Racism is not a Psychological Condition or Mental Disorder

Dec 15, 2016
By: Jerry A. Goodson
In: Society

In doing some background research for this piece, I suffered from disappointment at the gleeful opportunity to appear smarter than Albert Einstein in an erroneous quote that has been credited to him:  "Racism is a disease of white people."  The focus on this piece is to discredit that very quote.  Unfortunately for my ego, that's not what Einstein said.

"My trip to this institution was in behalf of a worthwhile cause. There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it."

--Albert Einstein, May 1946, as part of a speech at Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, Einstein's quote continues to ring true even today.  He didn't speak of racism, but segregation, a specific aspect of racism.

Let's examine one of the examples provided by the Huffington Post in their attempt to prove Donald Trump is a racist:

The Justice Department sued his company ― twice ― for not renting to black people

When Trump was serving as the president of his family’s real estate company, the Trump Management Corporation, in 1973, the Justice Department sued the company for alleged racial discrimination against black people looking to rent apartments in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

The lawsuit charged that the company quoted different rental terms and conditions to black rental candidates than it did with white candidates, and that the company lied to black applicants about apartments not being available. Trump called those accusations “absolutely ridiculous” and sued the Justice Department for $100 million in damages for defamation.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the Trump Management Corporation settled the original lawsuit two years later and promised not to discriminate against black people, Puerto Ricans or other minorities. Trump also agreed to send weekly vacancy lists for his 15,000 apartments to the New York Urban League, a civil rights group, and to allow the NYUL to present qualified applicants for vacancies in certain Trump properties.

Just three years after that, the Justice Department sued the Trump Management Corporation again for allegedly discriminating against black applicants by telling them apartments weren’t available.

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law in 1968, just five years prior to the lawsuit filing against Trump Management Corporation by the Justice Department.  We're talking about the days of Archie Bunker in "All In the Family" and smoking on an airplane was socially acceptable.  Segregation, as Trump practiced, was profitable then.  The ugly truth is that same anachronistic practice of structural racism, segregation, continues to be profitable today.

The most articulate op-ed piece I found on this subject was written by Jamelle Bouie on Slate.com titled, "A Tax on Blackness."

Several years ago, my wife's grandfather passed away.  Part of my father-in-law's inheritance was a lot in a Detroit suburb that was once considered a piece of premium real estate.  When the lot was purchased in the mid-70s, the neighborhood was an upper middle class area where the majority of the residents were white.  My father-in-law planned on building a house in that neighborhood before deciding to move to Texas.  Fast forward roughly twenty years, and the neighborhood is one hundred percent Arab, and the property value had been diminished so drastically that my father-in-law not only had difficulty selling it, but he got less than half what was originally paid.

Another example is when I was living in a Fort Worth suburb, I visited a close friend in Houston.  We went to his grandparents' house for dinner.  My friend's grandparents are upper class white people who live in a posh community.  After dinner, I was having a nice conversation with my friend's grandmother.  When I talked about living in Fort Worth, she told me she and her husband once lived there, too, in the Polytechnic area.  She was amused by the shocked look on my face, but described the difference in the area when they lived there back in the 60's.  They sold their house there and moved away before the property values dropped as a result of black people moving in and "taking over."  My friend's grandfather made his fortune in real estate.  He was no fool.

My father-in-law was a financial victim of structural racism while my friend's grandfather capitalized on it.  I would attest that neither are racist.

Racism Without Racists

I came across a book written by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva titled, "Racism Without Racists: Color blind Racism & the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States 2nd EDITION."  To qualify the timeline, the first edition of the book was published in 2003, and the second edition was published in 2005.  Both editions were published before Barack Obama was even considered to be a hopeful presidential candidate by the general public.  A look into Bonilla-Silva's background indicated additional editions have since been published, and reviews indicate the author has specifically addressed aspects of the Obama Administration.  I have only read the second edition, and that is the only edition I will reference in this article.

The book offers a profound identification of systemic and structural racism in America.  In my previous post, "Stop Bullying Me Because I'm White," I have asserted I am not a racist, although I have committed acts of racism.  Some may consider my self-assertion as audacious, and my only defense is exhibition of a well-thought, well-researched, and higher understanding of racism and what it means to be or not to be a racist.

The author is absolutely correct in the portrayal that "many whites subscribe to an ideology that ultimately helps preserve racial inequality."  (Chapter 1 in the caveat section).  I have a great appreciation for the author's caveat section where he clearly stated what his purpose was and what it was not.  It's important to note this is not a book report.  I would encourage you to read the book yourself and draw your own conclusions.

I didn't stop with reading the book.  I found Bonilla-Silva on facebook, and found his comments the day after Trump won the presidential election:


Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

1. Comrades, chill out. The world did not end yesterday as it did not end in 1980 with Reagan and in 2000 with Bush II.

2. We must extract the RIGHT lessons from this setback. Condemning poor and working class whites as racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic (while giving a pass on all these things to their educated breathtren even though they are racialized, gendered, and sexually oriented subjects too) is myopic.

We must improve our analysis and be intersectional for real. This large segment of the white team has been CLASS anxious for years because of their vulnerable economic position and future. And yes, their class concerns are articulated with racialized, gendered, and sexual orientation concerns, but...we cannot simply do what we have been doing for some time: treat them as deplorable people without a chance for redemption.

3. It is imperative we do political work with the white masses. Abandoning them is not an option particularly for those of us who believe that the race/class/gender question MUST be tackled at the same time. The work will be quite hard as we have lost time (decades), but we must craft a more sophisticated and inclusive politics.

The book by A. Hochschild is a good, albeit terribly incomplete, beginning

4. Demography is NOT destiny. Waiting until folks of color become the majority is not wise. First, we cannot build the "new society" by leaving out 60 or 50 percent of the people. Second, people of color are NOT homogenous-some are white or white-like behaviorally and politically. This means we must also work with the "savior" segment: with folks of color who have fucked politics in many ways as well with liberal and even so-called anti-racist whites (many of them are the ones giving hell to middle class folks of color in their professional settings, in their neighborhoods, and in schools).

5. Candidates and leaders matter. Trump was a formidable politico as he connected emotionally and thematically with "his" people. And, by the way, let's stop labeling him as a fascist. He is a reactionary populist, but so was Regan, Thatcher, and, to a lesser degree, Bush II. Clarity on what we face will be helpful. If Trump were a real fascist, the moment would require military preparation and organization from us (a resistance movement).

And let finally 1admit that HRC was a HORRID candidate. She could not connect with folks or generate an emotional appeal. Fear is not enough to attract folks, period. And her sense of entitlement and royalty was nauseating. With all his faults, Bernie was much better! (When will we talk about the number the DNC did on him?) The question in terms of electoral politics is, shall we force the Dems to the left or build a new political force?

6. There is a huge political space for a progressive populist movement. We can expand our appeal and develop a large, new coalition; a Rainbow Coalition 2.0! The Dems and the Reps are bought and paid by Wall Street. Time to dump elephants and donkeys and choose our new animal. Time to work for real with the 99%!

Time to refocus and spend most of our energy on social movement work.

7. The struggle continues. No time to be sad and mad. It is time for ALL of us to recommit to political work. La lucha continua!

 As a chief law enforcement officer for two different types of agencies (elected constable and police chief), I was required to undergo extensive professional development.  Sitting in the classes listen to some Ph.D. or J.D. ramble on about ideologies challenged me, on a personal level, to think critically about the application of those ideologies presented to the reality in which I worked.  I was fortunate to have somewhat of a foundation with prior training as an Equal Opportunity Liaison in the U.S. Army.  What I found to be really interesting was the sidebar conversations about the presentations among my peers in the class.  The majority of my classmates were either unable or unwilling to see the ideologies from any perspective other than their own.  

What was unsettling about my observation of the attitudes of my fellow classmates was not believing any single one to be racist, yet they displayed their general deliberate indifference in recognition that we do, in fact, live in a society of white-dominated racism--pejoratively:  "white privilege."  I observed the small social gatherings during our breaks that echoed the very behaviors of racism presented in the class.  White people gathered with white people, black people gathered with black people, and ALL of the smokers went outside (a small bit of humor injected by one of the professors).  

The real challenge to the professors in giving their presentations was to solicit the honest assessments of the ideologies presented compared to the observations each student has made by experience throughout the course of their career.  In the classes I attended, those professors failed, in large part because they lacked any real experience in law enforcement that would cause my peers to lend them any credence... but that is a different matter not worth discussing here.

Racism is not a psychological condition or mental disorder, and that's a good thing.   It's appalling to think there could one day be disability benefits paid out for a condition of racism.  If racism were classified as such, under our current Americans with Disabilities Act, those who exhibit signs of racism could become a protected class.

My views, thoughts, and beliefs on racism have evolved over time, and the differ drastically now than they did twenty years ago.  Contributing factors include the willingness to look at racism objectively and with an open mind, experience and observations, and study on the topic.  

One barrier I have observed to any progress towards correcting systemic and institutional racism are the bitterness and hostility from minorities in discussions on the topic.  For example, let me refer to the discussion on Politically Incorrect with Bill Mahr over the off-color joke told by Sarah Silverman that was referenced in my "Stop Bullying Me Because I'm White" post.  Guy Aoki and Anne-Marie Johnson were clearly rigid on their position.  That's not to say their position wasn't valid, but I had to make a conscious effort to see the issue from their point of view.  

Bonilla-Silva identified difficulties in effectively and constructively discussing racism.  A reader such as myself, an uneducated white lower middle class (or "working class") man that harbors no guilt for heritage or ethnicity, would glean being "part of the problem" that perpetuates white-dominated racism in this country.  In the search for Bonilla-Silva's proposed solution to the problem, I came to the conclusion it could only result from activism.   

I can't disagree with that conclusion as long as there's no implication of duty attached.  I have a desire to help change the status quo, but beyond not being racist on a personal level as well as remaining cognizant systemic and institutional racism exists, I don't feel obligated to participate in activism.  I do participate in a small degree of activism by creating this platform and attempting to constructively and effectively discuss these matters on social media.  I do so out of desire, not obligation.  I have to work and live in this society just like everybody else.  

Earlier, I stated my father-in-law was a financial victim of structural racism while my friend's grandfather capitalized on it.  Neither of them committed any acts of racism to affect themselves or anyone else.  Trump, however, engaged in the practice of racism that directly affected minorities in the 70s.  It's important to note his intentions weren't out of an internalized feeling of racial superiority, it was for profit.  I found Bonilla-Silva's point #2 on his facebook post quoted above to be quite appropriate.  It certainly reinforced point #6.

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