BIGOTRY IS NOT A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION
Recent tragic events in Charleston in which Dylann Roof is alleged to have murdered nine people attending services at the Emanuel African Episcopalean Church (known as Mother Emanuel to its attendees and the community) has led to many stating the accused clearly suffers from a mental health condition to have acted in this violent manner. I use alleged as the court case has yet to occur.
I say NO. Bigotry is not a result of a mental health condition. Bigotry results from the daily indoctrination of white privilege (or male privilege, or able-bodied privilege, or cisgender privilege, or any other form of systemic privilege). It results from the belief that one more entitled than another based on an arbitrary social identifying factor.
Dylann Roof may well have mental health issues which may well have caused him to act out the way he did, but his prejudice, clearly documented in this picture in which he is wearing the flag of apartheid South Africa (top badge) and the flag of white supremacist Rhodesia of 1968-1979 (now Zimbabwe; bottom badge), shows a racist ideology that is deeply ingrained in him.
Conflation of the ideology of racism with a mental health condition is dangerous. Racism is a learned behaviour and the terror attack in Charleston is indicative of an endemic racism inculcated within society.
Remember the victims of this shooting:
- Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
- Clementa Pinckney (41)
- Cynthia Hurd (54)
- Tywanza Sanders (26)
- Myra Thompson (59)
- Ethel Lance (70)
- Daniel L. Simmons (74)
- Susie Jackson (87)
- DePayne Doctor (49)
Real people murdered by racism. Nine names on an ever-growing roll call too long already.
It’s funny how the excuse of a ‘mental health condition’ arises when it is a white (usually male) person who has committed the terror act. The same excusing and assertion of mental health issues happened when Elliot Rodgers killed six men and women and sent a further seven to hospital, despite a misogynistic 135+ page thesis clearly stating his extremist sexism and violent intentions which he posted online along with several YouTube videos. It’s an excuse deliberately used to perpetuate privilege and deny the endemic problem.
If we don’t name a behaviour and really try to amend and change the attitudes of the privileged and the ingrained nature of prejudice within our societies, this will keep happening. If we don’t stop valuing violence and aggression as a masculine ideal then this will keep happening. To deny it and try to pin it on mental health conditions is dangerous, and frankly offensive to anyone with a mental health condition.
By saying bigots who act out in violent ways are suffering a mental health condition we are ‘othering’ this kind of behaviour, ignoring it and denying it occurs as a result of the environment in which people are raised. Saying that Roof’s behaviour is ‘not normal’ and must therefore be a mental health problem is just another way of saying #notallmen, or #notallwhitepeople.
This attack was the result of a lifetime of endemic indoctrination of racist ideology. It was not a mental abnormality (as I have read in online comments) any more than being, say, politically left wing or having a religious faith is. Denial denies the root causes of such ideologies and actions, and means it becomes removed from us and it is that much easier to maintain the privilege that benefit those not discriminated against.
Bigotry is inherently violent, mentally, emotionally and physically. If we need an analogy, it would be closer to say it resembles an abusive relationship in which privilege plays the dominating role inflicting terror on the discriminated-against partner. The threat of bigoted attack remains at all times. It is a terrorist act. Systemic bigotry is a terrorist act. Time to call it what it is.