Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More Race Science: They Lock Up Those "Crazy" Negro Agitators and Call Them "Schizophrenic"

Cecil Peterson had no history with the police. Even on the day the white stranger insulted his mother, Peterson simply wanted to eat lunch. He sat in his usual seat at the counter of the diner on Woodward Street and ordered his usual BLT and coffee. Somehow he caught the stranger’s eye in the squinted way that begets immediate conflict between men. The stranger glared. Peterson was not one to walk away from confrontation, but he knew the implications of glaring back. One should not glare back at a white man. So he looked down. But the two men crossed paths again after Peterson paid his tab and walked outside. And then came the remark. And then came the fight.
Two white Detroit police officers happened to be passing by the diner that September day in 1966. They ran to the altercation and tried to separate the combatants. At that point, according to their formal report, Peterson turned on the officers and struck them “without provocation.” According to the report, Peterson knocked one officer down and “kicked him in the side.” A second police team arrived and assisted in apprehending the “agitated” Mr. Peterson. Medics took the first officers on the scene to the Wayne County Hospital emergency room. The ER physician’s report noted that both officers had “bruises,” though neither required treatment. The white stranger was not charged.
Peterson was twenty-nine, African American, and an unmarried father of four who worked the line at Cadillac Motor Company. He had not previously come to the attention of the state. He had not been diagnosed or treated for any physical or mental illness. Nor had he been held for crimes or misdemeanors. He had limited interactions with white people and preferred to stay close to home. But on that September day in 1966 his life changed along with his identity. He became a prisoner. And then he became a patient.
I enjoyed the Bell Curve redux fracas. It brought out some race science polite racist types, and allowed us to see those dinosaurs for what they really are: white supremacists and new age phrenologists.

Light does indeed work as a sanitizing agent and anti-septic.

The conversation between Andrew Sullivan and Ta-Nehisi Coates about the relationship between I.Q., race, and genetics, once again highlighted how "science" is a political enterprise. It is not "neutral," nor is it purely beholden to positivism. People do science. People conduct research. People are embedded in social relationships. People reproduce certain understandings of truth and power. People have a stake in the game, an investment in a certain outcome.

In all, race and racial ideologies are central to the social work done by science as part of an over-arching regime of truth and knowledge.

To point, there are many reasons why black folks--and people of color more generally--are distrustful of the medical establishment, and view the proposition that science is "neutral," with great suspicion. We know about medical apartheid, using radiation to put holes in people's heads, Mississippi appendectomies, the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, and of course, Tuskegee.

There are many other hidden histories. One of these is how black folks were marginalized by the mental health field and branded by State authorities as "insane," "schizophrenic," or "mentally ill, because they dared to defy white racism.

Jonathan Metzl's, The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease, fleshes out this troubling history.

Histories do intersect, here we have echoes of how suffragists were treated by the United States government during their struggle for the vote and a more full citizenship. And of course, the genius work of Michel Foucault in his magisterial History of Madness.

This one is for the douche bags eugenicist race science clowns. Hopefully, they will have more entertaining darts to throw at what should be an open and shut case about how white supremacy works through science to reinforce the status quo.

Either way, Metzl's work is great, and his interview is well worth the listen.

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