The Intersection Between “Race” and “Mental Illness”
The words “race” and “mental illness” appear in quotations here because these words signify constructs that inform us that physical features make us different and that some differences are diseases. I consider these words to be formalized ideas that have been used to impose particular value on various attributes of a diverse species. These ideas, “race” and “mental illness,” have led to the abuse and exploitation of some populations for the economic and cultural benefit of others.
The history of psychiatry and the history of racism are closely intertwined. In fact, one could say that the practice of biomedical psychiatry and racism rely on the same very basic phenomenon of oppression, which occurs when a formal institution assumes the right to externally impose definitions of value to another human being’s personhood and potential.