and could have led to a fight in which the woman or BT could have been injured or killed. An angry outburst or over insult by the white man could have led to a dangerous "road-raging" incident, and therefor such a behavior would have to be considered "severe."
It is also important to point out that, although a person's symptoms might not rise to the level of an "illness" requiring psychiatric treatment, the symptoms can still be problematic and troublesome for the patient and for others. Troublesome symptoms that may not yet constitute a psychiatric disorder should be addressed so that they do not progress to the level where they do constitute a disorder.
When symptoms do constitute a disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be treated, depending upon the severity, with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, group therapy and anxiolytics (nerve calming medications), but only if the patient is sufficiently motivated to seek and engage in treatment. PsychGuidelines OCDINFO PSYCH.ORG
Offering directions to BT as if she were lost may have been a "micro-insult." Black psychiatrist Carl C. Bell, M.D, President & CEO of Chicago's Community Mental Health Council, Founder of The Institute for the Prevention of Violence and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health at the University of Illinois, says:
Yet another challenge is knowing when, where, and how to resist oppression (e.g., microaggressions or microinsults and overt discrimination) versus when, where, and how to accommodate it. [" "Microagressions" is the term used to refer to the slights, racialized comments and insults, and non-verbal "put-downs" that racially stigmatized persons endure on a daily basis."] Why Some Black Children are Still Choosing White Dolls Over Black Dolls
BT clearly believes that this behavior had a purpose beyond spontaneous aggression, to wit, "social control:" enforcing segregation. If so, in this particular instance the white man's behavior arguably was an instrumental enforcement that was of a "mild" or "moderate," but not "severe," quality, because the behavior was relatively subtle - not overtly insulting or physically aggressive - and the behavior was not illegal or violent, (which are red flags of "severe" color-aroused behavior, if only because of the potential consequences, physical and legal, to the perpetrator).
It is not impossible to imagine circumstances under which the white co-worker might seek help to deal with her emotions, ideation and behavior, if they became sufficiently severe. For example, if she suddenly had a Black neighbor and became overwhelmed with these feelings, she might decide that reevaluating her thoughts and feelings was cheaper or less troublesome that selling her house and moving away.
If she suddenly had a Black supervisor and was compelled to choose between revising her interaction modalities with the supervisor or losing her job, she might decide to seek therapy to better understand and cope with this new challenge.
A corporation or organization seeking to reduce antagonisms by its workers might insist that particularly problematic workers be evaluated for what I call Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder (ECEIBD), also know as Extreme Color Arousal (ECA).
White people seek therapy for a lot of reasons that would have been unheard of only a few generations ago. With sufficient motivation in an increasingly multi-cultural world, and if such therapy were available, it is conceivable that some but certainly not all whites would seek help. In fact, in preparation for the next publication of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), members of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) are studying whether "pathological bias" is a mental disorder which should be diagnosed and treated by members of the APA. With the advocacy of Dr. Bell and others, the APA has developed a Position Paper on the matter that calls for additional research.