Negro ‘Paranoia’ (1968)
NEGRO ‘PARANOIA’ (1968)
White Racism Said to Push Blacks to the Brink
By JOHN LEO
White racism forces the American Negro to lead a life of cultural paranoia and often pushes him over the brink into true paranoid schizophrenia, a black psychiatrist said here yesterday.
Paranoia, a withdrawal from reality with delusions of persecution, is by far the most common form of mental illness among black Americans, according to Dr. William H. Grier, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco.
That’s because a black person has to develop a suspiciousness and defensive posture just to survive in America, he said in an interview. He has to develop a ‘healthy,’ adaptive ‘cultural paranoia,’ which pushes him close to the line of mental illness.
Dr. Grier is the author of Black Rage, a psychological portrait of the American Negro, published today by Basic Books. Dr. Price M. Cobbs, another Negro psychiatrist at the San Francisco medical center, is co-author.
The book argues that the rage of black men is beginning to break through a complex set of psychic defenses, erected in the time of slavery 2nd little changed since.
Suffering Is Masked
Beneath the cool style and the postal-worker syndrome of ingratiating deference and passivity, the authors say, the Negro has been spending enormous amounts of psychic energy to mask suffering and rage.
As a sapling bent low stores energy for a violent backswing, the authors write, blacks bent double by oppression have stored energy which will be released in the form of rage – black rage, apocalyptic and final.
They also make these arguments:
It is the role of the Negro mother to suppress assertiveness in her sons, so they can survive in white society. As a result, Negro men develop considerable hostility toward Negro women as the inhibiting agents of an oppressive system.
Negro family structure is weak because it cannot fulfill its primary function: protection of its members. Nowhere in the United States can the black family extend an umbrella of protection over its members in the way that a white family can, they say.
The black woman is prone to depressive, self-deprecatory attitudes. By white beauty standards, she is unable to develop a healthy narcissism, or self-love. She tends to see the sexual act as a degrading submission, which further lowers her self-esteem.
After early promise, many talented Negroes fail to do well in their careers because accomplishment is often perceived as a major move beyond the family, and thus as a form of abandonment of loved ones.
Many black men weep frequently – without warning and without feeling. It occurs while the black man is passively witnessing another man’s triumph, and the tears are for what he might have achieved if he had not been held back … by some inner command not to excel, not to achieve, not to becoming outstanding, not to draw attention to himself.
Under slavery, the authors write, the black man was a psychologically emasculated and totally dependent human being. Times and conditions have changed, but black men continue to exhibit the inhibitions and psychopathology that had their genesis in the slave experience.
The Black Norm, the authors write, is a set of defensive character traits that the American Negro must acquire.
They list these traits as cultural paranoia (every white man and every social system is the enemy until proven otherwise), cultural depression (sadness and intimacy with misery) and cultural antisocialism (an accurate reading of one’s environment in which laws are never quite respected because they are designed to protect white men, not Negroes.
To regard the Black Norm as pathological, the psychiatrists write, and attempt to remove such traits by treatment would be akin to analyzing away a hunter’s cunning or a banker’s prudence. This is a body of characteristics essential to life for black men in America and woe be unto that therapist who does not recognize it.
Rage is rising rapidly in the black community, they write. and whites must get off the backs of Negroes if they wish to avoid a conflagration.
Today it is the young men who are fighting the battles, and, for now, their elders, though they have given their approval, have not yet joined in. The issue finally rests with the black masses. When the servile men and women stand up, we had all better duck.
Source: The New York Times 7/25/68
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