Content warning: uncensored ableist and racist slurs, mention of electroshock therapy, Judge Rotenberg Center
All the time, I hear people say that racists, misogynists, ableists, queerphobes and other bigots are “mentally ill”. Some even call them “crazy”, “psycho” or “nuts”, which is ableist and sanist in itself.
I also hear people say that Donald Trump shouldn’t be president because he may be “mentally unstable”. Make no mistake, I have a very unfavorable view of No. 45, but to say that he’s mentally unstable is also wrong.
I have multiple psychiatric disabilities, but I don’t like to talk about them very much because there’s a lot of stigma for people like me.
There are people who do have psychiatric disabilities who aren’t bigoted. There are people with psychiatric disabilities who are. When we say that all bigots are “crazy”, we’re perpetuating the stigma for people with mental health disabilities.
It goes back to a time where people with mental health disabilities were treated very cruelly and inhumanely (and many times still are). People were forced to undergo electric shock “therapy” to try and “cure” their psychiatric disabilities. Yes, they shocked people. The scary thing is, some facilities and institutions still do those kinds of barbaric methods of “treatment”.
Case in point, my grandmother told me a true story before she recently passed away: she joined the Army after high school, and during the Korean War, she worked with two other people: an East Asian man and a Jewish man. One day, all three people were assigned to “treat” a white woman, who was deemed as “crazy”. They were ordered to shock the woman, and they did. When the woman regained consciousness, she said to my grandmother and her two colleagues, “Well, what have we here? A nigger, a jap and a Jew!” The Jewish man said, “Shock her again!” because he figured that if she’s still has prejudiced views, she hasn’t been “cured of her mental illness” yet.
Even today, there are still some institutions who still use electroshock therapy as “treatment” for neurodivergent people. The Judge Rotenberg Center, a residential facility for people with intellectual, developmental and psychiatric disabilities in Canton Massachusetts, still uses these and other kinds of barbaric methods. Despite many protests from human rights organizations including disability rights organizations and condemnation from the United Nations, the JRC is still in operation, and still using electroshock and other inhumane aversives.
There’s no doubt that bigotry is wrong on all levels, but saying that bigots have a mental illness is also wrong because it also promotes violence towards people with psychiatric disabilities. Neurodivergent people of color are especially vulnerable to violent attacks from neurotypical people, whether verbal or physical.
Bigots aren’t “crazy”. They’re unpleasant, disagreeable, or just downright evil. Moral compass knows no neurodivergence, or lack thereof.