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December 2, 2012


Replies: 111

Is Racism a Mental Disorder?

Dragonflae Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012
So I was watching a certain episode of Law and Order earlier(I'm admittedly addicted to the show, particularly Special Victims Unit)about a white man who killed a black man out of hate.

The white man's only defense for the crime was oddly the insanity plea. A psychologist took the stand during trial and tried to convince the jury that the defendant was suffering from paranoid racial delusions--In other words, the white man thought all other races were out to get him and his fellows, and that any act against other races was justified and even noble.

Now, my initial reaction to this defense was my bullshit radar going off.

Then, I realized that not too long ago in real life, a gay man was beat to death on the steps of a church, and everyone responsible for his death got away Scott-free with the similar defense of 'homosexual panic'.

So the question is, are racism, homophobia and other extreme prejudice and hatred really effects of a mental disorder?

It wouldn't seem so, seeing as they can all occur on vast levels--Take hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Westboro Baptist Church , for example--but the great majority of members of these groups have been heavily indoctrinated with their ideals.

Could severe indoctrination, then, count as mental abuse that could lead to a disorder? Should it be illegal? Are some people born more predisposed to illogical hatred than others?

And, finally, could baseless hatred be prevented?

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Devious Comments

Spudfuzz Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's entirely situational. A person who had been heavily indoctrinated since childhood to believe such a thing? Yes. An adult using it as a means to defend/ justify his actions? No. Consequently, if it is to be a legitimate defense for some perpetrators then all such institutions who preach and teach said beliefs must be immediately removed and banned from society.
UltraRaccoon Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I agree indoctrination plays a part, But you must be set apart. Show grace to those you think are the enemy or the only enemy you will have will be yourself. You should see the AJE network show little kids not even 5 scream how they will destroy their fellow human just because they are different. It sickens me to think what parent is forcing their child to believe in this hatred. But I too must forgive and not let the evil taint me...its very difficult.
Totally-dead Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
To caricaturize this simply I would put it like this: The person may be suffering from a mental disorder, and the gravity of the act could have been caused by this mental disorder, but the actual particularity of racism, homophobia, etc... should not classifiable in the mental disorder. IE They were potentially suffering some form of psychotic paranoia, yes, but the fact that it was aimed at homosexuals is a particularity of the individuals and not a characteristic of the conceptual pathology.

Basically, it manifested itself that way because of the preferences or beliefs of the individual, not because of the disease. If he had hated cows then he would be up there for the less serious crime of killing livestock.
angelxxuan Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional Writer
they do research for these shows and base them off of legit cases/things in real life and just change things around a bit, like name and/or location and then put it into the show. racism, to me, is a form of laziness. people can change they choose not to. that is what another psychologist/psychiatrist might argue as well, that's what a few have told me in the past. and if you're born into all this racism and don't know any better, or try, well, you're trapped in this mind set, so thus, it becomes mental related. it's like anything mentally related, you see something repeated enough you won't realize it's right/wrong you just simply see no other path, know any better or whatever other method which could cause a change in the brain wave thinking ability.
DoctorV23 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
Yeah, like Law and order too :) This reminded me of the recent shooting in Florida: [link]. As a legal defence, Dunn wants to use stand your ground, i.e. self defence, but there's no evidence so far that he was actually threatened and in fact evidence to the contrary. The murder really looks racially motivated at this point. So yes, I would tend to think that Dunn is mentally disturbed like in that episode of Law and order, but I also wouldn't want him to be able to make an insanity plea to lighten his sentence if found guilty. Insanity (legally) means that someone has lost all contact with reality and is not responsible for their actions. Someone suffering from paranoid delusions to the point of harming others should be held accountable for their actions.
Teri-Taichou Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Replying to the title of your post - I don't think it is a mental disorder. We lead our lives and are influenced by our families, friends and the events we live through. If you are raised to believe that a particular race, sexual preference or the like is evil then you start with that as your basis for interactions with anyone from that group. How you react to people when you finally meet them could probably be correlated with how long you were indoctrinated to be intolerant of them and how long it has been since you've interacted positively with anyone from that group.

Ultimately though we are all responsible for our actions towards others and their actions will reflect our own as well as how they were raised and who they eg or dealt with growing up. That is why I feel a 'mental disorder' defense is inexcusable. It tries to deny the fact that, in the end no matter how someone was raised, the responsibility for their action is their own.

My views stated here are my answers to your questions in order they were asked :

1. No I do not feel they are the effects of a mental disorder. Are they highly influenced personal responses to irrational indoctrination? I think that would be closer to the truth. Just because these people were trained to think and act a certain way does not mean that they are forced to act that way.

2. Again I have to say no. Every where we go and everything we do in life influences us. The indoctrination of those groups is no different than the indoctrination of say the Catholic Church. People tend to group with those whose views they agree with and try to raise their children in similar views. If that is the case then one might argue that we are all severely indoctrinated from birth by family, religion, government, peers and what have you. Whose indoctrination is right then and whose indoctrination is illegal? What defines too severe? Where does my responsibility start and where does the responsibility of those who 'indoctrinated' me end? A person makes their own choices and should be held accountable for them. I do not think highly of any of the groups you've mentioned but they are no more at fault for the actions of their members than say the members of a school or the military are responsible for the actions of their own members.

3. No for the reasons noted in response to your second question.

4. No. Even if you can find me the gene which specifically controls hatred and intolerance and could show a observable difference in behavior it is still the choice of the person whether to act on that hatred or to let it go and learn.

5. Sadly I do not believe it can be. The fears and intolerances of one generation pass on to the next. It is solely on the shoulders of subsequent generations whether they inflame that hatred or learn tolerance.
0rg Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012
well, seeing as how EVERYTHING has to be some sort of mental disorder these days, yeah, it probably is
FerricPlushy Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Acute paranoia can manifest itself as racism, just hearing voices or having uncontrollable thoughts about other races hurting you, but the most important distinction is that this delusional paranoia and not actual racism. Racism itself is a social dysfunction for the most part, but there are real survival adaptations to being racist. If you live in or near a major city you most certainly know there are specific neighborhoods you stay the fuck out of. I used to live in cleveland, you don't go east of 150th E St. unless you want to be the victim of a felony, and it's not the area itself, it's the people that live there. Bearing that in mind, there are areas of Dublin, Rio De Janeiro, Los Angeles, etc that you don't go into because of the distinct group of people that live there. Also, this type of racial discrimination is preventive, not remedial, it's not because you hate those people, it's because they're dangerous.
Badgercheese1994 Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Student General Artist
No.. Racism is not a mental disorder, although people with mental disorders can be racist. I'm tired of everyone labelling everything as a mental disorder, as if it made it ok to be an asshole because " It's just who you are,"
Zingam Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Talking about racism all the time is a mental disorder.
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