Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Color-Aroused Behavior Need Not be "System-Wide" to be Harmful


A night club owner in Detroit, MI offered a promotion in which light-skinned Black women would be admitted for free to the club while darker skinned women would be charged admission on certain nights. Some of us ask ourselves whether this behavior is "racist," and then, having concluded that it is not "racist," we then proceed to conclude that since the behavior is not "racist" it is therefore benign (not harmful).

Color-Aroused Behavior Need Not be "System-wide" to be Harmful

The term "racist" is not helpful in this discussion because the term means "systemic (system-wide) denigration, subjugation and exploitation on the basis of skin-color and/or ethnicity." Is everything that's not system-wide benign and permissible?

For example, shooting one's self in the head and having sex with children are not systemic problems. It's something individuals do when they want to commit suicide or when they are pedophiles, respectively, but these are not "systemic" behaviors.

Does that mean that suicide and pedophilia are behaviors in which individuals can engage without damage to themselves and their families?

It's much more useful to ask whether an individual's behavior is aroused by color than to ask whether it is "racist" because behavior can be very damaging without being systemic behavior. We must ask, "What is the ideation and emotion that is manifested in a particular behavior? How does the behavior affect the individual, his family and the community?"

In this case, the club owner believed that separating people by color and then giving them privileges and disadvantages on that basis was a good idea. So, he implemented that idea (behavior). That behavior, and the ideation that it showed, infuriated a lot of people, and I think rightfully so. Black people are sick and tired of being divided on the basis of the hue of our skin and being discriminated against and separated from one another on that basis.

Unfortunately, since the beginning of slavery white people have done this to us and, just as unfortunately, we have internalized the oppressor and done it to each other.

When you look at the club owner's behavior in that context, I believe it shows that separating people on the basis of skin color and giving them added privileges and disadvantages IS a behavior that in consistent with and furthers systemic denigration, subjugation and exploitation on the basis of skin color. On the "light nights," dark-skinned women would be asked to pay to enter the club while light-skinned women would be waved in to enter for free.

But, let's lower the bar when it comes to color-aroused behavior that we will tolerate. Aren't we are always insisting, whether we are Black or white, that if behavior is not systemic ("racist") then it is alright? Ask yourself, "If eating arsenic is not pursuant to a system-wide political problem, does that mean it won't hurt you?" If shooting yourself in the head or having sex with children are not system-wide problems, does that mean these behaviors don't harm individuals, families and the community?

Likewise, color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior need not be systemic ("system-wide) to harm the individual, his family and her community.

I would argue that this club owner's behavior was symptomatic of Extreme Color-Aroused Disorder, and here is the analysis that I would engage in to arrive at that conclusion:

1) Is there an evidence of an overt of covert behavior aroused by color or associated with color? Clearly there is in this case. The Club owner was providing privileges and immunities based on color, i.e. who would pay to enter the club and who would not have to pay.

2) Did the color-aroused behavior impair the individual in one or more important areas of life? Clearly this individual's color-aroused behavior has angered many of his clients, many in his community and world-wide. By dividing clients by color and offering benefits to some that were not available to others on that basis, he has infuriated and perhaps even emotionally harmed clients who would have appeared at his club to have a good time, only to be confronted with yet one more instance of color-aroused discrimination. So, the club owner's behavior may well have harmed his reputation, his business and social relationships while causing intense embarrassment to his family, just as public drunkenness or pedophilic behavior would.

This impairment of one's ability to relate successfully with others is one of the symptoms of color-aroused disorder. When it becomes a marked impairment that significantly impairs relational ability then it is a "severe" impairment.

But, notice that I have not and will not attempt to render a diagnosis of the club owner based on news accounts about him. Only a competent psychiatrist could do so, after looking at the patient's history, other relationships, ideation and behaviors.

For example, if this behavior was engaged in only once and is not of long duration (six months or more), then it might be evidence of a mistake rather than of a mental illness. A competent psychiatrist who interviewed the club owner would be able to make that determination and then recommend treatment strategies, if necessary.

2 comments:

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