Racism and Mental Health: Hitler and Beyond?
So in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting, I was watching MSNBC today with Yasmin Vossoghian (May 22/22), and she asked a very thought-provoking question; hence, the title of this post: “Is Racism A Mental Health Issue?”
I don’t know the short answer to that question. But, I do know you can take a relatively caring, halfway normal or decent person, and they can become a deviant monster of sorts through both systemic oppression (racism and sexism, but also, loss or deprivation of work opportunities and/or co-opted work colleagues (as far back as 2003); collusion among or between govt / authorities / big business; absolute invasion of one’s privacy AND trespassing, theft, vandalism, threats to health, etc), and just repeated undermining of one’s personhood and sense of integrity — including human tragedies and constant assaults on one’s humanity and sensibilities.
Also, one can be intrigued by a person (or topic), without subscribing to the values or racial hatred that they may represent or actively propagate. That happened to me as a child, and now, I may be being cast as an anti-Semite or hater of various groups. Yet, I truly did not have some kind of one-track mind on the ideologies of that hateful state leader (Adolph Hitler), whom I first read about at age 10. These biographies were about him and his life journey, rather than about the Holocaust, itself. I didn’t have a full appreciation of the terror and horrors he executed upon 6+ million innocent Jews; plus, the half million others, who also died in concentration camps (ie, gypsies; Poles and Slavic peoples; homosexuals/queers; people with disabilities; people of colour, etc) — until later in life.*
|Jews||Approximately 6 million|||
|Soviet civilians||5.7 million (excl. 1.3 million Jews)|||
|Soviet POWs||2.8–3.3 million|||
“Could We Have Stopped Hitler?” (From the JewishVirtualLibrary.org.)
The few bizarre ‘karmic incidents’ from my childhood/teen years are definitely shocking to me now, in hindsight. Yet, I never had negative thoughts about Jewish people (except one scenario, see below); nor did I knowingly or intentionally treat any people particularly differently based on race/ethnicity, during the first half of my life (despite those ‘karmic’ events).**
Besides a precious sleeping baby I once held, which is still one of my most precious, peaceful, and hope-giving memories — I’ve had employers, managers, co-workers, fellow activists and volunteers, health professionals, classmates, significant romantic crushes, flirtations, and best of all, dear friends and lovers, who happen to be Jewish or of Hebraic ancestry. I’ve been grateful to them all, with the exception of one or two, just to be very honest (see below) — especially as my life is likely well-documented now through the seeming surveillance of many years (long story). In fact, I have felt a profound resonance with, or enthusiasm for, many individuals who happen to be of Jewish or Hebraic ancestry; and over time, I came to recognize qualities that may explain why in fact they are considered God’s Chosen People.
Yes, there were 2 interlinked people, whom I once held a bitter grudge towards (an overall mental state that began to set in during the late 1990’s) — and it is (or was, for me, then) much like my companion’s very negative feelings about the surgeon who permanently screwed up his prostate and, hence, his once extremely active sex life, forevermore). What dawned on me as I went through life’s experiences, is that the ‘old boys network’ had been at work; but these things happen.
Also, I will reiterate the fact that the one person (and probably others), whom I left out of a farewell and thank-you note/page, had nothing whatsoever to do with their family’s ethnicity or surname. It didn’t even cross my mind. I really felt we were peripheral friends and that I didn’t matter to them much. In hindsight, and shortly after it was published, I realized that I was completely wrong. To be honest, I had no idea just HOW WRONG I had been, and how much we had actually done together at school, until just recently. So, I apologized to them — but 34-years too late, as the damage is now done.
The irony is that around my mid-teens onward, I became very much concerned about social inclusivity — to the point that I even wanted to understand murderers and rapists. My belief is that everyone has a valid viewpoint and legitimate thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences — regardless of who they may be. Which is not to support or perpetuate hatred, violence, anger, intolerance, or maliciousness, of course. Though I have exhibited the latter three quite frequently, in part due to systemic oppressions I was experiencing and traumas I’ve endured (and also subjected others to), mixed together with various mental health issues. (That’s a whole other discussion altogether, given what I know about myself; what I’ve been diagnosed with; and what has been studied and analyzed about me by ‘Big Brother’.)
So, with respect to racism and mental health issues — I guess it really depends what kind of mental health issues one is talking about. There are certainly intellectually-challenged or otherwise differently-abled people, who can be bigoted. And the spectrum of human beings who have mental health issues can range from individuals with mild depression or personality disorders, to people with suicidal ideation or who are on suicide watch, to full-blown homicidal maniacs with an axe to grind (eg, jilted lovers or separated spouses, who kill their former partners; angry ex-employees who go on murder sprees at their former workplaces; or utterly tragic school shootings, etc). Many of these examples take place in the U.S., frankly, due to the profusion of, and easy access to, guns of all kinds there — worst of all, are the assault-style weapons, like the AR-15’s.
For many years, I became focused on socio-environmental healing because democracy and equality (before the law) can be slow processes and cumbersome ideologies, full of growing pains — and, I also desperately needed it for myself. On the one hand, I am ‘thin-skinned and fragile’, with low self-esteem; yet, I can also be incredibly arrogant, cold, and uncaring (especially under stress).
Anyway, without the healing of social divisions and fostering mutual co-operation, I figured you couldn’t truly make environmentalism a priority for all, and by all — with shared responsibility among, say, giant corporations to governments to the everyday citizen — thus, leading to effective, widespread ecological restoration or transformation; the saving of so many threatened or endangered species, and so on. But guess what, you can! That was just naive me thinking or problem-solving organically, and believing that we had to work with who and what currently exists, here on earth.
*I may have been curious about Hitler at an early age (and, frankly, those books simply stood out on the bookshelf) — but I didn’t embrace his actual racist and bigoted views: I myself would’ve fallen into the “racially-inferior and degenerates” category. Yet, somehow, my life has a hauntingly predestined and karmic aspect to it — much to my deep dismay and regret (see other posts). Ultimately, the fact is that so many of the people that I like/love and greatly appreciate, respect, or admire, happen to be of Jewish or Hebraic origin. That’s not hyperbole. And not to generalize — but a wide-ranging number of people whom I have known of Jewish ancestry are truly intellectually-, emotionally-, and spiritually-advanced. Like, I mean superior calibre — possibly even beyond this earthly realm, if one can conceive of such things. (Am just saying it like it is, from my own experiences.) All of which makes the horrific tragedies of the World War II Holocaust even greater, and of paramount importance — and why it can never be allowed to happen again; and certainly never will.
This person puts it more humbly, in describing both the importance of the Kabbalah** (a mystical, yet fundamental branch of Judaism) and the profound relevance of Jewish people and culture on planet earth: “All this serves to remind us of the wide, rich cultural heritage of the Jewish people amidst the nations of the world” (Ethan Taub, Zurich; in a discussion thread on Chabad.org, May 18, 2022 — essential reading!).
** “Kabbalah: That which is received. That which cannot be known through science or intellectual pursuit alone. An inner knowledge that has been passed down from sage to student from the earliest of times. A discipline that awakens awareness of the essence of things” (“Kabbalah Defined”, Chabad.org).
1. Uvalde, Texas School Shooting: May 24, 2022
2. “Shootings prompt debate on purchase age for AR-style rifles” – Andrew DeMillo, Toronto Star (June 1, 2022)
3. “The Holocaust: Could We Have Stopped Hitler?” by Edwin Black
4. “Holocaust Victims” – Wikipedia
5. “Documenting Numbers of Victims
of the Holocaust & Nazi Persecution” by Mitchell Bard
6. WW2 GERMANY POPULATION, STATISTICS, AND NUMBERS
7. History of Jewish Peoples – YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
8. “The Holocaust: Non-Jewish Victims” by Terese Pencak Schwartz
9. Where Hands Touch (2018) Film
10. The Wilds (2020) TV Series
11. The Wilds: Season 2 (2022) TV Series