Eileen Duffy

Stating that ‘racism is not a mental illness’ is a double-edged sword in my view. Consider the words of Alvin Poussaint, Ph.d. and Harvard University psychiatrist on the subject:

“Official Classification

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not list racism in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of psychiatrists worldwide. Most psychiatrists believe that racism is a cultural and social problem, not a matter of individual pathology.

Harvard University psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint thinks that’s a mistake.

“Extreme racism is treatable, and sometimes even lesser forms of racism are treatable because they have psychodynamics to them,” he told Nightline. “They don’t exist as a social problem, they … exist as psychological problems inside the individual.”

Poussaint, who is black, believes that racism — like other human behaviors — exists on a continuum, and that racism’s extreme forms, in which a person has racist delusions that can lead to violence, should be considered a serious mental illness and be listed in the DSM.”

read the entire article here: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=128799&page=1

I am personally of the mindset that racism IS at least an emotional illness -likened to alcoholism.

As I vaguely recall, mental/emotional illnesses listed in the DSM are there for at least 2 reasons — 1) the person is a danger to themselves; 2) the person is a danger to others. I consider racism as belonging to both these categories. Fundamentally, because racism is toxic and toxicity as an emotion is unhealthy for the body if held onto in the body for the long term. All we have to do is watch the news, read the news to see that racism is in fact, a danger to others.

Considering an alcoholic will always be in recovery — racism is a learned behavior that needs life-long, on-going treatment. Therefore, for those who take the first step of a — let’s say, ‘12-step program,’ to reduce/eliminate racism in their lives, will also be in a continual emotional growth trajectory of life-long treatment.

It starts with the admission that the problem exists.

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