Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Racism is a Mental Illness: Barack Obama, Rapist of Freedom and the Statue of Liberty

When I saw this cartoon, I shook my head. If there ever was an example of a simultaneously "neutral" and "provocative" editorial cartoon that stinks of racism then this is it.

Rape allusions? Check. Allusions to the myth of the black rapist? Check. Intentional provocation? (and denial...check out the comments section on the site that posted it) Check. Denial of racist intentions while all the while wallowing in racial provocation? Double check.

What has become more and more evident in the response of the mainstream media to the Tea Party brigands, as well as to the racially infused animus against Obama on the Right, is that Conservatives have won the Language Wars in this country. Quite smartly, the Right-wing made "Liberal" into a dirty word in the 1980s. Offered up "new-speak" such as "reverse racism." They, with the help of the Right-wing propaganda machine, have redefined "Progressives" as "fascists." And of course, the Right co-opted the language of colorblindness to serve a radically conservative agenda that reinforces the status quo of white privilege and white power. In the height of their absurdity, if one is to believe the logic of the Right-wing echo chamber, in the Age of Obama it is white men who are now victims of Jim Crow 2.0.

In total, these views embody an understanding of reality that is more than dumb. Quite frankly, it is both pitiable and stupid. Nevertheless, this bubble is comforting and intoxicating for those who live within it.

The coup de grace to this genius play on the part of the Right-wing in the Language Wars was the introduction of the concept, "the race card." Now, any discussion of racial inequality is itself racist. Those who call out obvious racism--see the Tea Party and their behavior as of late--are in fact "racists." If one is to pursue this logic, I am in fact a racist for daring to interrogate the ugliness and racial invective present in the Obama as Rapist of Liberty Cartoon.

I have given up trying to understand those Conservatives who defend the Tea Baggers, who are unwillingly to denounce the bigots in their midst, or play the game of deflection and reversal ("well maybe there were a few bad apples in the bunch, but you libs are the real racists for calling it out!" or my favorite "prove that John Lewis was called a nigger! Prove it! You are just trying to discredit us! We Tea Baggers are the real victims of racism in this country!").

In total, the mental gymnastics that many Conservatives have resorted to in defense of the Tea Parties is a sign of a deep psychopathology.

Racism is their illness. It comes in many forms and varieties, but racism is nonetheless a sickness of the mind and of the soul. To understand their illness we must categorize and study it. In the genealogy of white racism there are the deniers; those who just don't see people of color as equals (we are quite literally invisible to many of them); those who are angry and resentful; those who traffic in the soft-bigotry of low expectations; and the willfully ignorant. The Right-wing populists and their enablers (with their know-nothing ethos) have members that are sick in all of these ways. In total, the idea of a Black man in the White House sickens them on an existential, psychological, and spiritual level. For Black Conservatives who defend the Tea Baggers, their sickness is a profound one that is one part racial Stockholm syndrome enabled by a deeply internalized white racism.

Do not commit the common error in reasoning that this is "just about "race." No. Those who are sick with racism make poor choices generally--and are willingly to sacrifice the common good politically, socially, economically for all Americans--as a function of their illness.

A suggestion: listen to noted psychologist Dr. Na'im Akbar and reflect on the protests, language, and vitriol of the Tea Party, Palin brigades. Tell me, do his observations on the nature of white racism not fit their behavior perfectly?


Anna Renee said...

You spoke a word when you said racism is sickness. Spiritual sickness. A very sad sickness, that's going unchecked rampaging like HIV. Very few will even lift their heads to acknowledge this sickness, so it spreads. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing spoke about it more than 20 years ago in her highly controversial book The Isis Papers. black-folks.blogspot.com
She has a theory she calls White genetic anihilation that speaks to a subconcious white fear of their racial destruction by peoples of color with blacks being the most fear inducing because we have the most color. Maybe she's not off base because it would explain this irrational fear masquerading as racism that some white folks have.
I think I'll pull that book off my shelf and give it another read after 18 years!

Big Man said...

I wrote about this recently as well.

White folks are slick man, you gotta stay on your toes with them.


Anonymous said...

I don't even know what to say other than "WTF, America?" Yes, we have freedom of speech in this country, but freedom of speech does not equal hate and bitterness. Freedom "to do" is also freedom "to do NOT." That's where the responsibility comes into play. You are free to NOT insult. You are free to NOT disrespect. You are free to NOT fear. You are free to NOT slander.

And shame on these people who swallow every line fed to them without thinking them through first. They are the reasons we will eventually lose our freedoms--because they were too lazy to take responsibility for what they believed and what they said.

SLM said...

Speaking of freedom of speech, check out the new language of the right: Teabonics. It's hilarious.

OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin said...

Frances Cress Welsing is a straight-up crank with long-discredited ideas. There is nothing genetic about these people's mentality or violent, murderous, sexually sick behavior. It is taught, learned, and thus can be unlearned.

They are ignorant and lazy in a society which continues to reward their sense of wounded victimhood. Do not let them fall back on crapola like genetics to excuse what is correctible behavior.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...


Does one preclude the other? Meaning that one can have a behavior that is diagnosable in the DSM and that can still be "learned" or unlearned (PTSD; OCD?)--even if one does or does not have a genetic precondition for it. I am not suggesting that there is a racist gene (although research does seem to suggest that there is a "tribal" gene/instinct that contributes to our fight or flight instinct) but that people who are racist are mentally ill in the sense of possessing dysfunctional behaviors.

As I write this though--I guess I have been reading too much Foucault for lecture today--that racism while a sickness of sorts to us today, was the norm for much of U.S. history. In fact the "sick" people would have been the anti-racists!

Funny huh?

Please, those of you who know more about psychotherapy please chime in as this is just layperson's reasoning.


OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin said...

@Lady Zora et al

Thanks for your reply. I was disagreeing more with the person who suggested Welsing than the actual post.

Do you remember back when Condi called American racism a "birth defect"? Disagreed with that analogy, too.

I suppose for myself, I just don't accept biological explanations or analogies for white supremacy and would indeed lean strongly towards a more Foucauldian reading. They're too reductive, plus, we know the history of the ever-expanding category of "white", and also its legal and historical limits.

Might be worth it to add, these people have made themselves sick with their own circular rage, blaming us for their own miserable lot in life, while it's been their own people who have made the rules, laws and social norms, enforced with lethal violence.

Welsing's absurd race fundamentalism is just...well, crankage, in my book. Heh, no doubt, she'd say the same about anything found at my place.