Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Redefining Racism


If you called racism ‘Cultural Aspergers’ you could convince most white ppl that their prejudice is a national health crisis, and get insurance companies to pay for their treatment. This thought popped in my head yesterday and I laughed. It was a joke of transformation, but then I sat with it and the punchline became a provocative idea. As ridiculous as it sounds, I started imagining what diagnosis for Cultural Asperbergers would look like from the outside. Effective treatment could involve re-education, cultural awareness, and lots of therapy. I think most racist are highly damaged ppl projecting their own problems onto a scapegoat group. Deal with their damage and the need side effects of it (misogyny, racism, homophobia) get reduced. And racism could be considered a national health crisis that cuts across a broad swath of the population and effects millions psychologically and physiologically.

Some Asperger advocates might take offense or consider this a 'cheeky' turn of a phrase that reduced the importance of their disease, but I think it's quite the opposite.  There is no offense meant to ppl with Aspbergers because people acknowledge it as a real disease. The disease definition is was meant to highlight the daily offense people of color experience under systemic racism that continues to be ignored, except in celebrity or tabloid cases.

The thought I had last night was that racism is a serious national problem which continues to be ignored on a systemic level b/c most white ppl a) don't believe they're racist b) don't believe racism really exists c) and mostly believe racism applies to white ppl being discriminated against...and this is how most white ppl feel today according to polls. It is also how most white ppl felt 50 yrs ago in polls (yes in the midst of the civil rights movement) and -I suspect- how most white ppl will feel 50 yrs from now no matter how much evidence is presented.

When a patient refuses treatment you have a problem. When an entire group of patients not only refuse treatment but spread their condition to others you have a crisis. In addressing racism you have a group of ppl who adamantly refuse to address a problem despite numerical facts, evidence, and testimonials then a new radical solution is needed to ppl who refuse any rationale and who get mortally offended and experience extreme white fragility if you even dare to try to fix a problem that they are complicit in creating (and in many cases are so far gone they will flip it and say that they are the REAL victims of the system they benefit from..once again despite having no evidence). Since we don't fix problems in this country any more and never really fixed problems for ppl of color, the only industry that at least tries to treat or deal with issues is the therapy/treatment industry. Doctors and therapist, however, will not address a wide swath of problems unless someone pays for it, and they receive most of their money from insurance companies and the government-run healthcare. The government and health industry will not pay for anything this endemic unless it is classified as a disease. If you need an example, take a look at alcoholism which was and is a serious national epidemic.

Alcoholism killed millions of people every year since the creation of the modern distillation system. It is the easiest substance to abuse in Western culture since the start of the industrial age, but no one did anything. Alcoholism -and all its tributary horrors like car accidents and infants born with damaged brains- was just considered something people had to accept. And really the only people who were alcoholics were the 'morally weak' and 'degenerate' in the eyes of the good upstanding public. Alcoholics are nasty and freakish, but my Dad works on Wall Street and just needs to learn how to control his liquor is how the corkscrew logic went for generations. White-collar and blue-collar people perished at astronomical numbers and across all race, class, and geographic lines. But despite the overwhelming abundance of evidence that there was a serious problem, no fine gentleman or gentlewoman thought of themselves as alcoholics, and certainly didn't think that society fostered their rampant drinking. AA was formed, but the issue still existed on the fringes and treatment was rare. At a certain point, a shift was needed.

People needed to detach shame and moral judgment from the epidemic and they needed practical treatment for the average person. Betty Ford acknowledged her problem and then alcoholism wasn't just for bums with brown paper bags. The First Lady of the United States was dealing with this issue. But few alcoholics had 'First Lady' status and money for treatment. Some people started calling alcoholism 'a disease' to push the healthcare industry into covering treatment. Now people in the medical industry who treat diseases were -at first- very offended by this. but the alcoholics argued that a radical new definition was needed to a) reframe the problem b) reduce guilt so that ppl felt they could ask for help c) have health insurance pay for costly treatment.

For racism, I think this model could work. The racial problem in America a) needs to be reframed b) reduced in guilt so that white people can actually acknowledge it exists w/o feeling shame c) understand how they fit within this epidemic and d) have someone -like the health industry pay for millions of people getting treatment. The 'disease' redefinition does all of this. Most white ppl think of Aspbergers as a legitimate problem...and it is. Most white ppl do not think racism is a legitimate b/c it is not qualifiable in their world as a real thing that affects them. But the terminology of 'disease' and 'epidemic' not only affects everyone but calls for systemic answers.   

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