Letter to the Editor

Response to 'Hate and mental illness' letter

Monday, April 19, 2021

The April 16 edition of the SDR carried an opinion piece ("Response to hate and mental illness a deadly combination"), in reaction to an editorial of the same name, which you had penned previously. The 1,000 or so words attributed to 40 individuals/couples is significant of itself. When have so many people offered so many words about a topic of our times? Providing another perspective on racism is the premise, and this is a worthwhile effort to undertake.

The subject of paragraph two provided pause for thought: "... the only time racism is a mental health issue is when we are talking about those that are oppressed and the effect racism has on their mental well being." My view, for what it's worth, is that a racist is someone who believes (and also acts on that belief) that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races. The racist does not believe in "all men are created equal ... and are endowed with certain inalienable rights." A person holding such a view may display obvious symptoms of mental illness. Then again, he/she may not display such symptoms. A racist can/often does spew hateful speech. A mentally ill person can be angry enough to kill people of any/all races, when not "in their right mind", as a result of illicit drug usage, or failure to properly take prescribed antipsychotic medication. It can be a mixed bag. One can be born with a propensity for a particular mental illness, but I'm confident a racist learns to be one by virtue of upbringing and examples from parents/relatives/friends.

Paragraph three takes issue with your use of quotation marks when talking about racism. I doubt you intended to mock victims of racism. Perhaps you were calling attention to the word, that it means different things to different people. Then again, neither you nor most (if not all of the 40 signers) know what it's like to be a person of color. Thus, for white people to confront racism, they would do well to talk with a person of color, and garner their experience of being victimized. Now there would be a great place to begin meaningful dialog!

If true dialog about racism, its proponents, victims, "time honored practices," or whatever is to begin, we whites need to be inviting, to be open to discussion, to sharing what we know (and what we don't know). If the letter signed by the 40 is to serve in any way as a change agent, the last paragraph holds the key. "Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself." Otherwise, the whole matter is akin to what 1 Corinthians 13, verse one teaches: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." Confront racism at every opportunity. Don't keep it to yourself. Speak up for equality all were created equal. Can't top that!

Mr. Editor, as always, folks are welcome to join you for Coffee with the Editor, each Friday morning, 7 a.m. at the Grand Avenue Community Outreach dining room, where the above and other topics of interest are discussed and shared, correct? Good, I thought so.