Cognitive impairment is not the cause of bigotry

A murderer is in the news again (one I’ll not mention the name of–he’ll be ‘murderous racist’ for this post).  The white supremacist piece of shit who shot up the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 wants to replace his two court appointed attorneys. Why?  MR apparently cannot trust them bc they are his “political and biological enemies“. It’s no surprise that said scumbag doesn’t want Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani (who are Jewish and Indian, respectively) to represent him. Hell, I’m going to hazard a guess that  some part of both attorneys loathes the idea of representing him. Absent legal requirements, it’s difficult for me to believe that anyone–aside from people who share in MR’s bigoted beliefs (a list that includes the likes of the right-wing extremists speaking at the upcoming horribly misnamed “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley)–would want to work with, for, or in the defense of the man who killed Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson.

Hs plea for new representation was denied by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

“The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal.”

(image of hand held stamp and the text 'denied' on an all white backdrop)
Aw, poor Mr. Wants To Start A Race War. He’s stuck being represented by two people who possess more moral integrity in their pinkie toes than he could hope for in his entire life. 

 

I found I was surprised by two things after reading his request:

1. I thought “did this asswipe on death row really just make a request for new lawyers? Seriously? Dude is lucky to have any representation at this point!” But as I thought about it, “white guy riding the conveyor belt to death row makes request” in a society that  routinely and unfairly grants advantages and privileges to people based on their whiteness really isn’t that surprising. Since the dawn of our country, white folks (even before whiteness was created) have been catered to and coddled, with their hopes, dreams, and desires prioritized above all others.

2. For similar reasons, I was also surprised that the judges didn’t grant his request. We live in a country where a drunk driving, “affluenza” suffering kid can kill four people and get no jail time, where a judge can rule in favor of  re-segregating a town in Alabama (even with the caveat, that shit is rage-inducing), and where a rapist who was caught in the middle of sexually assaulting a woman gets a six-month sentence in jail (which was reduced to three months bc he was on “good behavior”) bc the judge “weighed both sides” and decided rehabilitation was the best option (Rehab? In jail? In a country whose prison system is about punishment, not rehabilitation?.

Affluenza kid? That Alabama town? The rapist (and the judge presiding over the case)? Guess what race they all are.  So yeah, i was a little surprised that MR’s request was denied.

One thing I wasn’t surprised about though?

Some of the comments I read from people reacting to the denial of MR’s plea. As happens so often in stories that involve extreme violence or behavior that is beyond the social norm, many people were quick to assert that mental illness was to blame for MR’s repugnant actions and beliefs.

I wish people would stop doing this. To get there, I invite people to consider what these words mean and what message they convey to others.

He’s mental” is the same as saying “there is something wrong with his cognitive abilities and that’s why he is a murderous racist”. Once you’ve intimated that mental illness or impairment is behind the actions and beliefs of a racist killer, you’ve opened the door to the notion that cognitive impairment is the root cause of racism and murder. Leaving aside the fact that playing armchair psychiatrist over the Internet is most definitely NOT the way a mental health diagnosis is determined, claiming that cognitive impairments cause racism (or lead to murderous acts) is deeply, massively fucked up.

It’s also factually incorrect.

(definition of ableism as provided by the Autism Womens Network on Facebook)
The idea that mental health determines someone’s moral character is an example of ableism.

First of all, there’s the splash damage done to people who suffer from cognitive impairments or whose cognitive abilities differ from the perceived societal norm. Drawing a direct link between cognitive ability and racism signals to others that “racism is caused by  mental illness”. Likewise, drawing a direct link between cognitive ability and acts of murder tells others that cognitive impairment is the reason people murder others. We live in a society in which people with mental illness or disabilities face a high degree of social stigma and pervasive discrimination. The last thing that they need is for armchair psychiatrists to pile on prejudice by perpetuating harmful ideas. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens not only in discussions of MR, but in the comment section of every article I’ve read about mass shootings (curiously though, I’ve yet to see anyone claim that those who kill others in self-defense, in a time of war, or as a military combatant are mentally ill), and most pieces on racism that I’ve read.

Secondly, there are plenty of people who have cognitive impairments or mental illnesses who are not racists and not only have not committed a murder, but have had no desire to.  Conversely, many people who are neither mentally impaired or ill have been racist (imagine someone trying to make a defense of the Confederate army with the claim “they couldn’t help but be white supremacist supporters of slavery. They were mentally ill.”) Some non-mentally ill, non-mentally impaired people have had murder in their heart and blood on their hands. Despite evidence that shows:

Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness

the belief that people with mental illnesses are violent is widespread.

As for racism…racism at the individual level (not structural or systemic racism) is learned. Murderous Racist not only grew up in the United States, a country that is driven by white supremacist ideology, he grew up in an area where that ideology was openly discussed. Celebrated, even. He was radicalized by spending time in areas that white supremacist rhetoric abounded. He soaked that shit up like a sponge. The harmful (and biologically incorrect) beliefs he holds about Blacks and Non-Black PoC are the result of him acquiring and retaining the wrong information. Not the result of something “wrong with his brain”.

Another way to think of it–you can unlearn racism. You cannot unlearn a cognitive impairment or deficiency.

I hope those making such comments can understand how incredibly wrong they are. Not just from a factual standpoint, but also in terms of the splash damage done to people who suffer from cognitive impairments or whose cognitive abilities differ from the perceived societal norm. Ableism is one of the many forms of bigotry that permeates society. It also cuts across political lines. It has become almost reflexive to associate the Right with every form of bigotry under the sun. It’s expected of social regressives to defend and uphold harmful beliefs about gender, race, sexuality, et al. Unfortunately, where left-leaning or progressive people can (in general) be counted upon to resist racism, sexism, or homophobia, far too many on the left side of the aisle are comfortable with ableism. We’re the side that is supposed to be  more enlightened, more concerned with social issues, and focused on reducing inequities in society, so come on people, get with it: having a mental illness does not lead someone to commit murder and bigotry is not caused by cognitive impairment.

 

Cognitive impairment is not the cause of bigotry
{advertisement}

This can all be traced back to the Civil War

We are going through some horrifying times right now. The presidential win by the incompetent, thin skinned rapist demagogue (I refuse to refer to him by his actual name, nor will I *EVER* call him “Mr. President” or “President [redacted]”) has led to a government that is very much not democratic, and is in fact, in danger of becoming an authoritarian police state (one run by white supremacists and Nazis at that). Chitler and those he brought on as part of his Cabinet have no respect for the people of this nation or the Constitution that all government employees are supposed to uphold. They have a complete disrespect for the rule of law  as well as disrespect for the basic standards of decency, transparency, and accountability expected from the leaders of this country. This disrespect and the trampling of the Constitutional and human rights of USAmerican citizens can be seen almost daily:

  • issuing an executive order that effectively bars Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States (no, the writing of the order does not literally say “ban on Muslims”, but that’s the end result) is an attack on people based on their religion and ethnicity
  • the imposition of a media blackout on multiple federal agenices such as the FDA and the EPA
  • criticizing the exercise of free speech rights of USAmerican civilians (the ‘Hamilton’ cast) and attacking celebrities who express disapproval of his actions
  • referring to his critics as enemies
  • openly displaying aggression to private companies
  • being extremely hostile to reporters and the media (signalling an opposition to the freedom of the press)
  • nominating a host of appointees for government positions who are not only supremely unqualified, but also (in most cases) want to gut the departments they are to be in charge of
  • continuing to associate with Russia, despite the successful cyberattacks carried out by that country

That’s just off the top of my head.  There’s been so much that the Tangerine Tyrant does on a daily basis that flies in the face of human decency or respect for the founding principles of this country. What many people may not realize though, is that our current slide towards an authoritarian or fascist state are directly connected to the demonization and enslavement of African-Americans for 245 years, which culminated with the Civil War.

Continue reading “This can all be traced back to the Civil War”

This can all be traced back to the Civil War

At last! White History Month is here!

It’s that time of year again-Black History Month. You know, that month of celebrations of the achievements, skills, accomplishments, and history of one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States. A group whose members do not typically learn of the historical accomplishments of their people in public schools or universities. A group comprised of people whose scientific and artistic achievements are not widely known by the general populace. A group that has traditionally experienced discrimination and marginalization in USAmerican culture. But I’m not here to talk about Black History Month. And why is that? Because it has come to my attention-again-that members of another racial group feel it is unfair that African-Americans get One Whole Month to discuss their history and accomplishments. Leave aside the fact that the history of this other racial group is taught in schools and colleges around the country as the default history. Never mind that the histories of African-Americans are considered ‘electives’, rather than part of the default discussion of U.S. history. None of that is important. What is important is that many members of this other group feel left out (marginalized, even) and believe they too, should get a month to honor their achievements. And who can tell them no? Not I. In fact, I feel kinda sad that white people don’t have an entire month to learn more about their history. It really isn’t fair. Therefore, in response to the calls for fairness that I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter year, after year, after year, I give you White History Month. Enjoy! Continue reading “At last! White History Month is here!”

At last! White History Month is here!

What a privilege indeed

Content Note: Discussion of slavery and white supremacy, disturbing imagery

For much of my life, I thought I knew about slavery and white supremacy in the United States. Not everything mind you. But I knew about that ‘peculiar’ institution. I watched ‘Roots’. I saw ‘The Color Purple’. I knew stuff.

  • I knew that millions of Africans were enslaved and brought to the United States where they had no rights.
  • I knew that these Africans were not considered full human beings, and had no rights.
  • I knew that they could be bought, sold, traded, and bartered like property.
  • I knew that male slave owners often raped their female slaves and bore illegitimate children which they sold when the children were of sufficient age.
  • I knew that families had been ripped apart and destroyed. I knew that black families sought to form whatever communities they could, often in the form of churches, though white people would have none of that.
  • I knew about slave patrols, which played a role in the development of modern policing.
  • I knew about black people being whipped, chained, disemboweled, and brutally beaten.
  • I knew the tools often used to keep black people enslaved.
  • I saw the images of black people before, during, and after they were whipped.
19th century medical missionary and anti-slavery advocate David Livingstone sent weapons and tools such as these to Britain as evidence in the battle against slavery.

I knew all of that and more still. I knew that slavery was a vile institution; one that dehumanizes its victims (in this case, African-Americans), treats them as things…as property. I knew that the Civil War was fought over slavery; that slavery was the bloodiest conflict in US history. I knew the Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery. But there was much I did not know. Oh boy, was there ever. Here are three things I’ve learned about slavery and white supremacy in the last year, one of which I learned about today.

Continue reading “What a privilege indeed”

What a privilege indeed

Until they confessed, I had no idea they were racist

Happy Saturday! The sun in shining. The birds are chirping. Racist scumbags are being racist scumbags.

In an interview with Channel 4, the pair of neo-Nazi’s in the above image proudly proclaimed their racism, whined about the imaginary discrimination faced by white people in the United States, and showed off their, um “lovely” headquarters.

Continue reading “Until they confessed, I had no idea they were racist”

Until they confessed, I had no idea they were racist

Racism's dead, huh?

Deniers of racism love to assert that racism is a thing of the past, that the U.S. is a post-racial society (we have a black POTUS, so that means…absofuckinglutely nothing). If one follows the news, it’s clear that such a belief is utter balderdash and is directly contradicted by reality (the shared one we all live in. Not the faux reality created by outlets like FOX “News” or the Blaze). Here are five recent examples of racism in the U.S.:

Continue reading “Racism's dead, huh?”

Racism's dead, huh?

Racism’s dead, huh?

Deniers of racism love to assert that racism is a thing of the past, that the U.S. is a post-racial society (we have a black POTUS, so that means…absofuckinglutely nothing). If one follows the news, it’s clear that such a belief is utter balderdash and is directly contradicted by reality (the shared one we all live in. Not the faux reality created by outlets like FOX “News” or the Blaze). Here are five recent examples of racism in the U.S.:

Continue reading “Racism’s dead, huh?”

Racism’s dead, huh?

Defending the indefensible

I’m growing increasingly frustrated by the historical ignorance on the part of many Southerners. In the wake of the June 17 act of racial terrorism that took the lives of 9 African-American churchgoers in Charleston, SC, a debate has reignited over the Confederate flag (which has flown over the South Carolina state capitol since 2000). On one side of the debate are those who argue that the flag represents white supremacy, slavery, and treason. On the other side are those who think the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage and freedom from tyranny. The supporters of the flag are attempting to revise history with proclamations such as “The Civil War was fought over states’ rights”, “The Confederate flag represents bravery, valor, and heroism”, and “The Civil War wasn’t just fought over slavery”. The only proper response to the previous claims are (IMO) “no, it wasn’t”, “no the fuck it doesn’t”, and “hell yes it was”. While I’m sure that many people are genuinely ignorant of the causes of the Civil War and the symbolism of the Confederate flag (owing to deliberate attempts to paint the Southern states in a positive light in the wake of the Civil War), I have no doubt that many other people know full well what they argue for. Whatever the case may be, it disgusts me that whether intentional or not, people are defending the indefensible. To understand the reasons why supporters of the Confederate flag are deeply wrong, a little history lesson is in order. The following is a broad overview of the causes behind the Civil War.

Continue reading “Defending the indefensible”

Defending the indefensible

The legacy of the Confederacy lives on in white supremacists like Dylann Roof

Congregants honor the nine people murdered last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. They were slain in a terrorist attack by a white supremacist attempting to incite a race war.

Last week, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof drove two hours from his home in Columbia, South Carolina to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. After being welcomed in with open arms by the African-American churchgoers, Roof sat. And sat. And sat. A little over an hour after he arrived, he jumped back into his car and sped away, leaving behind the bodies of 9 people he shot to death in a horrific act of racial terrorism that has justifiably outraged the nation. Thanks to a perceptive florist, the 14+ hour manhunt for the killer ended in Shelby, North Carolina, more than 245 miles from Charleston. Following his arrest, he has been charged with 9 counts of murder and possession of a firearm. His bond is set at $1 million. The shock and bewilderment felt by many USAmericans upon first hearing of his deadly crime largely centered around “why would someone do this”. The answer to that was made apparent less than 24 hours after his shooting rampage:
Continue reading “The legacy of the Confederacy lives on in white supremacists like Dylann Roof”

The legacy of the Confederacy lives on in white supremacists like Dylann Roof