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Author Topic: Is racism a mental health problem?
LetterRip
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I think there is a good chance that a lot of the most extreme racism in our society is actually undiagnosed/untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071634/

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D.W.
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Are you talking about racist acts such as voilent acts? If so then maybe. I do believe that a lot of violent people look for excusues to be violent rather than turn to violence due to belief in a cause. I think that if you are the type of person to kill or assault a perfect stranger unprovoked because of their race or sexuality then odds are you just needed that excuse from at least some part of society to justify that they can be dehumanized.

They can believe they are not a wild beast or monster because "they had it comming", "God hates them so it's OK" or "I'm doing my part to protect society from them".

Sounds like being sick in the head to me.

Now if you are talking about a more passive racisim, I don't think it qualifies as a mental health problem. It's an ignorance problem, an indoctrination problem and a need to have a scapegoat to blame for your own problems.

Not entierly the same thing as a mental health problem even if you can argue overcoming or avoiding those things is more healthy for you as an individual.

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JoshuaD
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I love where this line of reasoning is going to end. I just love it.
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D.W.
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Other than us ALL being mentally ill? [Smile]
Who doesn't blame problems on others?

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Fenring
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Yes, one doesn't want to overtrump a "political belief" that is really just a symptom of a psychiatric illness. It would be like looking at paranoid schizophrenics and saying "look at this paranoia problem in America."

On the other hand we don't want to go down the road (as many have already) of classifying anyone who dissents from popular values as being mentally ill. I have heard by now all too many times the argument of the form "no sane or intelligent person could disagree with this plain truth, therefore anyone who disagrees must be either insane or stupid." This line is the worst kind of arrogance, and politically it leads us straight to the KGB.

It seems to me sufficient to suggest that anyone willing to murder people in a Church may be mentally ill, without also trying to suggest that the method of choosing the targets (e.g. racism) was a mental illness unto itself. It's not as if there's a mentally healthy way to choose targets in a Church, and that racism was the reason that the targets were chosen on racial lines as opposed to some better method. There is no better method, and therefore the particular selection process is immaterial to the mental state of the shooter. He could have also chosen to shoot bankers on Wall Street but it would not follow from that choice that hating bankers is a sign of mental illness. The mental illness lies in the lack of valuation of human life; once that's missing where the dominos happen to fall isn't really that interesting.

Maybe we could argue that a mentally ill violent person will fall in with whatever nutty crowd is around and will choose their cause as a pretext to justify his inevitable violence. This would make some sense, and goes along the same lines as nutty people being radicalized by terrorists. In this case we can argue that the use of the racist pretext is evidence that there is a racist undercurrent out there for the nut to latch onto, and there may well be something to that.

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stilesbn
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Nah I think we just need to start putting all racists in mental wards. At least they would be out of the way and off our message boards.
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Greg Davidson
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Are all those who commit evil acts mentally ill? Are Islamic terrorists mentally ill?

I believe that people are responsible for the acts they commit. Sometimes something else is going on biochemically that may explain their behavior but not excuse it.

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TomDavidson
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I don't think being mentally ill excuses bad behavior, either. In fact, based on my own model of the mind, I think you could make the argument that almost everyone who does evil is either "mentally ill" in some way; the question should ultimately be whether that illness is something we believe we can treat.

There are very few people who find themselves in scenarios where the most rational and informed person would conclude that causing illegal levels of harm would produce the most good.

[ June 26, 2015, 04:30 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshuaD:
I love where this line of reasoning is going to end. I just love it.

I love where it starts.
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D.W.
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I think it boils down the question of is a lack of empathy a mental illness? Is it only an illness if it's a total lack of empathy or even if it's selective?
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LetterRip
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The aggressive forms of racism against strangers is primarily what I'm refering to.

Someone posted this to facebook, and it occurred to me that a likely explanation was untreated schizophrenia

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/08/rodney-arnold-i-hate-white-people_n_7536534.html

[ June 26, 2015, 05:52 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I don't think being mentally ill excuses bad behavior, either. In fact, based on my own model of the mind, I think you could make the argument that almost everyone who does evil is either "mentally ill" in some way; the question should ultimately be whether that illness is something we believe we can treat.

There are very few people who find themselves in scenarios where the most rational and informed person would conclude that causing illegal levels of harm would produce the most good.

Maybe mentally ill in some Platonic evaluation, such as "their minds live in shadows" or some such, and the further you are from the truth the more "ill" you are in a sense. But there's a difference between a miserable use of a reasonably functioning brain, and having a sub-optimally functioning brain. At least in current parlance we speak of psychiatric illness as being...well, illness, rather than lack of wisdom, and in the case of a chemical or physiological aberration from birth we can hardly speak of "blame" or "evil" but rather should just say that when a brain is so configured there will be bad results. This is one of the nice things about psychiatry, since it deals with these things in a medical fashion rather than a moralizing one.

In this sense I agree with LR that it's bad to confuse mental illness with bad thinking. I agree with you and Greg that we don't need to cop out and say that any heinous act can be written off as a mental problem rather than pinning responsibility where it belongs. On the other hand I see no need to assign "guilt" to a case where someone isn't playing with a full deck. They may be responsible, but that's different from being morally guilty in the sense of having had the option to choose right and having chosen wrong instead.

Greg, no, I don't think a person needs to be mentally ill to do mass murder. But I was specifically addressing the case where we suggest that a given murderer is, in fact, mentally ill. I was addressing which sort of qualification we should make about such a person, and I think the important point in that scenario is that the person is ill, rather than to point out which particular view the person adopted ad hoc to piggy-back on their illness. Bigotry doesn't make people become bipolar, but being bipolar could make someone reach towards racism to justify acts of aggression.

[ June 26, 2015, 06:27 PM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
The aggressive forms of racism against strangers is primarily what I'm refering to.

Someone posted this to facebook, and it occurred to me that a likely explanation was untreated schizophrenia

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/08/rodney-arnold-i-hate-white-people_n_7536534.html

Why is this guy's motivation so likely to be mental illness and Dylan Roof simply a terrorist?
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LetterRip
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Rafi,

you are projecting - I've never suggested that Dylan Roofs actions were not the result of mental illness.

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LetterRip
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Tom D.

I differentiate between treatable and untreatable mental illness.

I believe that psychopathy/sociopathy is a mental illness that is a source of a great deal of evil in the world especially when combined with the disorder of sadism. It is largely untreatable.

Schizophrenia, paranoia, and delusions are treatable and I suspect are also a significant source of evil behaviours in this world.

Untreatable mentally ill people who are a danger to the public should be isolated from the public so that they don't cause the public harm. Treatable mentally ill people should be treated.

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Rafi,

you are projecting - I've never suggested that Dylan Roofs actions were not the result of mental illness.

You are inferring, I'm not suggesting you ever suggested that personally.
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Seriati
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Not sure what this has to do with racism. There's a good chance that the unnecessarily violent have mental health issues period.

What do you mean by mental illness, exactly? Wrong thoughts, or actual mental disease or malfunction?

Racism's roots are in rational self interest, and maximizing the safety of the individual. It's not a perfect mechanism, nothing really is, but it's a rational impulse to seek out like for safety. Plunk a random person down on 75% of the human map, and they become an immediate target for violence because of dissimilarity, plunk them down on the other 25% and they still become a target but for other forms of exploitation. That's something built into how people interact with others and why they distrust the dissimilar innately.

In fact, racism itself is often a collection of misinformation that can be cured with better information. That's hardly a mental health issue, it only has potential to be one when it crosses the threshold into irrational racism, where rejection of better information becomes the norm.

Keep in mind though, that trusting strangers is not inherently rationale.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Schizophrenia, paranoia, and delusions are treatable and I suspect are also a significant source of evil behaviours in this world.
Heh. My brother actually struggles with all three, and he and I have argued quite uncivilly on the topic of whether, for example, God told my brother that he sent a tsunami to Japan to kill the wife of a professor who thought Andy's compositions were uninspired. When Andy goes off his meds, he is perfectly capable of believing that God would kill thousands of innocent people -- one quote, in response to my use of the phrase "innocent children:" "have you met any children, Tom?" -- to indirectly punish a bad review.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
In fact, racism itself is often a collection of misinformation that can be cured with better information. That's hardly a mental health issue, it only has potential to be one when it crosses the threshold into irrational racism, where rejection of better information becomes the norm.

I believe OP was more oriented towards issues like bipolar, antisocial personality disorder, etc. In these cases it's frequently not possible to communicate rationally with the person, either because they are unwilling, or often because they are unable to. As an extreme example, you can't convince a sociopath to try to have more empathy, or even to present him with any argument that has empathy anywhere in its premises. You can offer him consequences, but cannot appeal to him in ways you could do others. In the case of someone with significant delusions (such as paranoid) you can't convince him to disbelieve them by supplying good information; he is physically incapable of being open to it, at least at the moment.

These characteristics are different than merely saying the person is uninformed, unwise, or stupid. The subject can be brilliant, informed, and well-read in philosophy and religion, and still suffer from delusions, schizophrenia, etc.

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Seriati
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Fenring, reread my first line:

"Not sure what this has to do with racism. There's a good chance that the unnecessarily violent have mental health issues period."

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
Fenring, reread my first line:

"Not sure what this has to do with racism. There's a good chance that the unnecessarily violent have mental health issues period."

Right after that line you asked whether "mental illness" meant wrong thoughts or mental dysfunction. Don't you think my response appropriately addresses that question and the comments after? That would be why I didn't quote your first line...

Also note that LR was not looking for the root of racism, he was speaking about "extreme" violent racism, which is to say, potential outliers that can be attributed to mental illness rather than to wrong ideology.

[ June 29, 2015, 09:22 PM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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Seriati
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Fenring, I'm not asking what it means generally, I'm asking how people are using the term here. I reject the idea that mental illness includes "wrong thoughts" ergo racism is not mental illness. Some mentally ill people are also racist, see my first line.

I'm not sure what you're questioning in what I said, but so far, your response were addressed in my initial post.

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NobleHunter
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quote:
I reject the idea that mental illness includes "wrong thoughts"
I appreciate this turn of phrase. The juxtaposition of the literal false and figurative truth amuses me. Some mental illnesses are literally wrong thoughts yet not the sort of the wrong thoughts that is racism.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Rafi:
quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Rafi,

you are projecting - I've never suggested that Dylan Roofs actions were not the result of mental illness.

You are inferring, I'm not suggesting you ever suggested that personally.
There is no other reasonable inference given the way you post lrs quote followed by your rhetorical question.
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Rafi
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There are many ways to read it, the Facebook poster referenced, Huffington post, all the commenters there just to start since they are all mentioned in the quote. The entire post may be quoted because I'm too lazy to edit it out, or maybe I'm on a mobile device that makes such things difficult, maybe some other reason. You are making a large number of assumptions to demand your interpretation.

Now, the more interesting question, why are you insisting iyour desired inference is the one and only way to see it? What value does fabricating such a framework provide you?

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