A Racist Movement Cannot Move


This has been some year. We (indirectly, sort of) elected the most openly bigoted president of the United States in recent racist history. The media tried to make us believe we were witnessing a new phenomenon by flooding us with news of so many of the latest police killings of Black men (while still mostly omitting all the deaths and disappearances of women and trans* people of color). We’ve teetered precariously on the edge of our apparent destiny as a ‘reality TV’-driven nation, and finally decided to dive full on in.

Yet so much violence mixed with the grandiosity of Trump’s hateful gestures – rather than drawing attention to and raising awareness and concern about all shapes and forms of racism – seems to be making the more everyday variety that much harder to see; As if we needn’t concern ourselves with the comparatively ‘small stuff’ while the big stuff (like a presidential incumbent who’s been formally endorsed by the KKK) is…well… so big. Even though we know that racism is much more about the nearly invisible (to white people, anyway) stuff embedded in our most basic system structures and ways of being, then about those blatant acts that are more ‘symptom’ and ‘outcome’ than ‘disease.’

Unfortunately, this all seems to have distracted us and re-enforced the belief that our own movement(s) should get some sort of ‘pass.’ Because Trump’s policymakers are coming for us, too. Because many of us have been deeply wounded and experienced oppression first hand. And because, well, we’re working hard at tackling that type of systemic oppression. So, shouldn’t that be enough to fill our ‘fights injustice’ quota? Isn’t looking at anything else just a distraction that will water down our abilities to be successful in our own realm?

Truth: Our movement is just as racist (and sexist, and classist, and transphobic, etc.) as any other. We are just as liable to get lost in or be blinded by our privilege (white, male, cis, etc.), in spite of the profound pain and systemic oppression so many of us have survived. The majority of our communities (both on-line and in person) and events are still centered around the voices of white people, even when we’re talking about non-white experiences. And our best efforts thus far to correct for all that have tended toward demands that white people make space for those who are not white at tables where we’re not even sure it’s worth having a seat, or to post ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs in our yards to meet a trend before going about our day.blog on racist issues in movement - blogger comment

There are many reasons why this remains so, yet all of it co-exists alongside the fact that Black, latinx, and many other people of color are substantially more likely to be given what are seen as the harshest psychiatric labels, to be subjected to psychiatric force, and to be injured or killed during interactions not just with the police, but also with ‘mental health’ professionals. It also remains so in spite of the fact that our collective voice is weaker, less capable of making change, for all its fractured off pieces, and that it seems the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of ‘social justice movement’ if we’re ignoring all these points.

There’s no clear path to digging ourselves out of this mire, but even in the absence of a precise recipe for success, the following ‘don’t’s and ‘do’s seem good food for thought.

DON’T (as in NO! Just stop it! Right now!):

  1. Stop comparing psychiatry to slavery (or similar): A common response when this topic rears its head is to debate precisely what constitutes ‘slavery’ (in the most basic sense of the word). In some ways, this can be a complex argument, littered with various dictionary definitions interpreted in somewhat variable ways, and because it is true that race-based slavery and the Atlantic Slave trade is far from the only example of the existence of slavery in our world’s history. However, here’s a bit of a reality check on these points:

images from racist historyWhen one Googles (yes, that’s a verb now) for images representing slavery (at least from a computer based in the United States), about 98% of the images that pop up on the first page represent enslavement of people of African descent. A word-oriented Google scan also elicits a first page of results that are made up of references to slavery as it has existed most prominently in the USA with a few generic definitions thrown in for good measure. And, when one speaks of ‘slavery’ (without any other qualifiers) to those around them (again, at least in this country), few report hearing someone ask, “What kind of slavery do you mean?”


So, when objections are raised in response to the term ‘psychiatric slavery’ for all the appropriation and denigration of the history of so many Black Americans that it represents, it feels completely disingenuous for proponents of this analogy to offer up vague dictionary references or historical citations of slavery in Greece and Rome as first defense. It’s not that any of these points are exactly untrue, per se. Yet, it all rings of feigned ignorance to the reality these words have lived and the impact they are likely to have in the here and now.

Now, to be clear, this ‘don’t’ is directed primarily at white people. Sometimes Black people do make this comparison, and there is a difference. When asked about this topic, Suman Fernando (a Black psychiatrist originally from Sri Lanka currently residing in England and who has done a great deal of work related to racism and psychiatry) had this to say:

“When a black person with a family heritage of slavery (as meaning race-linked slavery) says that psychiatry feels like slavery (I have heard this mainly in the context of being forced -sectioned), that feeling is to be taken seriously as a valid statement with sometimes very deep meaning not just for the person but for anyone trying to understand the effect of the psychiatric system on other people (ie. academics, writers and most of all psychiatrists). If a white person and or someone who has no family heritage of slavery (is not an expert by experience on slavery) says the same thing, it usually means -‘I have experienced psychiatry so I know what slavery is like’ and this is an insult to people whose heritage has slavery experience and a devaluation of the experience of slavery – and indeed an attempt to appropriate someone else’s experience.”

Now, Suman should not be sought out for his expertise on what it’s like to experience psychiatric oppression in general (he has not experienced it), but his words as a Black man who has spent many years examining the relationship between psychiatry and racism should carry great weight. If nothing else, they should carry far more weight than those of Thomas Szasz (who certainly does otherwise have many messages of value to offer) and other white men commonly cited as utilizing the frame of ‘psychiatric slavery,’ but who  know very little about living Black in this world.

(Oh, and while we’re at it, also stop comparing the experience of psychiatric oppression to the Jewish Holocaust, the genocide of American Indians, or any other such devastating experience held by another group of people in our nation.)

  1. Stop appropriating the words of Black people to support system (or anti-system) messages: We understand it can be tricky to know when quoting a person of color is an effective way of using our own voice as a tool to raise up the voice of another, or when it becomes little more than a way to make one’s self look good or progressively minded. Clearly, white people only referencing other white people is not the way to go. However, how many times has a white person quoted someone, when they could have instead stepped aside to make room for a real, live Black person to speak for themselves? And, based on existing trends of the extraordinarily small pool of Black people recognized as worth quoting (or ‘gentle enough’ to be heard), how many people might unknowingly be walking this earth thinking that Martin Luther King Junior was the only Black person ever to have said anything worth repeating?

On Monday, September 19th, 2016, the opening dinner for the Alternatives Conference was held in San Diego, California. One of the opening speakers was a white presenting man from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, the funders of the conference). Throughout his talk, he increasingly referenced the words of different Black people up to and including Oprah Winfrey (?!). While he inevitably meant well, his frenetic inclusion of every name at the top of the ‘well-known Black people list’ was overwhelming. Toward the end of his speech, he also directly appropriated a quote from Martin Luther King Junior (because, as aforementioned, no speech where race is referenced is complete without at least one MLK nod).

Instead of “…will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” (from MLK’s 1963 ‘I have a Dream’ speech), he said (basically… we might have a word or two off):

“Judge a person not by the contents of their prescription bottle, but by the content of their character.”

Wait, what?! No. Just no. There’s so much wrong here, from the entrenched association between emotional distress and psychiatric drugs to a white presenting man opening a predominately white conference by appropriating a Black man’s quote and twisting up its meaning to fit a completely different agenda. This should never have happened, but it set (or perpetuated) a tone that was never truly questioned.

This is not unusual. It follows on the heels of one of the organizers for this very same conference having proclaimed, “All Lives Matter!” just the year before. It happens all the time. Our movement, for example, quite regularly speaks of “Creative Maladjustment,” and one relatively recent Mad in America blog went so far as to say:

“In fact, if you wish, and you reflect the values of Martin Luther King, you may say you are leading the organization that he first envisioned, the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM.)”

Honestly, it’s awful hard to imagine that MLK would have ever envisioned an IAACM that was so white, where Black people and others people of color so commonly feel excluded or spoken for and over, and where a white presenting man would open a majority white conference contorting MLK’s words into something they were never meant to say.

  1. Also, stop appropriating imagery from our racist history for other causes: Individuals fighting psychiatric oppression are not the first to appropriate experiences associated with our country’s long record of racism. This is also an issue, as it turns out, racist imagery from vegan movementamong animal rights activists (see image to the left). In December of 2015, Claire Heuchan (a Black radical feminist and writer from Scotland) authored the article, ‘Veganism has a Serious Race Problem’, in which she made the following statement:

“Material designed to provoke a white audience is also liable to alienate a Black audience. By using slavery as a tool to promote vegan values, vegan activists make clear that vegan spaces are frequently racist spaces. As is often the case in predominantly white spaces where racism goes unchecked, there is little room for people of colour. This marginalisation results in the perception that veganism is a movement by and for white people, which certainly isn’t the case.“

That first sentence seems especially worth repeating:  “Material designed to provoke a white audience is also liable to alienate a Black audience.” We would do well to learn from and apply this in our own work.

  1. And, stop arguing with Black and other people of color when they tell you to stop: It really should be unnecessary to write more than just, ‘Don’t’ in this section. Yet, judging by the frequency with which this occurs, it seems much more is needed. There is a phenomenon called ‘whitesplaining’ that occurs fairly commonly, and one of the ways in which it rears its ugly head is when white people attempt to explain to Black people or other people of color why they shouldn’t find something offensive.

michaelann-quote-racismHowever, in a society that has consistently catered to white feelings, perceptions and interpretations, if we are truly going to move forward toward healing racism, then the very least that a white person can do is listen when a Black person tells them that something they are doing or saying feels racist or brings up hurts that are so related.

And beware the urge to go in search of another non-white person to contradict the first (generally done in effort to somehow vindicate one’s self). Certainly, there are many times when people of color will disagree on such points.  There are many groups, after all, that fit within the term ‘people of color,’ and even if you narrow it down to just one – Black, for example – there is no obligation to be any less varied or diverse than any other group in what individuals within those groups think, feel or say. However, our time would be far better spent examining our own motives and why it feels so important to hang on to something if we’ve been told so clearly that it’s hurting a fellow human being, especially when that fellow human comes from a group that has already lived a lifetime of being silenced and devalued.

Better that one just… stops.

  1. Stop proposing ‘color blindness’ as a goal:

“I don’t see color.”

“I wish we were all colorblind.”

“Race is a social construct.”

When we say those things, it often seems that the intent is to say that people are people.
earl-color-blindThat we aspire to see people as the whole of their selves instead of as some label they have been given. In this psychiatric survivor movement, where we are so intentionally trying to move past preconceived notions that stick to people’s being, it even seems understandable.

It is a flawed concept though. This movement is very white. Deep breath. It’s been said. The list of reasons is long, but at least part of that is that inviting people of color to an all white table is complicated. Nobody wants to be tokenized or treated as some sort of exotic foreigner. So, perhaps, well meaning people offer the color blind explanation to try and offer some comfort. Intentions being what they are, it can be seen as a welcoming gesture.

However, the first flaw is the implication that blackness or brownness is something to be ignored. And, the second flaw is the inherent privilege of that statement. If you are a white person, you can be color blind. Racism is like the next city over. Sure, it impacts you… from a distance. But to see it, requires leaving your comfort zone and intentionally seeking it out. If you are a person of color, it’s more like your neighborhood. You have to work hard to even have a small space where the impact doesn’t exist. The society we live in means that every retail experience, every police stop, job interview, all of it has the opportunity to remind you that the world sees you as a lesser person. You cannot be color blind because there is no space for that.

It’s okay to want to not see how unfair things are. To wish them righteous. It just doesn’t do anything.

Yet, promoting ‘color blindness’ seems to be a phenomenon that is sweeping our movements most closely associated with ‘mental health’.

While we all instinctively want to be able to stand on the merit of our individual personhood, Black folks have rarely (if ever) been able to focus on the individual self, to be seen as possessing of individual identities rather than simply as one of a mostly faceless mass. It is born of privilege that white people are able to be individuals at all times, to not focus on race, and to (supposedly) not see the color of other individuals.

iden-quote-racist-movement-blogWhat evidence is there that Black people and other people of color are not allowed to be individuals? We need only look at the way laws are enforced across entire communities of color. Police forces occupy such neighborhoods daily. Recently, you have seen these occupying forces in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, and Standing Rock; Police officers dressed as if they are going into military battle with American citizens.

When was the last time you have seen occupying forces such as this in white communities? How has their response compared in university towns that riot after winning tournaments, or cities that riot after winning professional championships? Whenever there is a random shooting in Chicago the media portrays the entire community as a criminal element. When 9/11 occurred every Muslim in this nation feared for their lives and many still do today.

Yet, just recently a white man murdered two police officers, and not once was his race mentioned. Not once was his community or family held accountable for his actions. As a matter of fact, the term “Lone Wolf” was created to effectively give white men a way to be individually identified in domestic terrorist acts, acts of racial violence, and any other criminal activity in which they may be involved. This is the color blindness that white people are able to practice so unabashedly while still participating in racial profiling, oppression, and systemic racism.

The intergenerational trauma we face as a nation together and then in our respective communities has shaped the way we view and interact with each other. The shame, fear, hate, and refusal to ‘see color’ has played a significant part in transforming this nation into one of traumatized individuals who have refused to deal with the elephant in the room.

The last eight years, we have witnessed what many thought was a past that was long forgotten, but in reality was only swept under the carpet. Many white people respond to the hatred of Trump supporters and those who blame Muslims for any incident that might be related to terrorism in feigned disbelief. They are seeing now what many Black people and other people of color have known for years. Racism has always been alive, practiced, and tolerated in this country.

(As a side note, it seems worth adding: When people of color laud ‘color blindness’ or throw out a ‘All Lives Matter’ cry to groups of mostly white people… Well, whatever they may mean in those instances and however differently intended it may be from when it leaves the lips of a white person, it’s probably worth considering what the white people hear… Do they care what is actually meant, or does it simply get translated into an excuse to do the same, and serve to undo so much work of others who have fought to broaden their view and understanding?)

DO (as in YES! Please. Give it a go! Trust us!):

  1. If you see (or hear) something, say something: Here’s a line most commonly associated with abandoned backpacks or suspicious activity in public places, but what’s much more common is witnessing people making comments that perpetuate hate, negative stereotypes, prejudice, and/or plain lack of respect of one marginalized group or another. And, more often than not, such statements go unchallenged.

Why? This happens for a variety of reasons including that the person in the ‘witness’ role:

  • Doesn’t want to be seen as rude or risk damaging a relationship
  • Is afraid they’ll somehow be a part of silencing a person of color or unintentionally treat them as incapable if they speak up in their defense
  • Is afraid of getting labeled as the ‘fun police’ or being excluded from a group of friends or colleagues for being ‘too sensitive’ or ‘too difficult’
  • Is in a position of lesser power and is afraid of the consequences of questioning or potentially embarrassing a person they see as ‘above’ them in some regard
  • Feels less educated and/or confident in their communication skills than the person they want to challenge
  • Isn’t entirely certain that what they heard is truly ‘wrong’ and isn’t quite sure why it leaves them feeling uneasy
  • Isn’t sure what to say to challenge or interrupt what was said
  • Is waiting (hoping) for someone else to step in
  • Feels like it’s pointless to speak up, because they have no hope of changing that person’s mind

Within the movement(s) that seeks to address psychiatric oppression, silence can also sometimes be the result of just how difficult it can be to tell someone who has been so oppressed in their own way that they’re nonetheless hurting someone else, or taking advantage of their privilege. Indeed, it can be very hard for someone who’s spent years in a psychiatric institution or who has been living in poverty to hear or acknowledge that they have any privilege at all.kent-allyship-quote

But, getting comfortable with saying something (even if clumsy and imperfect) is absolutely key. Even if it feels like there’s no chance of changing the other person’s beliefs (because what you say may impact others who are listening, and seeing your example may give someone else the courage to also speak up and interrupt in the future, and because being silent in the face of oppression is rarely the right thing to do). In fact, given that it’s white people that have historically held the power and been responsible (however unwittingly) for maintaining institutional racism, it makes all the sense in the world that they should also be primarily responsible for its undoing.

Along the way, expect to make mistakes. And, when a Black person or other person of color ‘checks’ you or otherwise gives you feedback… Well, in most instances, you’ll want to refer to #4 in the section above, thank them for letting you know and move on.

  1. Work together to develop our own language: As a movement, we have continuously recycled language from other groups. Calling the fight against psychiatric oppression a ‘civil rights movement’ is one example that walks the line. (Why not just call it a human rights movement?) And, as noted in the previous section, a particularly painful example is using terminology from the slavery era (aka ‘psychiatric slavery’) to describe psychiatric units, forced treatment, and the mental health system at large. 

Many Black people have stepped up and asked that this language not be used in relation to modern day mental health, only to be met with white (as well as a handful of Black) folks who have loudly proclaimed that they have a right to compare slavery to the modern day system. However, what seems to be lost in this conversation (aside from a heavy dose, once again, of #4 from the ‘Don’t’s section above) is the generational trauma associated with this history. So many seem to be oblivious to the fact that many Black people are literally being re-traumatized by the very people who claim to be fighting for their rights.

There simply is no reason in today’s world that we can’t find alternative language that is both more accessible and less harmful.

Language has great power. It can create connection or build mistrust. Proclaiming who you’re fighting for is meaningless if you trample those people’s feelings and wants along the way. It is not the job of people of color to offer new language. It is up to the movement as a whole – and particularly those who say that they care – to see, hear and feel how they are impacting others.

We can and should do better.

  1. Work from a social justice framework, NEVER an industrial one: This ‘movement’ has been fragmented, and far too many people are now focusing on ‘peer support.’ More importantly, they’re focusing on peer support not for its purest vision or value, but for its career path and industrialized potential. ‘Peer’ itself is now most commonly boiled down (in this context) to two people with similar diagnoses (or to one person who has been diagnosed), rather than the commonalities between two people who have experienced similar dehumanization or systemic oppression (often of more than one kind), in addition to any personal struggles that may have led them there.

sera-quote-take-powerBut few people seem to recognize how our power is slipping further and further with every ‘peer’ job that is created, especially for all the compromises we seem willing to make to reach that end. And, when we are so quick to lose our way in the battle that we say we are prioritizing, how can we ever expect to get right with all its intersections with so many other kinds of oppression (or how we are playing our part in keeping them alive)? It may all be well intended and start under the guise of creating change, but in the end, rendering those who would put up the most heartfelt fight dependent upon those they seek to change for their financial survival is often the most effective way to shut them up.

To fight one battle, we must see them all for what they are, and call them out as such.

  1. Focus more on the comfort of those who’ve experienced oppression than those in the dominant group: Our movement (like so many others) has often made the mistake of believing that we are obliged to afford boundless room to be sensitive to people’s needs to learn and how hard it is to unravel those invisible messages we’ve been taught. But – in our effort to be understanding – it seems we often only manage to perpetuate the creation of spaces that continue to be inaccessible to those who have been most harmed.

So much that’s embedded in our culture we have absorbed without ever thinking it through. Take words for example: Who knew that terms like ‘cotton pickin’ hands,’ ‘sold down the river,’ ‘getting gyped,’ and ‘no can do’ all find their origins in such a racist history? Of course, if most of us paused for a second to think about some of those phrases, their problematic nature would become obvious, but the reality is that so much has sunk into our minds and ways of being without us realizing (or living lives that require us to realize) its there. And, so, far too much of the time, we simply don’t have an awareness that there’s anything to even think about.

It’s true, we can’t suddenly know what we don’t know, yet we need to move away from the idea that mistakes are ‘okay’ (while retaining some of that compassion for the process). Instead, we need to re-frame the conversation around the idea that our mistakes, missteps, microaggressions, and needs to learn (and unlearn) make sense, but that they are categorically, completely not okay. Otherwise, we will never hold each other (or ourselves) strongly enough to the necessity of change.

Yet well intended people are pulling ideas out of their trendy ‘non-violent communication’ tool bags, and proposing warm and fuzzy phrases like, let’s learn to “call in” instead of “calling out.” And, sure, (as Loretta Ross, among others, has spoken to) there is a time for calling ‘in’ to people with curiosity, an invitation to learn, and a desire to understand and be understood, rather than calling them ‘out’ in a way that might make them feel shameful and judged. (Or to call ‘out’ the actions while somehow still calling ‘in’ the people.)

But, at some point we need to stop and ask ourselves on whose needs and culture is that approach based? Is this not sometimes twisted into just another way to ensure that white people’s comfort and feelings continue to reign supreme (in keeping with a ‘white fragility’ frame)? Who’s potentially being silenced along the way?

The reality is that white people have the privilege of whiteness to increase their comfort in so many (read: almost all) venues. So, perhaps it’s just fine if our approaches to discussions around racism are a tad less… precious, and that we might make ample room for anger, and yes, a healthy dose of calling ‘out’.

  1. Pay attention to internalized racism: Here comes some more fun. Why is internalized oppression important when we talk about racism in the psych survivor movement? Isn’t the whole point to give people of color a voice? Well, absolutely, Mr. Literary Device, but (and this is said with full knowledge of the inherent dismissive implication) when a system is built on teaching people how fundamentally ‘less than’ they are, that voice may need a history lesson.

A vignette from Earl: “So, this one spring day, I found myself in this workshop on diversity and inclusion. I find myself in these sorts of spaces fairly regularly, and it was pretty standard stuff aside from a single double sided page called ‘Possible Things To Consider When Working With African Americans (IMHO)‘. It was pretty appalling.

Included were things like ‘If you do not have any friends of the same background, culture and race as the person you are working with it’s best to assume you are not culturally competent.’ That isn’t super off on its own, but the part that caught me was the reverse implication: That having a black friend could possibly make you competent to an entire, huge, wide ranging culture. (Note that this is perfectly in sync with one of the most commonly used, eye-roll inducing defenses around when a white person is accused of being racist: ‘Hey, I’m not a racist because I’ve got a black friend!’)

It went on to say that ‘The darker the skin color and the less European the person looks, the more likely it is that we have dealt with racism and discrimination.’ This essentially serves to establish a color chart of oppression, and, most absurdly, suggests that perhaps some of us who are lighter skinned have somehow evaded being impacted by what we know to be a deeply systemic issue. Most upsetting for me, was point number five suggesting that language such as ‘recovery, mental health and wellness’ are ‘too white, fancy or educated and not of our culture’.

I imagine, most people can see where I might have felt upset. I followed up by reaching out to folks from the almost entirely white led organization who put this out. Initially, they just put me off, and when they did address the point, there were really only two responses. One, said in private, was that I was too Christian and educated. (I’m an atheist with a GED, but that is just another example of people making assumptions.) The other response, the one said directly to me, was that this was a group of black people and thusly to question the paper was to implicitly question their experience.

That wasn’t my hope. I wanted, however, to talk to them. To ask why they felt like these words were inaccessible. To ask why they would write a paper to white people that reinforced the narrative that black people are less intelligent and less resilient. I never got to have that meeting but those questions persist.

I remember being in hospitals and knowing without anyone needing to tell me that if I got angry, I would be restrained. There would be no question of why, or an assessment of my danger levels, because I was assumed to be inherently dangerous. I couldn’t ball my fists when I was angry, or make intense eye contact. I couldn’t be alone, and I couldn’t be more than a role that had been predetermined.

I’m a black man, which means I am a time bomb. You want my opinion, when we agree. You want me at the table, when it isn’t your table. You want my intensity in doses you can measure out and my body when it’s useful. I had a teacher call me a gang member in the administrative building we called a school in Connecticut, despite the fact that I had only made one friend in my 6 month stay and when I gave that little blonde girl a hug after my mom moved away, I wasn’t allowed within ten feet of her again.

I say that stuff mostly to say that my history within the psychiatric system is really informed by the ways in which young men of color are told this narrative of themselves. For a long time, I wasn’t someone who had heard these things. I was these things. Florynce Kennedy once said, ‘When a system of oppression has become institutionalized it is unnecessary for individuals to be oppressive.’ I wasn’t smart enough, or well-read enough, or on a more base level, worthy enough of not being a fearsome entity in a story other people had written for me.”

This movement, in large part understands that when we talk to people who have been given a psychiatric diagnosis that those words may have become a central pillar of that person’s existence. That to ask them to re-define themselves without the tools they need to build another, different pillar isn’t fair. That it would be a disservice. The same thought makes sense when talking about anybody who has been fighting the weight of oppression. The solution isn’t any more complicated than to be compassionate and curious about where people derive the definitions of who they are; to try to understand why and how they’ve come to believe what they believe. Assuming you know something about another person comes with a cost.

That is to say, if we assume that just because a person is Black that they have ever necessarily had space and time to ponder their position in a racist society is to assume we know intimate details of their life with no rhyme or reason.


Our communal trauma has only been exacerbated since the Civil Rights movement. While so many white people had the luxury of assuming that the Voting Rights Act, the Housing Act, and desegregation put an end to racism, Black, latinx, and other people of color have been painfully aware of how its all only grown more covert and expanded into many other forms such as redlining to suppress voting, housing, and educational opportunities.

When you recognize and face hurdles day in and day out, no matter how hard you strive to achieve academically, professionally, and in social settings… When you walk to the corner store and pass five or more police officers, or are stopped walking the two blocks to the corner store only to be asked where you are going, or to show your identification… Then you begin to realize that your community is being targeted and treated differently than other communities.

And yet our own movement(s) trucks on, with its largely white-driven leadership, conferences, and forums such as this one. With people periodically expressing outrage when racism is brought to the forefront, as if little of note is otherwise happening most of the time beyond the Murphy Bill and so much else that is directly related to our own little corner of the world.

And, so this blog returns to where it started:

The idea that we are truly standing in opposition to systemic oppression becomes a bit of a joke if we have to add a tag that says, ‘Oh, but we only really mean that for this group.’ And, failing to make ourselves accessible (and relevant!) to so many people ensures that our voice will never gain the numbers we need or get loud enough to have any shot at competing with any of the forces currently standing in our way.

Shortly after Trump was named incumbent, Black Lives Matter released a powerful statement that concluded with the following sentence: “The work will be harder, but the work is the same.” For our own movement(s), there is also much truth in those words.

But, for us, the work had also better be different. We had better fight to include far more voices than ever before. We had better look to get much more honest about our failings and who’s been left out. Ignoring these realities is a path to nowhere.

A racist movement cannot move.


NOTE: We realize that there are some concepts, references, and language that may be less than completely familiar to at least some people reading this blog. As such, as have done our best to insert links (wherever you see blue text) as an additional resource for anyone interested in learning more.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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Iden Campbell, CPRP
Iden Campbell believes that The Great Turning is happening, and though our generation may not see the full fruits of our labor it’s up to us to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to live their lives as freely as possible.
Sera Davidow
Tangible Intangibilities: Sera writes here to share her thoughts on how the language we choose and our apparent need to concretize the inherently complex is leading to violations of rights and humanity on a daily basis.
Earl Miller
Earl first entered the psychiatric and foster care systems when he was 12. He went on to spend as much of his teen years in the system as he did out, which continued into early adulthood and included experiences of homelessness, hospitalization, and a great deal of trauma. Along the way, he received the message that he should never become a father, and that he should give up making music because it wasn’t good for his ‘mental health’. Nowadays, Earl is the father of two healthy and full-of-life girls who he credits with helping to tether him to this world. He is also a successful musician and poet who has produced several albums including ‘Resting on My Laurels: The Best of Miller’ which can be heard here. Earl has also worked with the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community for the last three years, and has been instrumental in raising awareness about the impact of homelessness on people’s emotional health and well being.


  1. Divide and Conquer
    Never in human history has there been a more effective way for tyrants to rule over large groups of people who, should they ever learn to cooperate, would easily throw off such tyranny.

    The ruling class, the elites, what ever you want to call them, have been stirring up racism for the last few years for reason. If you look at Google images for “Eric Garner Protests” EVERYBODY was sick of the police state. What do you do when you are running a police state and the people are starting to rebel ? Divide and Conquer ! Make them hate on each other, keep the busy with that and you stay in control.

    • The_cat,

      I guess the question is at whose feet should it most rest to make concessions for the sake of cooperation? The unspoken expectation in answer to that question – at least in this context – is most typically that people of color must be the ones to let some of this go.

      This blog, on the other hand, would suggest the reverse… Which feels most consistent with overall social justice principles in my eyes. Shouldn’t we almost always look to the group who has been most marginalized within the context of which we speak to teach us and tell us what is being asked? And shouldn’t we do our best to listen, even in advance of fully understanding?


      • All I know is I was enjoying watching the police state, the prison industrial complex, the tyrants, what ever you want to call them, getting their butts kicked until they opened up a can of divide and conquer.

        Racism was dying if not dead, a whole generation of whites and their favorite music artists and sports players are mostly black, you just don’t or didn’t have a racism problem in the hip hop generation or “millennials”, it was over and they brought it back for divide and conquer.

        But yes “we” should listen to “them”.

        Also when ever I get stuck filling out a form and it has check boxes for ethnicity I leave it blank or write NOYB (none of your business), screw check the box to get put in one. I am human, that they should be able to figure out. Social engineers, sick of them.

        • The_cat,

          You left this comment on Noel’s post, too. I responded there, but will offer something similar here.

          The suggestion that racism was ‘dying if not dead,’ seems strange and incredibly untrue to me. What you are speaking of is cultural appropriation… the ability to take what we like, without having had to live through any the terribleness that was a part of birthing the art.

          I do not know you, and do not know anything about the color of your skin or your ethnicity. But, when I read what you write – particularly at the end there – I just want to refer you back up to the ‘color blind’ piece in the blog.

          • Muslim is not a race it is a religion. And when did liberty and justice for all turn into birds of different feathers MUST flock together ?

            This whole diversity thing is a sham anyway, the goal is not diversity, it never was, the goal is to mix everyone up till its gone and have a whole nation of tax and debt slave automatons.

            Where are all the nativity scenes and Menorahs this holiday season ?? Those “offensive” things. The USSR was the first state to have, as an ideological objective, the elimination of religion and its replacement with universal atheism.

            They want “diversity”, give me a break, I see right through it.

          • This ‘dialogue’ strikes me as pointless, so I’m going to bow out of it here. If I’m honest, I’m not even sure I follow some of your commentary. It seems very unfortunate that you’ve gotten to such a place where you seem to think that acknowledging, seeing, respecting and valuing people’s different ways of being in this world is a ‘sham’, though.

  2. Hi All,

    I’m going to disagree with some points of this well-intended article, which at some times unfortunately come across as thought-policing:

    Firstly, any person of any race can be enslaved; African-Americans do not have a monopoly on this most unfortunate experience throughout human history. Today in small parts of Asia and the Middle East, non-black people are still enslaved. Historically, many, many peoples of different ethnic backgrounds have been enslaved – from smaller Hispanic tribes conquered by the Azctec and Incas, to European peoples forced into labor or battle by the Romans, to a variety of East and South-East Asian groups throughout history. Let’s get a broader perspective – simply because the majority of historical slavery in America has been of black people – a very unfortunate fact – does not mean that we cannot discuss the experience of slavery in relation to psychiatry (psychiatric slavery extending far beyond America) without being insensitive (which is a matter of opinion, anyway).

    Furthermore, there are significant parallels between being deceived about the nature of one’s distress and put on drugs for life (rendering one unable to work and love), and being enslaved in more overt and visible ways. In this country, we fortunately have free speech, so I am free to continue to point this link out. You all are also free to interpret the term “psychiatric slavery” in a discriminatory way, but your analysis here obviously didn’t convince me of the rightness of your point.

    Lastly, no matter what we say, we’re going to upset some people. I don’t worry constantly about who will be upset by everything I say. I believe our culture has swung way too far in the direction of being careful about saying every little thing, to the point that we now have “protection zones” where upsetting things can’t be said on college campuses. This is a country of free speech; let’s remember that.

    Also, the higher diagnosis rates of non-illnesses among black and Latin people is likely primarily due to social factors more frequent in those groups, especially poverty and lack of economic opportunity. Their getting these labels is not caused directly by their skin color in a simplistic cause-effect way. Although bias by white people “over-diagnosing” (if one can overdiagnose an invalid psychiatric non-illness) is also likely involved.

    Re: The part arguing, “Stop arguing with Black and other people of color when they tell you to stop.”

    Sarah and Iden, human psychology being what it is, you must know that ordering people to do some general thing in relation to a certain race is unlikely to work. No one likes being told what to do. And postulating a general rule about what white people should do in relation to black people is unrealistic and simplistic. Sometimes white people’s positions are going to be right (or right to a degree), and sometimes they’re going to be wrong (or wrong to a degree). And vice versa. Generalized rules for how to interact in unique, quickly-evolving interpersonal situations are unlikely to be useful in my opinion. I’m sure it feels good to you to write this in a moralistic way; it will probably just do nothing to effect those who read it..

    Notice, I don’t say that people shouldn’t find things offensive. White, black, yellow, brown people can react to me however they want, as long as it’s physically non-violent. For example, people online have even recently been telling me I should kill myself, that I was misdiagnosed and never had a severe mental illness, that I’m still crazy and delusional, and stuff like that. It doesn’t bother me because I am immune to that bullshit. Although of course I don’t appreciate those sentiments, dumb people (my opinion) also have a right to say them.

    But I also have a right to say what I want, and the authors of this article cannot tell me what I should do in conversations with people of other races. That is what free speech is about.

    A bit about my current background – I interact with black and Latin people all the time in my meetups, and for the most part these issues never come up. I just treat people as people, trying to engage with them in a positive way regardless of their skin color. Then again, I don’t move in the circles anymore of the “mental health” system and its oppressions. I left that in the dust long ago. And to be honest, I escaped what I will call psychiatric slavery largely because I had enough money, and because I knew that psychiatric diagnoses were frauds and that there was a better way.

    I imagine you may try to claim that my comments vindicate your criticisms of what white people do, but if you claim that; you will simply be ignoring the validity of my concerns in the same way you accuse others of denying the importance of many of your key points.

    So, I will continue to use the analogy of psychiatric slavery; this article makes no impact on me in that regard. And I will continue to help extremely distressed people in the ways I do, which many of them report finding very helpful/hopeful… there is no one size fits all for how to advocate and relate.

    • Matt,

      You seem very invested in your perspective, even though it is hurtful and dismissive toward many people of color. I wonder why you feel your opinions on this matter – as a white presenting person – are equal to those who have lived black or brown in this world? I’m not speaking from a legal perspective… I’m speaking from a social justice, and a just ‘what’s right and decent’ one.

      Your thoughts?


      • Sera,
        I have no reason to think my opinions are less or more equal or valuable than opinions of people of any other race.

        I try to treat everyone of every race fairly, but I don’t accept being made to feel guilty for what my ancestors did, or the idea that I or other whites need to “atone” or give special accommodation to another group. Having said that whites of course should not discriminate.

        There’s a problem when you come out with an article and try to tell people four things they need to do in relation to another race. It’s not gonna work, since people don’t like being prescribed what to do. It comes across as moralizing and paternalistic. Again it might feel good, but it’s unlikely to change minds and hearts.

        I’ll be very open and honest about my background, since I believe in the healing potential of that. I come from a family of privileged white people with one of our members being overtly racist toward blacks and Hispanics. But I resisted that, and although I still occasionally hear their voice in my mind telling me unspeakable things about people of other races, I respond to it by trying to be open-minded toward people of all races and not judge them. I think I largely succeed in this.

        It’s hard but I think we should take a look at the racial reasons why 47% of the country voted for Trump – in my view it is partly because they are threatened by ethnic-demographic change away from the white majority. But IMO a moralizing, prescriptive, guilt-inducing approach to white people in terms of telling them how they should relate to black people will not work. It will just create more resistance in whites to openness to other races. The Puritanical-prescriptive-guilt-laden approach was probably a large part of why uneducated whites participated in the numbers needed to get Trump through the electoral college.

    • Interesting comment. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that the white Confederate enlisted troops were, in a sense, being enslaved themselves, because they were fighting for a cause that was out to make them useless. In the mid 19th century, slavery was becoming industrialized and the owners wanted to go national (remember the fighting over slavery in Kansas?). Were the South successful in the Civil War, the lower ranks were going to be permanently idled, replaced by slaves throughout the nation. Since that realization, I find myself thinking of the Confederate flag as the Chump flag; I’ll have to be a lot better at tai chi (too old for hard martial arts) before having a conversation about race with a guy with a Chump flag decal on his truck.

    • @Matt Stevenson: Good comment. Lots of didactic, ‘SJW’ ‘thought policing’ on MIA of late, which disappoints on a few levels. These days I mostly look at MIA for ‘On The Web’ curation of articles from elsewhere. Staff and visiting authors appear to be mostly coming from the same ideological perspective and largely the same demographic, which isn’t healthy or interesting. As a ‘non-survivor’ parent of a young, non-drugged child there already isn’t too much for me here, but now it’s really losing me as a reader. Best to you, Liz Sydney

      • I personally think everyone’s opinion should be allowed on MIA, and as people who are shut down, be especially willing to listen, and hear people out. As a community we do all have fighting psychiatric oppression. If people ant to bring up racism, or other forms of discrimination, just think it should be done in a more open way.

        That being said, I don’t think many SJW points of view are all that sensitive, or compassionate. I know we reguallry get branded as being of privlage for not subscribing to psychiatry’s perspective, or even called Scientologis, just for asking for people to concidder psychiatries harm, or lack of validity.

        However, I do hope that soon we will be able to come together, before it’s too late, and slip further affecting generations to come.

        • I’d be interested to hear more from you about how “sjw” viewpoints strike you as lacking in compassion or sensitivity. I personally feel as if I’ve come to my viewpoints (which pretty closely match this blog post) through having a great deal of compassion for those facing the harshest challenges in our society.

          • People who identify as SJW, generally seem more concerned with avoiding certain words, and only listening to certain members of a group that fit their agenda. for example the people who identify with APAs definition of mental illness , or black people who agree with them, while not listening to black people who feel let down, or people in the mental health system who feel let down. They also seem to lash out at those who disagree, and aren’t sympathetic.

      • Maybe you could use your experience here to spread the word to other non survivors, and parents of non-drugged young children, that there IS oppression and injustice happening to a lot of people. Turning away is what everyone but the philistine did and what most white people still do.

  3. Thank you, Iden, Sera & Earl for this much-needed piece. In particular, I’m relieved that you told people to stop using the term “psychiatric slavery” – I’ve had an on-going argument for years with a white movement activist who insists on using this term, and I hope this person will listen now. I also appreciate your calling out the white SAMHSA administrator whose distortion of black leaders’ words at Alternatives (and the puzzling Oprah reference) was so appalling. I’m sure you will get offensive (or at least eye roll-worthy) comments to this piece… but I guess at least it’s good to know where people are coming from. Oh … I see there are some already! So thank you again for saying so clearly what we as a movement need to hear!

  4. Thanks so much for this.It has been a long time coming
    Dialogue is so important even if we slip and slide with our words.
    I always fee torn and worried because I ave been partly aware since childhood
    I am thinking now there may have been more of a family story that I was initially given since my family was aware of Paul Robeson and his life- my mother had membership in the NAACP-my grandmother talked of a quadroon student being a student in her Normal School-and my mother was very aware of the whiteness of state institutions for those folks family didn’t want to care for
    So I am wondering about this because it affects me and how I can interact and support without bein dismissive or racist
    I try and sometimes have gotten into trouble – being punkslipped-because I did make an issue
    My hardest part is speaking with folks who are dyed in the wool raciists. I don’t speak up or give up at the
    We can agree to disagree part because it seems a failing cause especially if it is a work or business interaction
    I just don’t give them any more of my business
    So thanks again
    We need to do more and I would love all of your thoughts on the recent SNL scene with Tom Hanks playing in the Family Feud game
    Interacting is so helpful to me in growing as a human being
    Isolation is intellectual confinement

    • CatNight,

      Thanks for chiming in! 🙂 I’m not personally familiar with the Tom Hanks SNL skit. I’ll have to look it up! It can indeed be a hard call when to speak up and when not to, but, of course, if our whole culture started shifting to speaking up being the norm, the personal risks would start to (I’d hope!) go down…


  5. I will stop comparing institutional psychiatry to slavery. Institutional psychiatry doesn’t compare to slavery so much as it IS slavery.

    There are other isms besides racism. One of those isms is sanism or mentalism. I’m surprised that mention of the topic never came up in the course of the post.

    I respectfully disagree with most of statements made in this post. I don’t disagree that there has been a change of administration, and that this change of administration is going to make a great many things worse for a great many people. I’m sure it is going to make matters worse even for people who are not black.

    We’ve got a climate change denier and thorough-going oligarch in the White House. His appeal to racists only touches the surface of the many problematic matters arising with the administration ascendant. Hopefully it won’t be long until we can say to Mr. Trump, “You’re fired!” I hope people can take to the streets and make their resistance this repressive regime and their outrage known.

    • Frank,

      I’m not surprised to see you here saying this, and I’m expecting Oldhead shortly. 🙂

      However, even if you believe – without a doubt – that psychiatry *is* slavery, I continue to be left wondering why it’s such an important concept to you that you’d be willing to alienate and hurt so many people of color just in order to hang on to it?


      • The ancient Greeks and Romans practiced slavery. It wasn’t, until much more modern times, an institution directed against specifically black people.

        I would no sooner promote institutional (coercive non-consensual) psychiatry than I would promote what we used to call, here in the south, “our peculiar institution”.

        I’ve seen people compare that with coercive non-consensual sex because it does bare comparison. I think the same is true of chattel slavery.

        • You’re not answering my question, Frank.

          We already addressed in the blog the issue of ‘slavery’ meaning several different things…

          What I’m asking *you* is why the comparison is so important… So essential.. .That it’s worth hurting and alienating people in this country who are descendants of those of African descent who were enslaved… ?

          • Because there have been arguments made to the effect of saying imprisonment and torture, for the designated “mental ill”, are freedom and treatment, and vice versa. I’m saying, yes, total and complete independence is very much worth stubbing a few toes, and scrapping a few thin skins. When the doors are locked, and people are not free to come and go as they please, what you’ve got is a prison, not a hospital.

          • Calling it prison, force, imprisonment, incarceration, etc is quite a bit different then calling it ‘psychiatric slavery.’ Is the latter necessary to discuss the former? And is *that* worth it?

      • Sera, if Comparing psychiatric oppression to slavery than I would come at this from a different perspective, but I think most dismiss us from the get go.

        It seems like you alienating people who play a key part in this movement. There aren’t many places to express the effects of this kind of oppression. Many had to hold back a lot with psychiatry.

        Frank expresses stuff I bet a lot of people want to, but fee like they can’t. The same is true for Oldhead. Also many have been working hard to keep people up to date.

        If you want to discuss on some level, how our launguge, and approach could be improved, that’s one thing. Just think these things should be approached as a discussion. Also think we should also emphasize our movement disivers its own place too. Many have been shut down, in the past, and I don’t think that’s good for anyone.

        • Kayla,

          I’d just like to note once again that it would appear that the people who are saying that ‘psychiatric slavery’ is okay or not racist or that it’s okay that people have different opinions about it (and that those different opinions are essentially all equal) at least appear to be white. (I don’t know this for sure, but the people who I *do* know are certainly at least white presenting.)

          So, why are the opinions of white people equal to the opinions of black people on matters that are related so directly to our country’s history of slavery and racism? How strongly would we argue against the idea that a psychiatrist’s opinion should NOT be seen as equal to the opinion of someone who’s survived the system on matters of psychiatric oppression?

          I’m not worried about alienating people, Kayla. Discussions of racism almost always bring up defensiveness, push back, and poor responses especially by white people. I *am* admittedly a white person, but I also see it as my job to get very okay with this sort of ‘alienation’ you speak of.

          Over on the Mad in America Facebook page one of the things I said I will repeat here: When people push back against these conversations in this movement, the expectation seems to be that everyone stop ‘fighting,’ but that they do so in a way that is consistent with the ‘default’ … And the default is almost always the expectations that have been set by the dominant group. In this movement, that dominant group is (like in so many other realms) white people.

          The way *together* – as far as I can tell – is to stop expecting people be okay with the default, to speak honestly about these issues that are very real in this movement, to work *through* the feelings of alienation and defensiveness, and to work toward getting to a point where we *respect* each oppressed groups voice, value, and experience in real and intentional ways.

          I can’t imagine going in any other direction. In the end I just keep wondering why more people aren’t concerned about how white this movement is… why we keep coming back to this same place.


          • Can you please speak what you actually mean, an not use symbols to imply my quotes mean something different, and expect me to know this?

            You spoke of alienating other groups, and don’t care about alienating people from within. What are you trying to accomplish?

            I do generally think this can be worked out, but it seems like you are ignoring the backlash we get from, “progressive” groups, who seem to think they hold the ultimate truth in this area. Hence why I think shutting down conversation is so dangerous.

            Also another point I was trying to make about turning on each other. “When asked about this topic, Suman Fernando (a Black psychiatrist originally from Sri Lanka currently residing in England and who has done a great deal of work related to racism and psychiatry) had this to say” How is this not doing the very thing you accuse others of?

          • Kayla,

            I generally don’t understand what you mean either at the start or the end of your comment.

            Can you say more? How am I not saying what I mean? How is quoting Suman related to what we are saying is a problem in the movement?


          • When you type a *word* I say out of context. Like that.

            You are saying psychiatric survivors don’t understand black peoples experience when comparing ours to theirs, but you use an example of a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists have literally oppressed many people on the site. Again how is that not doing, what you accuseothers of?

          • Kayla,

            Okay, still not so clear on what you mean at the top there… Do you have an example?

            But regardless, what I am saying is that people who hold one sort of privilege aren’t in a place to fully understand the systemic oppression that corresponds to the other side of that privilege.

            So, as the blog says, Suman is not someone we should go to to understand psychiatric oppression, because he holds the *privilege* end of that particular stick. But he *does* know what it’s like to live black in this world, and has made his career around trying to share, educate, and understand that within the psychiatric system, as well.

            *I* am on the privilege end of the stick when it comes to race in this country, as are (as best as I can tell) *most* of the people speaking up on this thread. So, I defer to him and many others of color, and work hard consistently to be aware of my impact on this movement as a white person who doesn’t want this movement to stay so white or feel alienating or not relevant to black people and other non-white people. I would expect him to defer to me when it comes to the topic of psychiatric oppression. By (hopefully) respecting each other’s experiences of systemic oppression and trying to make what is invisible to each one of us for not having experienced it first hand by *listening* to the other and accepting what they say largely as the truth.. THAT is how we come together.

            As a side note: I reached out to Suman in particular because in a previous conversation about ‘psychiatric slavery’ on these Mad in America boards, someone attempted to cite Suman’s work as evidence in *favor* of use of the term. So, I e-mailed him and asked him. That is what I got back.


          • Why should groups try to avoid “alienating” some people. If you aren’t worried about “alienating” us.

            Forget psychiatric oppression, and racism for a minute. Every movement is a difficult balance between, putting forth challenging ideas, but also being understanding of the other side. Well, conflict, communication, and understanding in general is.

            If I’m being honest this mostly just seems antagonistic, and I don’t see it as being a place to create understanding. To be honest it seems Allen Frances like. This is a group who is often oppressed, and is being accused of oppression. Guess it wasn’t one part of what you said, or how you said it, but the sum of the whole.

          • “The way *together* – as far as I can tell – is to stop expecting people be okay with the default, to speak honestly about these issues that are very real in this movement, to work *through* the feelings of alienation and defensiveness, and to work toward getting to a point where we *respect* each oppressed groups voice, value, and experience in real and intentional ways.”

          • That all seem so strange to me, Kayla. Because you don’t like the tone of people speaking up, it at least *sounds* like you’re equating that with the oppression they’ve experienced?

            When I hear that, I think of so many clinicians and psychiatrists and others in the mental health system who expect us to always be nice, calm, friendly, and do our best to make them comfortable when we state what is wrong. *That* feels like a common component of all sorts of systemic oppressions. This idea that we can ask for change as long as we don’t make people too uncomfortable along the way… It feels bad to me when I hear that from people in the mental health system, and I’m very aware that I’ve heard that that feels bad to many black people and others of color when they hear that from white people. (I’m not saying as a whole group, but it is a common theme that I have heard, nonetheless, and it makes a lot of sense to me.)

            I suppose if you don’t like the conversation you certainly aren’t required to stick around for it… But I want to challenge the idea that every push back or talk about racism has to come from a place of not wanting to ruffle any feathers.

          • I don’t like the tone, or the delivery of this artical. Not any hypothetical people speaking up. That’s another issue.

            More specifically the fact that this seems to close the door on conversation. It’s also the way your responding to comments. I feel like you’re not really hearing people.

            I can only speak for myself, but your really not hearing what I’m saying.

          • Well, admittedly (as I did say above), I’ve had difficulty trying to understand what some of your points have been. I’m sorry that you’re not feeling heard, and I’m sorry that you don’t connect with the blog.

            But, I only say that from a place of ‘Oh, I wish everyone liked me and everything I was a part of producing, and I was a part of co-writing this, so I wish everyone liked it…’

            But, then, Earl, Iden and I all knew that everyone wasn’t going to like this… But it sure still felt important to say. I feel good about it, and I feel good about the fact that so much of its content has been written by, approved of, contributed to, etc., by people of color who’ve attempted to be a part of this movement and/or have first-hand experience of what this blog speaks about.

            I hope you find something you like better… But I hope that it still challenges you to think more about these issues.

        • That’s my point. I feel this is very disrespectful. I’ve not given my opinion. I’m trying to just discuss the importance of dialog, and feel talked down to. Challenge the way I look at what? All I’ve spoken of was encouraging dialog.

          I’m to you as a person, not to blacks people, or people of color. Not to any group of people. This seems like. An abrasive, and uniting view from you. Stop making me sound not understanding of groups I’m not speaking to.

          This is antagonistic, and hypocritical.

          • The grammar is a bit off. I was flustered. I just have a problem when someone, acts like they can say whatever’s because they’re ‘speaking for a group’. I’ve heard psychitry do it to us. I’ve heard liberals do it to blacks too.

          • I simply said that I hope that whatever you find that you like better challenges you to think about these issues. Like I want to be challenged to think about these issues. Like I want *everyone* to be challenged to think about these issues.

            That I think our community needs to be challenged to think about these issues is why I co-wrote this blog.

          • What I’ve been attempting to convey is that I do not believe it is the place of people who’ve experienced the privilege side of a particular type of oppression to challenge people who’ve experience the oppression side.

            I’m white. I’m not comfortable with the term psychiatric slavery, and that was what rose up for me the moment I first heard it. BUT, that’s not what I think makes it a topic that white people need to drop. It was hearing from black people (including my co-authors) that it is an offensive and alienating term is what I am suggesting – what the blog is suggesting – makes it just not the place of white people to question… EVEN if they find other black people who are okay with it.

            It is knowing that the principles of social justice teach us to listen to those who have the first hand experience of oppression to learn what it is like and what we can’t ‘see’ or understand for not having experienced it ourselves. Because doing so perpetuates the silencing of those who have been oppressed in favor of those who are already in the dominant group.

            That’s what I have meant.

          • I’m not seeing this blog as shutting down dialogue. In fact, several people have had something to say about it between here and Facebook… nasty and nice.

            But we may be defining ‘shutting down’ differently, as well. I think it’s absolutely okay (and even necessary) to be very clear about what is and isn’t okay in some circumstances. I do not think that all matters are matter of opinion, and the idea that opinions of white people on things they haven’t experienced being equal to those of black people on systemic oppressions they have lived doesn’t make a lot of sense. (Not saying YOU are precisely saying that, but it does seem to be a theme from at least some people who are upset with this blog.)

            I think there can be *lots* of dialogue about that.. or how to shift the balance of space and power in this movement… or so many things… but I don’t think there needs to be room for white people to keep telling black people they’re wrong about what is and isn’t racist.

            So, anyway, it seems like you feel bad about this blog and our conversation. So, I’m going to give a rest to responding, and give you some space to decide whether or not you really want to be engaged in this back and forth.

          • Saying stuff like out of the question, or conversation should end here is what I concidder shutting down dialog.

            Important stuff would be, having people explain why they concidder psychiatry to be similar to slavery. I’ve heard reasons given that make sense. If someone is offended explain why. Does the person who thinks it’s not offensive seem like they understand the other side, and is there any common ground?

            It doesn’t seem like there is an emphasis on understanding psychitic oppression. I feel that is a main reason it comes up.

            Like I also said, many liberals tend to shut down, groups of people they supposed are looking out for. From what I’ve seen the Green Party seems like it may handle all of these issues better. I’m just not sure. I just know lib/Dems tend not to be very understanding of me, and others. The Green Party may help fix this.

      • However, even if you believe – without a doubt – that psychiatry *is* slavery, I continue to be left wondering why it’s such an important concept to you that you’d be willing to alienate and hurt so many people of color just in order to hang on to it?

        Sorry Sera but that’s just bullshit. I’ve seen you going down this road for awhile, and there’s nothing anyone can tell you or a few others at MIA, who think you have it all figured out, but this is pure liberalism. If something is correct you don’t back off it because someone who doesn’t understand is “offended.” It’s the same hypocrisy that had liberals out in the street protesting Trump winning, when you KNOW the same people would have been sitting home cheering if Clinton — a FILTHY racist and war criminal to boot — had won. And it’s this kind of smug self-absorbed attitude of those who gloss over moral contradictions when they identify as the beneficiaries that is largely responsible for Trump’s victory. Hopefully MIA won’t lose too many readers before someone realizes this.

        It is a fallacy that what you consider slavery “analogies” hurt ANYONE of color. The ONLY Black anti-psychiatry activist I am aware of emphasizes the history of slavery AND of the Holocaust vs. a vs. psychiatry, and uses ACTUAL slavery analogies to boot. This is a clique of people at MIA who take this position, and it is dishonest to portray this as the attitude of Black people in general. The only people of color I ever saw disturbed by this were disturbed by anti-psychiatry positions in general. Should we drop those as well?

    • Frank, I simply don’t understand that argument that “institutional psychiatry IS slavery.” That’s just patently false. Psychiatry does not have legal ownership of a human being for her/his entire life. Institutional psychiatry is coercive, it is damaging, it is harmful. However, it is not – literally nor figuratively – “slavery.” And like Sera, I can’t even wrap my head around why some white people in this movement insist on using this term even though black people have made it clear they find that language hurtful.
      I don’t understand the vitriol of many of the comments from white people on this thread. Why can’t people have an honest , respectful conversation about racism without getting all nasty and defensive?

        • You insist that slavery and racism are separate concepts, but the voices of multiple black people in this article (people who surely, through lived experience, know more about racism than you) explicitly state that they see the two things as linked. Can you see how this could make it look like you’re more concerned with your own viewpoint than with listening to the needs of people of color?

          • Separate things, not concepts. More real than that.

            No doubt your “multiple black people” may or may not have had “lived experience” in psychiatric slavery, however the same statement cannot be said to be true of chattel slavery.

            Racism is one thing, slavery another. Enslaving black people linked the two, and the emancipation proclamation, more or less, severed that link. I don’t think anybody should suppress the word “slavery” just because it was once a thriving institution.

            We can talk about concepts such as liberty, independence, and freedom, too, if you like. When a person is deprived of their liberty, as they are in a mental hospital, we can’t exactly call them a free citizen. It is precisely their citizenship rights that are taken away from them by mental health law. One essentially has their age of consent rights revoked by this unconstitutional law. I’m not going to pretend that that revocation of rights makes anybody a non-slave, whatever their color.

      • One doesn’t have a lot of legal protections in the psychiatric system. Not that long ago they were incarcerating people within that system for life as a rule. Recently, a man died of cancer after 45 years confinement at St. Elizabeth’s over the theft of a 20 $ trinket. I wouldn’t call such a situation one of freedom, or ownership of one’s own body and actions. If a person is a ward of the state, that same person isn’t his own person so-to-speak.

      • even though black people have made it clear they find that language hurtful.

        I don’t know what you base this on. Several Black people do not constitute “Black people.” If Clarence Thomas posted something here would you consider that to represent “Black people”? And why in the world do you consider what happens at a SAMHSA sponsored event as being at all relevant to the anti-psychiatry movement? THAT’s offensive to me.

      • “”Psychiatry does not have legal ownership of a human being for her/his entire life. “”

        Hi Darby,

        What about outpatient involuntary commitment orders that never seem to expire? If Mind Freedom hadn’t gotten involved in the Ray Stanford case, it sounds like this would have happened to him.

        Please don’t misunderstand me, I am still not comfortable with comparing psychiatric oppression to slavery. But I can see why people do feel it is appropriate.

  6. Think that one big thing not addressed here is the fact that people in charge, and people in general are dishonest, and manipulative a lot of the times. Not to mention create hostility to those deemed outsiders.

    I’ve tried to bring up simply racist, and homophobic roots in psychiatry, written in the DSM. This is even met with backlash. Either compleat denial, or told how long ago, it was, and doesn’t still apply. This comes from the same people who regularly, or associate with groups who talk about how racism in the past effects the present. often times supposed progressives. They’ll also defend forced psychiatry. Could go on.

    The same people also tend to jump down black people, and other groups of people they are supposedy looking out for if they disagree. Depending on who you ask “having a mental illness” would be included in this group, and we’re being oppressive towards them. The fact that the only requirement is a DX which many of us received, doesn’t matter.

    The fact that it’s hard to believe anyone in general, often people will ignore parts that don’t fit their agenda, including from groups they supposedly want to to help, but will attack them. In some circumstances people are either are really just tryin to avoid oppression themselves, and/or planning to address other oppression later.

    However, so many people seem to ignore how it all ties together. I think listening to each other better, is not a bad thing. Bringing aware of others oppression too. However, if someone especially in the field of psychiatry feels uncomfortable, with comparing psychiatry to slavery, I’d be more inclined to side with the person who was psychiatricly oppressed regardless of race. Outside of that it’s deffinatly a conversation to have. I just feel like this is yet another time when our movement is being turned on even from within. Many people compare it to slavery, because it’s not seen as its own human rights issue.

    • That seems a really strange place to land, kayla, given where you started your comment.

      I wonder:

      1. Do you really see more people who don’t see psychiatry as a human rights issue coming around to understanding that point *because* of the use of the term ‘psychiatric slavery’? I.E., Is it effective?

      2. Do you really not believe there’s *any* alternate phrase that could instead be used toward that goal?

      3. Unless you believe 100% yes to #1 and 100% no to #2, why would use of that phrase be worth the alienation and hurt to black people who feel harmed by this phrase (especially given this movement has demonstrated itself to be largely white already)?

      • I also just keep finding myself wondering this:

        Each and every time someone speaks out *against* a conversation like this by saying it’s an example of the movement turning on itself, I wonder why the default leaning generally seems to be toward people of color being asked to give up their feelings/wants/asks/etc. rather than white people?

        This relates back to my question above. Why does this rank high enough that white people feel so compelled to fight for it, even in the fact of the fractures and damages that it causes?

        • I don’t think bringing up race in turning against the movement, especially if talked about in regards to interacting with one another. Even if explaining this to someone who’s never heard of it, or only heard one side. However, it’s different when talking about mental health workers feeling offended by this.

          That doesn’t mean I don’t think a dialog and diplomacy isn’t of value. I just think this specially in many ways is against the movement. Like I said I also think this type of mentality often harms black people as well. Part of the reason many are offended by the comparison is psychiatry is a “helping profession”.

          This is the us vs them mentality I find harmful. I never claimed we were above anyone, or even experesed much opinion either way. Just I think there should be more of a space for our movement, and different voices in general.

      • I don’t use the term, but see people not seeing this as a human rights issue in general. I meant that I think some people compare our movemt to other movements, becaus ours isn’t taken seously.

        Please, say in your opinion, where I ‘started’ or ‘landed’.

        I meant a lot of my comments as broad too, in case that was confusing.

  7. There aren’t that many psychiatric survivor activists in the state where I live. I live in a very backward Southern state. I’ve met two or three and of that small number only one was culturally competent and was willing to raise this issue in discussions. The other two were totally oblivious to any of this, never once realizing what huge backpacks of power and privilege they carried around with them simply because they are White.

    I suppose that I’m technically a Person of Color since I’m not White, although I passed for White for many years growing up in states that had large numbers of First Nations peoples within their boundaries. First Nations are what White people want to call Native Americans. It’s always interested me that White people have felt that they should be the ones to decide what we indigenous peoples should call ourselves, although I will admit that we fight among ourselves as to what title we should go by. But that’s ok, let us fight to decide these issues, without the interference of people who know nothing about us. But I digress.

    I passed for White because my grandfather wanted us to do so because it benefited us socially and economically. But……I don’t look like what most people typically think of when they talk about “Indians”. So, I was able to pass quite easily. I was given a nice, big backpack of power and privilege to carry around with me simply because of people’s assumptions about what I was. I know however, that the White people who dealt with me when I was a child growing up would have treated me quite differently from what they did if they’d known, or even suspected, that I wasn’t White. When I entered college I claimed my race and background and have ever since. But I learned a lot by “passing” as a White person.

    I’ve been here at this site for going on six years now. It is the closest thing that I have as far as contact with our so-called movement. I would have to say that there have been times that the comments made about the issues we’re discussing today made me flinch. They remind me of my “passing” days when I’d hear something said by a White person about “Indians” and would think to myself that “they’re talking about me but they don’t know it”.

    I welcome this discussion and feel that it’s time to begin talking about these things. Thanks to the authors for the willingness to open the doors and windows to let in the light that we need to be able to see where we need to go with all this. And I’m reminded about one last thing. According to our mitochondrial DNA, all of us, no matter our race are all descended from one woman who stepped out of Africa 50,000 years ago. She is referred to as Mitochondrial Eve, the Mother of All.

    • Thanks for your comment, Stephen. I always appreciate when you speak up. 🙂

      I have to admit myself feeling ignorant to what to call First Nations people (adopting your language here). I visited a reservation in Oregon in October and was directed to use the language of American Indian (for the most part) while there, and so I’ve largely adopted that.. But I haven’t felt at all confident in my knowledge.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience here, including the complicated experience of passing and claiming identities.


      • As I said, I think that the various tribes and groups kind of choose what they want to be called and I think that’s perfectly fine. I don’t worry about you because you’d be the last person in the world to offend in matters like this.

  8. So now the anti-psychiatry movement is racist? Give me a fucking break. Besides some perhaps ill advised word choices, it clearly has no racist agenda whatsoever. And though I personally wouldn’t use the term psychiatric slavery, I don’t think comparisons to the holocaust are totally inappropriate, considering the large role psychiatry played in the holocaust, plus the similar situation in America with forced sterilizations and whatnot. Can we please not use such broad generalizations about a movement that genuinely wants to help people?

    • Bingram,

      I wonder what you (and others) hear when we talk about racism? I wonder how you or others might explain how white this movement has always tended to be?

      What we are talking about is – frankly – represented by a lot of the comments here. Much of what we’re talking about are *environments* where the tacitly agreed upon ‘default’ is based on the needs, ideas, vision, and voices of white people. And because that’s true and because so many people aren’t aware of that or the privilege they’re carrying or how inaccessible these environments are to others is what we’re talking about (at least in large part).

      There are – as we’ve all said – many different types of systemic oppression, and the closer you are to the white, male, Christian, educated, cis, heterosexual, non-diagnosed, able-bodied, person of (at least reasonable) means, the more these environments tend to be made with you in mind. The farther away from that, the less environments tend to be made with you in mind. This is similarly true in most environments within our movement, as it is beyond our movement.

      If we don’t get willing to take a look at that, we remain stuck.

      • As far as the antipsychiatry movement is concerned, how do the visions and ideas of people of color differ from white people? We seem to all want a similar thing. When I think of racism, I think conscious, systematic oppression, or overt hostility. I don’t see this in this movement. To be honest I don’t see why this movement being majority white is such a problem in and of itself. That, of course, does not mean I wish to suppress others views. I’m not sure what exactly you mean by the environments of this movement. Do you mean online sources like this website? Is there an antipsychiatry headquarters located in a specific location? I’m relatively anonymous posting on this website.
        I’m not denying that the “environments” in this country are tailored to white yada yada yada etc, but then again I don’t see how this movement in particular movement is defined by these problems, nor do I understand why these problems somehow stop the movement. These are problems that are much bigger than this movement, that likely won’t be solved soon, but that doesn’t mean that all activity across the nation is stalled

        • I’m not sure how we could even know how our experiences, wants, needs and even ways of making meaning of some of our experiences differ entirely because white people are the ones who take up most of the air space in places like Mad in America, at movement-related conferences, in many peer-to-peer communities, etc…

          I’m honestly not sure quite how to proceed when I reach the line where you say, “I don’t see why this movement being majority white is such a problem in and of itself.”

          How could it *not* be a problem? Even if psychiatry treated white and non-white people equally, how could it not be a problem that there’s such unequal representation and holding of power within this movement? And, given that psychiatry does NOT treat people equally… given that psychiatry has long been used as a *tool* of oppression against people of color (and women, and Jewish people, and queer people, trans* people, etc. etc. etc.)… Given that black people are more likely to be subjected to orders of force, restraints, injuries in the mental health system… HOW could it NOT be a problem that there’s such unequal representation of voices?


          • The majority of the fucking population is white. This is not a moral evaluation, it’s just a fact. So it doesn’t surprise me that the majority of people in this movement are white. And I don’t think that I and of itself that is a problem. Of course I think that people from all backgrounds should have an equal opportunity to voice their concerns about psychiatry, but does that mean we need to meet some kind of quota? I’m not denying that minorities are mistreated worse in psychiatric institutions. I’ve noticed in my own experience that minority people or poor people are more targeted. But I’m willing to stand behind anyone, regardless of race, who challenges psychiatry. The numbers, the demographics, shit, even the people themselves aren’t what’s most important to me. It’s the ideas that I’m concerned about, specifically the ideas challenging psychiatry’s intellectual and legal authority. I’m not interested in infighting

          • Seriously, who holds the power in this movement? It’s not a tight nit organization. It’s a loose movement lead mostly by ideas. There is no president or ceo

          • No one has said there needs to be exactly x number of people of x color or background. But, the representation is very clearly skewed, and not in accordance with the actual make up of the community who are or have been stuck in the psychiatric system.

            This blog is not about dismissing the systemic oppression experienced by people in the psychiatric system (who are white or have any other quality). It is about not playing out the same systemic issues around racism in our own movement as happens everywhere else… It’s about our being stronger in fighting psychiatric oppression if we make space for everyone. It’s about being self-aware of our ‘default settings’ and listening for what we can’t see because it’s not our experience. It’s about not falling into the trap of fighting one oppression while perpetuating another.

            It’s about doing the right thing.

          • I’m about to leave the space where I am, so I’m going to take a break from the blog altogether for a little bit.

            Buttttt… Take a look at the faces you see writing for Mad in America. Then take a look at the faces you see representing or speaking for any other movement-related blog or website you can find. Then visit a variety of peer-to-peer or other movement related organizations across the country and see who you see. Then go to movement related events and conferences and see who you see. Then join on-line committees and Facebook groups related to the movement and see who you see. Then look at the leadership of many of the national organizations that do work within this movement and see who you see (Hearing Voices USA, most of the technical assistance centers, etc. etc. etc.)

            If you can’t do all or any of these things, then talk to people who have and ask what they have seen.

            Then get back to me about this point.

          • Look, I’m not about to go through all those things and figure out those demographics. I respect you and trust that you have a valid point. I also don’t know of any local movement related events to attend (I’m from Jackson, MS) But honestly the only thing I see that might be problematic is the leadership roles in movement related organizations being skewed. As far as Facebook groups and participation in yada yada is concerned, these are all voluntary based on individual decisions. I really doubt that some Facebook group would deny access to minorities. I mostly browse just this website, and I see a good amount of diversity in the postings, and several articles specifically regarding race (like this one). I just don’t know how much of this is due really to systematic oppression as opposed to voluntary participation

          • How often does psychiatric liberty come up in other movements, that you’d think it woulda? Even in bills directly contradicting psychiatric liberty it’s the last thing talked about.

          • Sure, many spaces (on-line and in person) are voluntary and anyone could participate in them if they so choose. AND in a society and a movement that is guided largely by white people, are those spaces always talking about issues that are relevant to everyone? Will people see faces like their own if they go? Will they have to navigate people saying subtle (or overtly) racist things? Will they be spoken over or treated differently? Will they be able to have faith that that won’t be an issue, if the room is mostly white?

            In other words, it’s just more complicated than whether or not someone could reasonably just show up and leaving it all to who does…

        • I would argue that the KKK is a *symptom* of our countries systemic racism. A very visible manifestation… But if *that* is all we understand systemic racism to be, boy are we in trouble…

          • I’m not using the KKK as an example of systematic racism. I’m using it as an example of a clearly racist movement. You’re misunderstanding me. I think it’s strange to say it’s a symptom of something. That’s so abstract it means practically nothing. People aren’t exactly this amorphous collective mass. Individuals consciously decide to join movements like the KKK. It’s not necessarily a reflection of all society.

          • Eh, it seems to me that we’re missing the point if we get stuck on this particular debate. My overall point is that our movement may not intend to hurt, but it has absolutely failed at becoming self-aware enough to adequately address (and avoid perpetuating) systemic racism and even begin to share power, space, and voice.

          • I’m not denying that minorities need to be more empowered in this movement. I agree that psychiatry treats them worse. But I don’t think what really amounts to unconscious bias in this movement should be called, across the board, racism. Lets reserve that term for the real assholes. And, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t see how these issues completely stall the movement, nor do I completely understand what you mean by the environments of antipsychiatry

          • I’m reading and hearing you Bingram. Hope you stick around.

            Interesting how people can throw around words like “systematic” racism yet focus their anger on individuals rather than any “system.”

        • Our movement is not overtly racist, but there are certainly elements of covert racism. There are lots of well-meaning White people who have no idea at all about the immense amounts of power and privilege they possess and wield simply due to the color of their skin. They take it for granted because it’s always been there for them from the moment of their birth. They didn’t have to do one thing to earn any of it like all the other groups here in the United States. If anyone does have power and privilege in these groups it’s because they went above and beyond and worked to get it, they had to earn it. No other group in the United States has this kind of power and privilege. And when most White people do things they assume that things should always be done from their viewpoint because they can’t conceive of any group having an idea different from theirs. If it’s been good enough for them it should be good enough for every else. It’s the assumptions about things that kill you when it comes down to it.

          Our movement is racist and doesn’t even know it. It’s not really culturally competent.

  9. Psychiatry is slavery, oppression, torture , pseudo science , and a hoax . My lived experience has shown me that . That me describing my experience hurts people who have suffered far more and paid an even higher price I’m sorry but I have been pushed far beyond what I could endure and can not water down the narration of my experience but will try to stand in solidarity with human rights advocates and activists around the planet and save lives wherever I can. If I had the ability to show up at Black Lives Matter demonstrations and at Standing Rock I would do so . If I could bring down the oligarchs I would do so also . I’m sorry there is such an endless stream of issues which keep people apart from the solidarity needed to fight the oppression closing in on so many vulnerable people first and the rest of us eventually. Thanks for the blog.

  10. Thank you for sharing these very deep personal truths, they are extremely thought-provoking.

    I’m first generation American, grew up in a Latino household. My folks had accents, and I’d hear quite a bit, “They don’t even know how to speak English,” which was preposterous, they were brilliant, well–educated, and extremely literate people. (My mother still is, my dad passed away 8 years ago).

    They prided themselves on being “liberal Democrats” and felt they were “the good guys,” and everyone else was either a bigot or ignorant or both. They liked using the word “stupid” a lot, to describe people. In short, they were two of the most patronizing and snobby people I’ve known,–judgmental to the extreme–that’s from where I come. I used to be really angry at them for so many reasons, but that’s in the past. We are who we are who we are who we are, and I learned to love them for who they are, even though I’d challenge them all the time, simply being myself.

    My family is also Jewish, and I was called names in school for this reason. Although we did not practice our faith, my father eschewed all of that that. He thought I was “ridiculous” for wanting to light the Menorah on Hanukkah. As a result of not attending services, the neighborhood kids, who were mostly Jewish, had their demeaning opinion about this, too. So I felt all that judgment and stigma from both sides in this respect, no one was shy about offering me their opinion.

    I’ve also been out of the closet as a Gay man since I was 20. To this day, people see my wedding ring and ask about my “wife.” I correct them with a smile, and say, “You mean ‘husband.’”

    Shortly after I came out, I was diagnosed via DSM, and I was out from the get-go, never kept that a secret. I could have, I was more turned inward than “out of control.” I just felt like I was a “wrong person” and had an extremely low-self-esteem, but I was not articulating this, until years later. At the time, my life experience simply caused me more anxiety than I could handle. It is terrifying to feel so unsafe and targeted, simply for being. So I went to see a psychotherapist, and one thing led to another, then diagnosis and pills, and after years of this, eventually, down the rabbit hole I went.

    Looking back, had I known then what I know now, I would have taken a different route to address my anxiety. But at the time, this seemed like the appropriate place to go.

    I grew up in Memphis in the 1960’s. We lived 2 miles from the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was murdered. I consider this my first “awakening” regarding the issues of violent bigotry which we faced as a society. I was 7 at the time, and I remember that night so clearly.

    Today, decades later, I’m on the other side of this truly horrible and horrifying journey through the “mental health system,” and none of the above which I describe here is an issue for me any longer. None of that made me suffer as did the real and true oppression, divisiveness, and shaming that is generated from within the “mental health” world. That was extremely cruel, brutal, relentless, and consistent in every aspect of the “mental health world,” (starting with graduate school), and nearly destroyed my life, for no reason other than I was naïve about it all. I really thought it was there to help people, not brutalize and shame them.

    And I can seriously say I’m so grateful for that experience, because it continued to awakening me to the complexities of humanity in ways I could have never imagined. And that started with my own humanity, and discovering all that I had internalized from this bigoted and highly judgmental environment in which I grew up. As an adult, going through the system, I could process discrimination differently, more consciously, than when I was 10, including filing a law suit for discrimination, and winning it. So it was really a second chance to firmly stand my ground and heal from all that I allowed others to make me believe about myself, so negatively oriented, for being “different” in one respect or another. (As if anyone does not possess differences from others?)

    It definitely made me a better person, I think, because my awareness grew so much going through something like this. I could never, ever have anticipated feeling so dehumanized in life, but there you have it. That’s what happened, and it took a lot of healing and shifting my perspective so that I could align with myself in a way that I could breathe freely again, and feel good about life. Now, I feel my inherent value, and this is a good thing.

    What I learned as a result of this arduous experience, is that people really crave love and respect, and one way to get under people’s skin, of any color, is to withhold this, and instead, make a person feel really, really bad about who they are. I think it’s because that person doing the whacking cannot come to face their own hurt, so they insist on projecting it outward and blaming others for how they feel in life. It’s insane-making.

    These are the impressions from my own life experience that came to mind as I read this blog and discussion, so I thought I’d share. I always appreciate the opportunity to use my voice as an expression of my truth. Thank you.

    • Alex,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not entirely sure I get where you’re aiming your later comments, but sometimes I do worry that people accuse someone of coming across as too angry or ‘whacking’ them or ‘shaming’ them as a way to avoid conversation on a topic altogether… And that, in truth, many people feel similar amounts of shame n o matter how nicely something is said… but accusing someone else of not saying it nicely enough is a good way to just shut it down.

      Again, I’m not sure I quite know if I’m agreeing or disagreeing with you. You certainly have experiences with types of oppression that I do not, and so I’m certainly not going to argue with you on any of those points!


      • I’m simply expressing what moved through me as I took in the discussion, mostly recalling the feeling of being dehumanized, and how oppressive that felt and how severely it negatively impacted my life, until I could find a new perspective and work with that internally.

        I don’t have a concept of people being “too angry,” people have a right to be angry, that’s human. Still, there is a lot of shaming others–dehumanizing–that goes on in our society (marginalization), and it is extremely wounding for people, and I think it starts in the one who uses shaming as a tool for power and control.

        To me, this is all relevant to racism, and it echoes how I felt going through the system. I thought it was an interesting and very powerful parallel, that’s all. Nothing aimed at anyone in particular.

  11. I don’t see this the way you folks do. Yes, the psychiatric system has always struck racial minorities the hardest. And this probably remains true today.

    And then of the Anti-Psychiatry Movement, there really is no such thing, as evidenced by the discussions here on Mad In America. What we have instead is a Therapy, Recovery, and Healing Movement, and this fully supports Psychiatry. Its adherents don’t want to protect children, they don’t want to hold parents responsible, they don’t want to prosecute doctors, and they tend to look at everything through Libertarian Anti-Government lenses. So they support the underlying premises of Psychiatry and the Middle-Class Family, and they see children as property.

    The present situation sucks.

    Racism has never really existed just for its own sake. The reason for it was to lock in social stratification. That people would hold racist views themselves was simply the result of a lack of social contact with persons of other races. But the real reason for the system and for segregation, was always economic.

    Many slaves thought that by cooperating that they were earning their citizenship.

    By making repeated raids into Maryland, Harriet Tubman liberated hundreds of slaves. But she said that she could have liberated far more if only they’d of known that they were slaves.

    So I see the issues involved in opposing Psychiatry and Psychotherapy as being very similar to racial justice struggles. We need to understand and draw upon the language and concepts of the anti-slavery movement and the civil rights movement. And today I see there as being a need for a much broader movement which seeks to end Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Recovery, as well as giving rights to children and discrediting the middle-class family. Everybody wants to do well, so they don’t need to be abused in the name of the self-reliance ethic. And it is a tragedy that they spend their lives seeking to earn approval with Therapy and Recovery, and believing the lies.

    Everything in America has always been coded in terms of race, and it still is. The basic idea is that some people are seen as legitimate and some are not. And today, as we need less labor any type, we get our society’s scapegoats not from low wage labor done by immigrants and minorities, but in the scapegoats of the middle-class family, those turned into basket cases by psychiatry and psychotherapy.

    So we need to organize and fight back, and the most important component of this is that we refuse to be Uncle Tom’s, and we refuse to ask for pity. The Therapy, Recovery, and Healing Movement, which is strong here on Mad In America, is sickening.

    Very Good Book:

    A true Anti-Psychiatry and Children’s Rights Movement would be the logical continuation of the racial justice movement.


    Move From Talk To Action, Please Join:

  12. Sera,

    I’d also like to note that there are broader ways to look at the intersection of slavery and race throughout history.

    For example:


    Quote: “Modern slavery is a multibillion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually. The United Nations estimates that roughly 27 to 30 million individuals are currently caught in the slave trade industry.[8] India has the most slaves of any country, at roughly 18.4 million.[9] China is second with 3.4 million slaves, followed by Pakistan (2.1 million), Bangladesh (1.5 million), and Uzbekistan (1.2 million). By percentages of the population living in slavery, North Korea tops with 4.4% (about 1.1 million people out of 25 million), followed by Uzbekistan (4% of its population), Cambodia (1.6%), India, (1.4%) and Qatar (1.4%).[7]”

    So let’s reframe this statement from the article: “it feels completely disingenuous for proponents of this analogy (that slavery isn’t primarily linked to black history) to offer up vague dictionary references or historical citations of slavery in Greece and Rome as first defense.”

    Not so disingenuous, if there are millions of Asian and other non-black slaves today. It’s not just a few ancient Romans or Greeks. It’s not only historical but also present-day; slavery then and now, on a global level is not only black but multi-racial.

    And there are dozens of examples of historical slavery all over the world, for example:


    Quote: “A new study suggests that a million or more European Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa between 1530 and 1780 – a far greater number than had ever been estimated before…One of the things that both the public and many scholars have tended to take as given is that slavery was always racial in nature – that only blacks have been slaves. But that is not true,” Davis said. “We cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people.”

    Even is this number is a large over-estimate, and “only” a few hundred thousand white people were enslaved by Muslims in the 16th to 18th centuries… it does suggest that black people do not have a global monopoly on use of the word “slavery.”

    I encourage others readers to read with skepticism and to research and counter-research the claims of an article such as this. It’s easy to make generalizations based on a Google search from an American computer, but it may not tell the whole story.

    Since psychiatric oppression is by no means limited to America, I don’t think psychiatric slavery as a term has to be called into question by the legalized slavery perpetrated in America in relation to African-Americans (who were the main objects of it in the USA). Globally, slavery has harmed many races. As does psychiatric oppression/slavery.

    • Matt,

      You seem *super* invested in proving that there are other kinds of slavery in existence. No one has denied that at any point. This blog simply states that using such arguments as a way to justify the use of the term ‘psychiatric slavery’ in a whitesplaining sort of way, even in the face of black people saying it’s not okay… Is… not okay.

      • Sera, we cannot legislate speech, only make suggestions that others are free to endorse or ignore.

        For your part, you seem *super* invested in focusing on race, when the bigger issues in psychiatric oppression IMO are denial of adverse social factors, medicalization of experiences, coercion, paternalism of psychiatric professionals, etc. Racism is a significant issue, but to me, as to apparently some other commenters, it’s not a key or the central issue in defining or resisting psychiatric mistreatment.

        You might examine why people like me, and other commenters, remain emotionally unaffected by your article and will continue to use the term psychiatric slavery even after reading all of its points.

        • Matt,

          I have three pages of blogs. Maybe four of them focus on race, including this blog that I’ve co-written with two other people who – like me – spend a great deal of our time focusing on psychiatric oppression.

          However, when we write about racism, it should stay about racism, and not become some bizarre competition or diversion onto other topics. Although, that is extremely common – that people are uncomfortable talking about rape and so simply try to change the subject.

          It’s quite self evident to me why you and some others are hanging on to the phrase ‘psychiatric slavery.’ You are prioritizing your own needs and beliefs over people who have experienced a kind of oppression that you have not… You are operating in a mostly white movement, and you don’t have a life experience that allows you to understand why this is a problem… Some commenters have even explicitly said that they think that *that* is not a problem.

          We went into this knowing people would be making terrible comments, and be really invested in remaining unmoved. This comments section has been painful, but it has also done a wonderful job of illustrating why this blog exists, and why we need to keep pushing.

          Thank you for that.

          • Sera,
            Ok we will just have to disagree.

            The politically incorrect point I was trying to make at the end of the last comment was that that there is a lack of incentive for people of a certain group (in this case whites) to focus more attention on the experience of another (in this case blacks). Most human behavior, in my view (which may be cynical) is motivated primarily by self-interest, and as a white person I don’t see what there is to gain by following the four directives issued in your article. IFewpeople are altruistic purely for altruism’s sake. I’m wondering what the payoff or benefit is for white people and for all people invested in changing the psychiatric system (and yes, both/all need to benefit otherwise they won’t be motivated to act) if we police our speech as was suggested. Not clear that it would make a significant difference.

          • Wow… You, like, just… basically defined systemic racism… A system designed with white people’s needs and wants in mind – often to the detriment or exclusion of others, and where they have the power to keep themselves at the front of the priority line. Well, actually, technically, that may more precisely be the definition of white supremacy, but ya know, they’re pretty closely tied.

            I guess, really, the only ‘benefit’ to following some of our suggestions would be to… you know… work toward undoing racism. But, you’re totally right… White people lack incentive to change all that… (See! We can agree on something!)

            Because, well, that’s kind of the fundamental underpinning of what keeps systemic racism intact.

          • Sera,
            I didn’t say exactly what you said. I am noting that if there isn’t a perceived win-win situation for white people in changing their behavior (which would benefit both them and other races, not just other races), they will probably not.

            After all, if the majority of white people were going to change their perceptions and actions around race purely out of the goodness of their hearts, why wouldn’t they have already done it?

            Many voters in the recent election who voted for Trump view race relations as a zero-sum game: If accommodations are made for blacks, many whites feel, whites lose out, for example with jobs or with affirmative action. Whites by and large don’t want that, and they don’t like the moralizing, prescriptive, thou-shalt-feel guilty message that’s contained within this article, and will IMO be unlikely to result in change.

  13. Just for a moment to look at the intensifying of oppression from a real time present starting place and seeing that it is growing to include more individuals -the total number of oppressed people is growing higher -especially if we understand the stealth oppression of the Therapeutic State including not only APA psychiatry but also AMA mainstream medical care , and ADA dentistry , Government and Pharma Cartel sanctioned for the benefit of Oligarch control and wealth accumulation . Also numerous other enterprises controlled by the oligarchs. How is this done? The wealthiest part of 1% pay little if any tax . For example Boeing Company pays only 7% on billions in profit while a middle class worker pays 35% of their income. Meanwhile because of a taxing shortfall the country’s infrastructure is in disrepair . With a Trump as President further lowering taxes on the powerful wealthy . The wealthy are presented as the heroes by coming in and being offered the chance to fix the dilapidated infrastructure by buying it at distressed prices ( including roads and bridges) hospitals , schools, library’s, national parks, and eventually all the commons etc. So we have a greater divide and conquer of the people to cover up the “The Great for the most part White Oligarch Privatization on Steroids”. Just a view of what’s happening while we bicker among ourselves. I guess some of us like myself are not even looked upon as equals in our own family having been diagnosed, so how can we even be thinking we can be accepted by any part of society to the point they honestly address our concerns . We very much like Native American’s did facing insurmountable odd’s , are seeking a ghost dance to perform that will save us . Many becoming worker’s for the system . While oppression grows as we are unable to work together in numbers great enough to effect a rollback of oppression even though we far outnumber the oligarchs and they are afraid of us and will spend great amounts of treasure to keep us divided.

  14. Sorry, I’m not getting too involved in this. I consider it a largely disingenuous and manipulative piece. While there are any number of valid points made about racism and privilege, these are then used in convoluted ways which divert people from any intelligent consideration of what should be the point — to FIGHT racism, not just use our self-proclaimed “superior” consciousness to one-up others in a game of “more radical than thou.”

    Further, when discussing “the movement,” I don’t know what movement is even being discussed. Iden in the past has referred to a “mental health movement” — I’m not in such a movement, in fact the opposite. I don’t know how you even refer to groups of people with opposite goals as a “movement” in the first place. When I say the movement I mean the anti-psychiatry movement, and certainly my analysis of many things will conflict with the beliefs of those who have opposite goals.

    I don’t know why the slavery issue is being brought up again, as we’ve gone through this before and nothing new has been raised, but it’s a glowing example of the kind of thing I’m talking about. A revolutionary, or even historically accurate, understanding of psychiatry recognizes that psychiatry is a part of the history of slavery, and vice versa; it’s not even a question of being a “comparison,” it’s a direct line. Anyone who uses the term Prison Industrial Complex implicitly recognizes the prison system as the modern equivalent of slavery, and anyone familiar with the “mental health” system recognizes it as an extension of the prison system. So I won’t to be guilt-tripped by those who are either logically challenged. historically ignorant, or have an agenda to (or self-image) to protect, as these understandings are shared by a diverse assortment of people; it would be ridiculous to imply that this is just “the way white people think”; this is simply untrue.

    I find it curious that, with so much time that goes by at MIA most of the year with mostly “milquetoast” discussions, such a provocative piece is posted in the middle of a 1-2 week period when, by any reasonable logic, everyone should have a united focus on defeating 21st Century Cures (Murphy). People with time on their hands should be calling Senators and getting others to do the same. I know that at least two of the authors have repeatedly expressed strong feelings against the Murphy bill, so I just don’t get what’s up with this blog — which has been under construction for so very long, and diverts energy from an ongoing discussion of institutional racism — being posted at this particular time. And anyone pontificating here about their disdain for racism who doesn’t call their Senators and tell them to oppose 21st Century Cures has some explaining to do in my book.

    • Oh, Oldhead. I was going to go to bed without responding to you, but I just couldn’t quite make myself do it…

      Frankly, I’ve grown weary of this whole ‘what movement are you talking about’ line. I mean, I’ve recognized in many a blog that there are different movements or at least different fragments of movements associated with one another and psychiatric oppression in some way… And we attempted to give a nod to that throughout this blog by saying things like movement(s)… But, it surely feels a bit disingenuous in the end to suggest there is *no* ‘movement’… I mean, this site plays home base to any number of ‘usual suspects’ at this point… And we all can think of who is likely to show up to speak at various conferences… Or whose writing we follow… Or some of the historical documents and publications that have been produced… Many of us who’ve been around here long enough could name more people fighting some aspect of psychiatric oppression than we have fingers or toes… So, yeah, there’s a movement. It’s a mess of a movement.. One that’s become seriously inhibited by the ‘peer’ industry and all sorts of other things, but it seems silly to pretend it doesn’t exist at the same time you’re participating in it.

      In any case, I was certainly anticipating a negative response from you… But I do think it’s interesting that you suggest such a straight forward piece is manipulative. But never mind… As you and I have discussed before, it’s entirely different to say that psychiatry has been used as a *tool* of many different sorts of oppression then to use the term ‘psychiatric slavery.’ If you can continue to relentlessly use such a term, and think it’s just fine to explain to a host of black people why *they* are wrong to be upset by it – or historically ignorant (that feels particularly painful to me, honestly) – then you’re a part of the problem. No matter how good you might be on other aspects of this topic in the present or past, dismissing the experiences, feelings, and asks of people who’ve experienced racism directly *is* a part of the problem.

      To date, *no one* has given me a satisfactory answer to *why* is use of this term more important than working against racism and creating a movement that is welcoming to more than mostly just why people? The closest I’ve seen to a good answer has mostly amounted to, “Cause psychiatric oppression hurt *me* more, so if I have to hurt someone else with the language I use to make that point, oh well.” And, really, that kind of sucks as an answer… Because, psychiatric oppression is horrible, but it’s not slavery and hurting people who’ve been hurt by racism isn’t necessary in order to talk about just how horrible psychiatric oppression is…

      As to the Murphy Bill… I’ve printed out notices about it and urged people to call. This blog need not detract from that. However, I was struck by a Facebook post I saw from Sharon Cretsinger in the last day or so that basically said, “Uh, yeah… let’s put out another ‘call to action’ to call our representatives… because that’s really worked for us before.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) I mean, I’m not suggesting people do nothing or that people not call.. But she kind of has a point. Clearly, what we *are* doing isn’t even close to effective, and yet asking people to keep doing it is draining energy and morale.

      I wonder how we might re-evaluate all that. But, you know, meanwhile *this blog* is about racism. There is totally enough room in the world and on Mad in America for these dialogues on racism without stepping on the Murphy Bill Opposition’s toes…

      BUT, there really isn’t room in this comments section for the Murphy Bill talk. Because this blog is about racism.

      Thanks. 🙂

      • I agree there is room to talk about your blog Sera and the Murphy bill. Sorry for this off topic post but until we build a big enough network and align ourselves with other organizations who would be most affected by the Murphy bill and thus put ourselves in a better position to complete with TAC and company, we’ll keep getting the same crazy results that Sharon talks about.

  15. Non-consensual coercive psychiatry is something I feel folks should be fighting, just like modern day slavery. I’m not sure what this smokescreen is all about, I’m just sure it’s a smokescreen. People are jumpy about people talking about slavery, sure, but there are people in slavery at this very moment. Their predicament is the one you should really be concerned about. People in the psychiatric plantation system, too. End that, if you can.



    Here’s what the UN says on the subject:

    Human trafficking can be defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
    (UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons)


    Sounds pretty close to some of those things taking place in the mental health system at this moment if you ask me.

  16. If a white person and or someone who has no family heritage of slavery (is not an expert by experience on slavery) says the same thing, it usually means -‘I have experienced psychiatry so I know what slavery is like’

    That’s a highly speculative generalization about a theoretical “white person.” Fernando understands very well that psychiatry is and has been a tool of racism, and part of the apparatus of American slavery, so I personally believe that this is a largely out-of context quote in response to a question which was based on assumptions held by the questioner. And despite his awareness of all this he remains a shrink, and doesn’t portray himself as anti-psychiatry despite his knowledge that psychiatry is racist, so there are a few contradictions to consider there as well.

    At any rate, his statement is largely beside the point, which is that OBJECTIVELY — independent of anyone’s feelings or perceptions — psychiatry was/is LITERALLY part & parcel of the system of American slavery; such a reference is not an abstraction or an analogy. People responsible for this blog refuse to acknowledge this, as it disrupts their cut & dried social theories.

    • I think you make a great point that psychiatry was a part of the enslavement of people of African descent in this country. Although I can’t speak for them, I think the authors of this post would agree 100% that racism is deeply, deeply embedded in the psychiatric system. This makes it even more important that the needs of black people (who are more likely to have a family history of slavery) are prioritized in this movement. And it seems pretty clear to me that they’re asking you to stop using that term.

      The fact that psychiatry was part of enforcing slavery shows that people of color and white people have NEVER been treated the same within psychiatry, and that psychiatry has ALWAYS reflected and reinforced other power structures that exist within society. In my opinion, this makes it even more important that our movement be allied with all other movements against societal injustice, especially anti-racism.

      • The two Black authors of this piece represent themselves and not “Black people.” Even if they did I don’t think that I would be inclined to ignore history just because they told me to. And for the record it is also racist to draw conclusions about a “race” of people based on the personal beliefs or characteristics of a few individuals. This article was written by people who held the same basic ideology from the start, it was not just happenstance.

        • It’s true that we’re talking about just two individuals in this particular instance. But I think that a lot of their ideas cone from a rich and multi-century history of attempts by black folks to grapple with their place in this country and how to move forward against the legacy (and current reality) of racism. I don’t want to speak for them, and I hope they’ll chime in if they want. But these two people don’t exist in isolation, and it seems to me that they speak based on not just their own experiences but also from the experiences of the communities they belong to.

          • For one, much of this is directed at those in the white “mental health consumer” milieu.

            Moreover I doubt that the Black community at large even has an opinion on any of this, as a very minute percentage of people in the U.S. are even aware of the anti-psych movement and our issues.

        • Oldhead,

          Iden’s response is much more important than mine, but I do want to at least draw you back to an excerpt of the blog… Perhaps you missed it in your first go:

          “And beware the urge to go in search of another non-white person to contradict the first (generally done in effort to somehow vindicate one’s self). Certainly, there are many times when people of color will disagree on such points. There are many groups, after all, that fit within the term ‘people of color,’ and even if you narrow it down to just one – Black, for example – there is no obligation to be any less varied or diverse than any other group in what individuals within those groups think, feel or say. However, our time would be far better spent examining our own motives and why it feels so important to hang on to something if we’ve been told so clearly that it’s hurting a fellow human being, especially when that fellow human comes from a group that has already lived a lifetime of being silenced and devalued.”

          • I’m familiar with that position, and think I said way back when that it was a convoluted interpretation of a legitimate principle.

            What you seem to be saying in effect is that if I quote a Black survivor who disagrees with Iden or Eric I am being racist. (Which is one reason I would never drag such a person into this discussion, out of respect.) If not, exactly what ARE you saying? So now if one’s analysis disturbs someone you’re “hurting” them? If your position is that these things are only the business of Black people why are they being even discussed here?

          • No, Oldhead, I’m not quite saying that if you ‘quote a black survivor who disagrees with Iden or [Earl] that [you’re] being racist.’ It’s not *quite* that simple.

            What I’m saying is that – in these sorts of conversations – many people have a tendency to use the ‘going out and finding the disagreeing representative(s) of a group’ as a tactic to avoid self-examination. And that *that* does often have an awful lot to do with keeping the dominant paradigm or belief system intact, and commonly avoids also looking at some of the reasons it might be easy for one to find what they seek.

            More importantly, I’m also saying that *of course* there’s disagreement within large groups of *individuals*. And that *still* doesn’t negate the fact that – when you’re hearing from someone of color on issues related specifically to the experience of people of color or the undoing of racism, etc…. that the voice of any person of color will reflect more experience on these issues than any white person could ever have…

            That doesn’t mean that each black person is equally well informed or had equal opportunity to think through the implications of all that has transpired around them or what might be required to address it or that (even if they have) that they’ll always come to the same conclusion, but one black person still can’t give you what you need to negate the experience of another black person… because *you* are still white.

            Ultimately, it’s the *drive* to hold on to one’s own views in the face of several realities (that there are people who are being hurt by it, that Mad in America and so many other arenas in which psychiatric oppression is discussed, fought, etc. are so white), etc. that ends up looking like its playing into the perpetuation of a culture where white needs and voice are the priority.

  17. Oh, and while we’re at it, also stop comparing the experience of psychiatric oppression to the Jewish Holocaust

    Hey, glad you brought it up. Psychiatry was also part & parcel of the Holocaust, and in fact the Holocaust may not have happened without the gas chambers and the rest of the apparatus of death which was originally created by psychiatry for psychiatric inmates, then transferred to Jews. How clueless and embarrassing that anyone would overlook this!

    In essence someone here thinks we should deny history because it doesn’t fit their concept of how things ought to be.

    P.S. I also suggest someone look up the definition of “compare.” It does not mean “equate.”

    • Really Oldhead? What about all the other ways that Jews died in addition to the gas chambers? What about the systematic plans of the Nazis to eliminate the Jews?

    • This is just silly, Oldhead.

      *No one* is denying the history. In fact, we’ve quite well acknowledged at various points, including in this comments section, that psychiatry has been used as a tool of oppression with any number of groups including black people (during the era of slavery and beyond), Jewish people (certainly, yes, during the Holocaust, etc.), women, etc.

      I also wouldn’t deny (and have acknowledged) that systemic oppression itself has many common components that we can point to, and then identify within the experiences of groups who’ve experienced oppression. (One example [of many] is that a common component is that it’s a common component of systemic oppression that – at least at some points – the dominant group is willing to accept members of a marginalized group as their entertainment, provided they aren’t being asked to seriously give them a legitimate voice and spot at the same table where they sit… I think of this every time groups of providers are excited to hear me share some part of my story, and enjoy how ‘powerful’ it is, while not actually giving a damn about the implications in my story about how *they* should change or wanting to hear much out of me beyond that point.)

      This is all so fundamentally different than saying x is like x (e.g., psychiatry is like slavery), or x is x (e.g., psychiatry is slavery). So, so, SO different. And that you are so vehemently tied to not hearing that is concerning to me. That both here and on my Facebook page, the dominant group of people who are objecting to this concept – and who are objecting most strongly to this blog – are older white presenting men *is* significant to me. That they feel like their life experience and vantage point qualifies them to trample the experiences and voice of people who’ve actually directly lived through racism *is* a problem.

      We’re not fighting here to decide which systemic oppression we should pay attention to. We’re not fighting here to say psychiatric oppression should now be ignored. So, ya know, maybe people could take a breath and… just stop.

      • Now that you’ve backed yourself into an ideological corner you tell people to stop reacting.

        My criticisms of this liberal analysis (from the left) are shared by numerous survivors and anti-psychiatrists of different races and sexes. Conflating the impulsive racism-tinged reactions of certain people who react defensively to this point or that with the reasoned analyses of those who have actively fought racism all their lives is a disingenuous tactic for advancing your opinions.

        So why again shouldn’t we mention the Holocaust?

        • I haven’t backed myself into any corner, oldhead. No matter how nasty and loud you get, or how much you stomp your feet, you don’t get any more right.

          We shouldn’t talk about psychiatry as if it were like the Jewish Holocaust because it *hurts* people. Because it divides us. And because there are different ways we can speak to make our point that wouldn’t hurt people. Oh, and because it *hurts* people. (Yes, I know I said that twice.)

          • I’m not stomping my feet, I’m pretty calm and trying to maintain some clarity and focus. None of this is new, you know.

            To tell you the truth I haven’t read your first response yet — the one with the smiley face — because I value your commitment to the movement and feered that if I read whatever you said something of value between us would be irretrievably torn, which would indeed “hurt.” However I have a responsibility to share my understanding, even though I have the serious feeling that you are too ensconced in “groupthink” right now to understand anything people like Richard and I have tried very hard to articulate for you and others.

            Anyone around here ever hear of ageism, btw?

    • And that *still* doesn’t negate the fact that – when you’re hearing from someone of color on issues related specifically to the experience of people of color or the undoing of racism, etc…. that the voice of any person of color will reflect more experience on these issues than any white person could ever have…

      What makes you think I don’t get feedback from people of color? In fact I do. I’m not going to “out” them here certainly.

  18. Thank you Iden, Sera, and Earl for taking the time to write this thought-provoking piece and publish it here. There is racism in this movement, and I’m all ears for how to participate in undermining it. So, thanks for the suggestions, and for the consiousness-raising.

  19. On Monday, September 19th, 2016, the opening dinner for the Alternatives Conference was held in San Diego, California. One of the opening speakers was a white presenting man from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, the funders of the conference).

    Again, what does the so-called “Alternatives Conference” have to do with any “movement”? The “Alternatives Conference” was developed to sabotage and destroy the anti-psychiatry movement.

    How about the lesson here being, “you lie down with dogs and you wake up with fleas”? (No offense to dogs…or fleas…it’s just a saying.)

    PS Note that it’s 3 a.m. and I’m done with Murphy till tomorrow, the only reason I’m still posting here.

  20. I was out all day and came back to this tonight because I knew there was something extremely valuable for me, here, and sure enough, I found it, and something really clicked for me.

    It started with this article you posted, Iden, which I’m going to repost here because I read it and I got all this clarity suddenly about something that’s been gnawing at me for way too long, and this really helped to break that up. This is an outstanding article, imo, really deepened my understanding of this entire discussion–


    I do avoid “taking sides” because I don’t like to operate in that kind of duality. This is just my own process speaking, thanks to all this authenticity and very honest discussion. But I do have to say that I get now why using the word “slavery” as comparison to being a “mental health system client” is offensive, and why insisting on it is truly hurtful and lacking in compassion, as I see it.

    I certainly know how I feel when someone tries to tell me about my experience as a “mental patient” and all that I went through as a result of this, which, really, is practically impossible to explain the depths of the feelings this stirs, made to feel so valueless and expendable, and knowing this is being done either intentionally, or as second nature, because it is the norm of the culture, the dominant perspective. There is no winning there. Who does one complain to, or how does one find protection or even a bit of encouragement and support, if that’s the norm?

    Moreover, I don’t see why I have to keep explaining it, in order to justify my experience. I’m always happy to talk about it, I’m very open about my experience and my feelings about it, and I share for the reason most of us do, I imagine, to help others on similar paths, one way or another, as well as to help ourselves, using our voices and owning our power to do so. If it leads to an interesting discussion that is inclusive to all in the room, then that is great movement, and new clarity is bound to arise, and, most importantly, cohesion.

    But so often, rather than either taking it in as my truth discretely or offering some kind of compassionate feedback, I am challenged about my own experience in ways that feel so violating, because I am being told that what I’m feeling does not matter, but what another feels or how they interpret my experience, somehow, trumps mine, or simply that it should be considered equally. Maybe it could be equal and people can agree to disagree about something objective, like a movie or politics, but certainly not about my very personal life experience! That is mine to own, and if that cannot be accepted, then I’m in an environment that merits examination, because I’d say something is wrong with this. It is going nowhere fast, stuck.

    That would only discourage me from sharing anything (aka silencing), as this only continues to re-traumatize; whereas when our truth and deepest feelings are respected, then we actually go in the direction of healing. That would be a safe and supportive environment, which I think is inherently healing, it happens without effort in an environment where personal truth about one’s cultural experience is respected as is, rather than challenged or reinterpreted. Our truths morph and shift over time, by our own experience, not by the opinion or reinterpretations of others.

    Aside from therapists, which unfortunately, this happened quite a bit with me and I didn’t walk away for so many reasons having to do with social programming and what I believed about myself at the time, I’ve had a lot of people try to tell me about myself, completely disregarding the fact that they have never walked in my shoes, yet they have this opinion about my life experience and feelings about certain things, that they do insist is some kind of truth, when I am saying that it is most certainly not. And then they will try to prove it to me, by noticing things about me that are “inconsistent” or some such thing. That is pretty darn offensive, if you ask me, and should be seriously out of bounds. I think it’s rather abusive, to be blunt, (one way to gaslight someone) and these days, thanks to growing in my ability to discern what is good for me vs. what is draining, I would walk away from that person, and not look back.

    Thank you, truly, for this blog and discussion. It is so rich, and I feel I’ve grown in my awareness from it significantly, and can release something now that I’m ready to let go of. Very powerful, thank you.

    • “I’m not denying that minorities are mistreated worse in psychiatric institutions. I’ve noticed in my own experience that minority people or poor people are more targeted. But I’m willing to stand behind anyone, regardless of race, who challenges psychiatry. The numbers, the demographics, shit, even the people themselves aren’t what’s most important to me. It’s the ideas that I’m concerned about, specifically the ideas challenging psychiatry’s intellectual and legal authority. I’m not interested in infighting”–Bingram


      I’m just so tired.

      Can’t we all get along? I’m willing to listen and to learn but I am *saturated* and feel beat over the head to have the right thoughts, the right words (*pronouns* now, too), the right attitude. I really do try to retain some humility. I have experienced certain levels of oppression in my life as a female in a patriarchal society but that’s not enough. I *do not* see color when dealing with others on a one-on-one basis, and yet can appreciate the stories of what it means to BE that person. Yes, institutions and organizations are whacked and lopsided and please, lets empower those who have been marginalized and encourage their leadership skills. But in my perfect world, WE ALL would take a turn at leadership.

      I’m seeing a similarity to ‘identity politics’ and DSM categories. They both need to have the ‘stigma’ removed according to the progenitors.

      Hell, I’m still dealing with brain damage and haven’t slept well in 2 weeks–this is all too much and feels really bad. Sorry if I’m not properly checking my privilege or not making sense. I really do try to be kind most of the time, and that’s what I try to live by.

      • Human Being,

        Thank you for saying what I have been trying to say but was unable to. I try very hard to be sensitive to minority issues as a white person. I posted on a facebook group about how minorities with psych labels were killed a lot more by the police than white people which wasn’t very popular.

        At the same time, I don’t see color when people are brutalized by psychiatry. Yes, more people of color are committed against their will but if I told that to my white friend who was the victim of an involuntary commitment thanks to a medication dispute with her psychiatrist, I don’t think that fact would make her feel any better and actually would be condescending.

        But like you, I am willing to listen and learn.

        • Human Being,

          Your comment confuses me. I haven’t seen *anyone* ask *anyone* to deny or play ‘who has the worst oppression story’ games… *No one* would ever expect or suggest that you would tell your friend that her pain or fight was any less real or important because it has to do with psychiatric oppression.

          Honestly, when I read those sorts of things, it feels like an effort (even if totally unintentional) to distract from the issue of racism. No one wants to *take* anything away from people who’ve experienced psychiatric oppression. We’re simply asking them to be more self-aware, and to *give* respect to people who – often in *addition* to psychiatric oppression – have also lived through a great deal of racism.

          • Sera,

            I was the one who mentioned the friend. I used her example because the blog essentially said this statement, “I don’t see color” is wrong. And I was trying to point out that when people are oppressed by psychiatry, it isn’t wrong to say that.

            And this was after I had recognized that persons of color with psych labels are shot dead alot more often than white people are. In fact, on the Democratic Underground website, they had about a 16 part thread about how escalations with white people are peacefully brought to a conclusion by police while folks of color are usually shot dead.

          • AA,

            Sorry for misapplying my response to another person… However, I don’t think it’s useful to refer to ‘color blindness’ or ‘not seeing color’ in *any* context that I can reasonably think of at the moment.

            Seeing color does *not* mean treating people differently, or not being present for their struggles, fights, hurts, etc. in the same way… It doesn’t mean color has to be the focus or topic of conversation just because you’re seeing it…

            But, is there ever really a time when it’s a *positive* to disregard or ‘not see’ an aspect of who someone is? When is it not a positive to see the whole person? It just doesn’t make sense to me…


      • Hell, I’m still dealing with brain damage and haven’t slept well in 2 weeks–this is all too much and feels really bad. Sorry if I’m not properly checking my privilege

        We feel that. This is basically totalitarianism in the name of “anti-racism,” as most of the truly progressive people at MIA recognize.

      • humanbeing,

        All that’s being asked of you is *precisely* to ‘listen and learn’ as you put it.. No one’s expecting you to ‘get it right’ without making any mistakes. But this blog exists because when people have spoken up, historically they are *not* listened to in this movement. Or because environments have been constructed in ways that never really gave access for them to speak up in the first place.

        Most people having these conversations (at least that I’ve heard) aren’t getting mad because people didn’t know some of these things by osmosis… They’re getting (justifiably) angry because when they’ve offered their voice, concerns, hurts… they’re getting ignored. Or they’re getting responses like so many people on this blog are offering that are basically discounting everything said…

        There’s plenty of room for not knowing. You just have to know that you don’t know and be willing to own it (including, yes, with pronouns which should be hugely important to us as a movement given the abuse of trans* people in the mental health system and beyond, and the super high suicide rates that have been documented).


  21. I can’t say that I’m surprised by the negative feedback this blog has garnered. Honestly, I don’t have the energy to take each of the comments that need some sort of response on, but I do have some pieces I want to add to this back and forth. I want to offer them from a place of love that I have in my heart for all of us. That’s hard just now because I’m seeing a lot of venom coming from our contingent and it has brought both great sadness and frustration, but here goes:

    I’ve been seeing variations on a couple of themes being played out here: 1. We don’t see a problem with our amorphous movement. 2. We don’t take kindly to being told what to do 3. Why are we discussing racism when our enemy, the psychiatric system, is oppressing us? We’re losing focus.

    As someone who has spent considerable time thinking on the issue of race*, I want to kindly offer that these are arguments of distraction. I’ve used them, in the past, when I felt to tender to look at the part I play in this racist society, one that has been systematically built to favor white folks, one that I have benefitted from greatly. With all that is going on in our world, this is a particularly hard time to expose our vulnerability. It is a scary time but we don’t have the leisure of time anymore. In my estimation, we need to come together, be inclusive, know where our power lies and unite to fight “a great evil that is upon us.”

    “Nothing About Us Without Us!” is our primary rallying cry. I offer it here to challenge the idea that we’re okay being a movement represented primarily by white folks. If we are to be true to this phrase, shouldn’t we be concerned that the voices of our black brothers and sisters are not being heard even within our own efforts? That our cry is almost exclusively white and not inclusive or intersectional? That the nominal leaders of our movement are white? How can we speak truth to power when we haven’t figured out how to include all of our voices? How can we know our truth is valid when we are comfortable with the silence of our fellows? Our rallying cry rings false. We are NOT truly representational of those who have suffered at the hands of psychiatry.

    Another piece of this dynamic that I’ve been observing with absolute fascination has been the protests of Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick and other POC across our nation. The response of the white power structure has NOT been “What are your concerns?” “Can we learn more of what this is for you?” No. Instead it has been more distraction…smoke and mirrors. We don’t have to consider your issues if: 1. You are angry or violent in our eyes. 2. You are using your platform in our society (which you should be really grateful for) to give voice to something we don’t want to think about right now. 3. You refuse to use the very systems that oppress you to systematically address your issues, you know…the ones that have ignored you for 400+ years…but you absolutely have the right to freedom of speech.

    Unfortunately, I’m seeing these same tactics being used against the authors of this blog. Instead of looking for commonality in their words, the pieces we can identify with, being curious about their particular point of view and from where it has been derived, we are denying validity to what they have offered. Some of us have found them to be dictatorial but I’ve known each of their voices (over many years) to be consistently speaking to these issues only to receive the polite white pat on the head. Perhaps that is feeling ineffective? Perhaps they feel the need to get louder, be more directive and assertive because we aren’t listening? Can’t we accept the challenge and look to ourselves to see how we can meet them around this entirely valid issue they’ve brought to us?

    Finally, the one that brings me the most pain, and concerns me the most for the future of our movement, is the assertion that talking about racism in this forum is somehow inappropriate, that it isn’t what we’re here for, or that it weakens us by dividing us. I feel divided on a daily basis. It happens when white folks speak to me of the inadequacies of entire races or types of people. They’re often clinicians talking about “low-functioning” or “revolving door patients.” It happens when white folks use the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. to back their own agendas or appropriate the experience of the American black slave when there are more accurate word choices, including the powerful term “psychiatric oppression.” It happens in these forums on a regular basis. It is the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality that keeps us estranged and ignorant of one another. Now…certainly, this happens among all races and types of people but for white folks, it is an acknowledgement of a certain comfort level we have with the status quo, – at least that is understanding that I have come to. When we say things like that, we’re saying its okay that others don’t have the same opportunities in life that we do and we qualify that with whatever deficit an entire group of people suffer from. If, as advocates for change, we are able to recognize that the clinical language, above, is powerful and used as a weapon, how is it that we are unable to entertain the harmful language that fuels racism? How is it that we cannot acknowledge the intersectionality of all oppressive practices in our society?

    My hope for us is to move through the topics of distraction I’ve discussed here. We are people of large hearts and minds. We have overcome so much to come together in this fight. Let’s do ourselves proud, wrestle with our inadequacies and come out stronger on the other side.

    With warmth, humility and sadness, ~Lisa

    *An arbitrary construct and false narrative used to maintain separation and division for the purposes of building and maintaining dominance/power.

    • the assertion that talking about racism in this forum is somehow inappropriate

      No, it is totally appropriate. But this blog shuts down such discussion and trivializes the matter, insisting that the views of Iden and Earl (with whom I have no previous experience and don’t want to prejudge) represent “Black thought” rather than the thoughts of several Black individuals.

      • Hey Oldhead,

        I’m pleased that you find racism an appropriate topic. If so, perhaps you could speak to it and the many other points I made rather than call out the blackness of two of this blog’s authors because you’re still not actually discussing racism. You’re only offering yet another diversion, yet another ‘us’ v. ‘them’. I mean really! “TWO” really is a huge dose of black voice given the virtual dearth of such voice around here. I’d be keen to listen and engage, not crank about delivery or even opinion. If you don’t know them, be curious. Find out who they are, how they’ve come to the opinions they’ve shared, how they think more black voices might join in this dialogue, etc. This could be so much more than you’re currently allowing it to be.

        • Circular logic. Though I know you mean well. I was simply responding to the logic presented, which is that the beliefs, etc. of a few select individuals can be extrapolated to represent the beliefs of the hundreds of millions of people in the “race” they belong to. Why should I have to account for the inability of MIA to transcend its own liberal biases to the point where lots of Black people feet like they have a reason to participate? I don’t have any power around here. Right now this is a white liberal echo chamber, problem is people have been conditioned to see that as a good thing, they actually think that liberalism is about justice, equality, all that crap.

          Anyway it’s late, you’ll need to be more specific.

    • Thank you, AVoiceRaised, for speaking up…

      And this is certainly truth!: “TWO” really is a huge dose of black voice given the virtual dearth of such voice around here.

  22. Thanks so much to Iden, Earl, and Sera for this blog.
    What the three of you so eloquently wrote, unfortunately, describes this so-called “movement” to a T.
    I am a white, educated, middle-class woman who sees the defensiveness and cover-ups by other white people about this issue ALL THE TIME.
    I am SO ashamed and angry at white people — especially these days, when it is becoming clearer and clearer that we are becoming less of the majority of people in this country and this is causing many white people to act even worse — i.e more racist, defensive, and ignorant — than ever before. If you are wondering about examples of this reaction, take a look at at many of the comments above by defensive white people who clearly are feeling very threatened by this conversation (and their position in the world).
    It is really all I wanted to say — I could go on and on, but you three have already written so well on the topic it feels unnecessary.
    So, thank you, Iden, Earl, and Sera. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  23. Iden, Sera, Earl

    The political scope of this blog, given the multiple issues raised and the way it was written, makes it almost impossible to respond without being misunderstood, or to somehow lose sight of essential aspects of its political content. I will try anyways, recognizing that doing so will be difficult and full of potential pitfalls of misunderstanding.

    The blog conclusion stated:

    “Shortly after Trump was named incumbent, Black Lives Matter released a powerful statement that concluded with the following sentence: “The work will be harder, but the work is the same.” For our own movement(s), there is also much truth in those words.”

    These words cannot be emphasized enough at this time. 9/11 dramatically changed the political landscape in the the U.S. and throughout the world. The recent election of Trump is on the same level of political significance, and it has some of its origins related to the 9/11 aftermath. With the ascension of Trump to the American presidency the world will never be the same now that the U.S. government has made a serious shift in the direction of fascism.

    This has enormous importance, as it affects ALL political movements for human rights and for the protection of the planet from total environmental destruction. This critically important topic deserves a separate blog in and of itself (and maybe I’ll attempt to write it in the near future), and to now have to veer away from this this critically important topic (to address other political issues) is a near impossible task to accomplish without somehow diminishing its political importance.

    I do salute the efforts of the authors to point out the above noted dark and challenging reality, and to also attempt to discuss issues of race and racism as it pervades every pore of our society (including those movements trying to transform it), and the struggle against racial oppression will be (and must be) a key part of any strategy to work toward Revolutionary change.

    The second part of the blog conclusion stated the following:

    “But, for us, the work had also better be different. We had better fight to include far more voices than ever before. We had better look to get much more honest about our failings and who’s been left out. Ignoring these realities is a path to nowhere. A racist movement cannot move.”

    Yes, the work for us must be very different in the coming period, including being more inclusive, but I don’t believe an increased focus on “Identity Politics” (more on this later) is the direction we need to go at this time. In fact, “identity politics” is a roadblock to building a true Revolutionary movement.

    The last sentence of the above paragraph and the overall title of the blog (including a thrust of its content) implies that the current movement against psychiatric oppression is currently racist or that it predominates it content. The very first “Don’t Do This Anymore” admonition regarding then use of the slavery analogy by movement activists is given the primary emphasis as proof of the current level of racism that exists.

    Yes, of course, racism is alive and well in this movement (and throughout our society) , and yes it needs to be identified and struggled against. But it is wrong to characterize the current movement against psychiatric oppression as “racist” at this time or to say (or imply) that the use of the slavery analogy is the PRIME example of this.

    The section of this blog on “color blindness” was very insightful and well written and gets to the heart of the matter regarding the way racial oppression is minimized in our society and in the various movements for change. Unfortunately, this section of the blog gets undercut and confounded by the misdirection of other topics.

    I believe one of the main objections for those criticizing the “slavery analogy” (as a comparison to psychiatric oppression) is the fear that to do so will somehow imply, or diminish, one’s understanding of the incredible horrors of this American institution. Or that people will believe (or will incorrectly state – as has occurred in some blog comments) that racism and the lasting effects of slavery are essentially over in America. This is a legitimate fear for people to have, but I do NOT think it is a reason enough to avoid the use of the slavery analogy, or to make this the basis for criticizing those who do use the analogy.

    Just so people know where I come from on this particular subject, America was NEVER EVER A “GREAT” COUNTRY as Hillary and Obama would have us believe. Any country that built its first hundred years of growth and expansion (and with its many remnants continuing) on the direct basis of the institution of slavery, can never be called “great.” “Greatness” will only be achieved when this entire capitalist/imperialist system is dismantled and replaced with a socialist system seeking the the goal of ending all classes and the material basis for any type of societal divisions or forms of oppression.

    Karl Marx made great use of the phrase “wage slavery” to describe the remaining forms of societal oppression that STILL existed when the system of feudalism was historically replaced by capitalism. As the foremost critic (in his time) of capitalism, he recognized and acknowledged that capitalism was, in fact, an advance over feudal relations of production. The peasantry, that now historically evolved into the proletariat, was no longer *predominantly* owned and controlled by feudal landlords. This represented an advance in society and created more favorable material conditions for future revolutionary change by bringing vast numbers of human laborers into greater social living and industrial production conditions of existence.

    BUT despite this advance in human labor conditions, it was still based on a NEW FORM of exploitation where human beings had to now SELL THEIR LABOR POWER to the highest bidding capitalist, hence he coined the phrase “WAGE SLAVERY.” And of course we know that modern capitalism and its highest form, Imperialism, still embodies many horrible forms of human oppression. Marx’s use of the slavery analogy was not done to somehow diminish the significance and horror of other forms of historical slavery. In fact, Karl Marx wrote profound works of analysis of human slavery that still existed, especially in America, where his economic and political analysis of American slavery and the resulting Civil War still stands the test of time with its insightful critique.

    To the extent that people living in an American class based capitalist society (especially one built on the basis of slavery and imperialist domination of the Third World) somehow believe they are truly free, is a serious problem and demands employing any and all creative means of education and ways to shock people to a new awareness of how the world truly operates. The “wage slavery” analogy is just one of many ways to do this because it does describe an actual economic and political realationship of domination and control.

    The recent election of Trump should be a major lesson in the reality that we live under the ILLUSION of democracy and freedom, and what relatively few remnants of political freedom that do exist are potentially on the verge of being completely wiped out.

    The slavery analogy, when used carefully and correctly, can bring to light new and additional forms of oppression that exist in the world where people may be blind to or ill informed about the nature of various institutions and their role in society. Yes, some people will use it WITHOUT fully understanding the horrors (both past and present) of American slavery. As we continue to build ALL human rights struggles in the future we can, and must, make sure that this history is kept alive. But somehow restricting the “slavery analogy” is NOT the way to accomplish this OR somehow the best way to fight racism in our movement.


    Identity politics implies that BASED MAINLY ON ONE’S RACE OR GENDER etc., a person (or persons) know the true reality of their condition in the world and/or THE way forward for their liberation. Reality and truth do not function that way in the real world. Yes, they are heavily influence by one’s (or a particular group’s) material position in the world but coming to know the truth is NOT ultimately determined by that position. There ARE NOT multiple realities out there based on race or gender etc. type determinants. There is ONE reality out there and each of us (in an on going basis) uses our minds and experience to approximate that reality. Some people are better able to do this than others for a variety of reasons. Race or gender, for example, may only be ONE of those reasons, but not the ultimate determinating factor.

    When people of color or women (for example) tell me that something I am saying or doing is offending them or possibly racist or sexist, I will listen extremely carefully and ponder with great care my future words and behavior. This IS NOT a form of pandering or shying away from possible conflict, it is plain common sense, given the world we live in and they way we have ALL been conditioned to accept forms of racism and sexism as a normal part of the status quo. This goes very deep and will take generations to root out even when more positive material conditions have been created in the world for this to happen.

    But this kind of thoughtful deliberation should NEVER stop me from advocating for what I believe to be true, and for what I believe will advance human kind towards a more just and humane world.

    There is a very strong current of “identity politics” in the above blog that gets in the way of other important political points and distracts readers from grappling with key issues facing our movement.

    “Identity politics” promotes a view that only if you identify with a certain group (race, sexual identity etc.) then, and only then, can you speak with authority (or with some aspect of the truth) on this issue or political struggle. It is ultimately a reformist approach because it leads to compartmentalizing various political struggles and prevents ways to develop a long term strategy to UNITE all human rights struggles into a single movement for liberating the entire human race. “identity politics” will ultimately lead to each “identity” group struggling for “their own particular share” of the “liberation pie” WITHOUT fully transforming the entire base and superstructure of society. In today’s world it would most likely end up promoting a view that freedom and equality is possible within a reformed capitalist society. Ain’t going to happen!

    Sera, you know that I have supported and shown great respect for all of your blogs. And I expressed high kudos for those where you been able to link racial oppression to the struggle against psychiatric oppression. Here you have presented a buffet of too many important issues at one time. Some were quite insightful, but others have completely missed the mark and undercut the ability to focus on key issues. There is no way I can fully address my issues (in a single comment) with such an important topic. I hope this will lead to further dialogue on these important questions.

    As to Matt’s comments: I support some of your reasons to use the slavery analogy, but disagree with part of your defense of such an analysis. The issue here IS NOT that people are “telling others what to do” or promoting “political correctness.” If something IS politically incorrect, then there is NOTHING WRONG with telling people to STOP doing it. And vice versa, there is NOTHING WRONG with trying to get people to do POLITICALLY CORRECT things in the world IF it is based on a scientific analysis of how the world works in the real world. For example, we both share a belief that it is wrong to call psychiatric drugs “medications.” I am planning on writing a blog that will tell people that calling these drugs, “medications,” is a form of oppressive language. I think I can defend scientifically why this is the politically correct thing to do. This is the same approach you should take with defending your use of the slavery analogy.

    And Matt, when you undercut race as the central factor (for greater racial oppression within various forms of psychiatric oppression) by emphasizing “poverty” as the determining factor, you are denying (or de-emphasizing) the amount of racial profiling that goes on when people of color are evaluated and/or diagnosed within today’s “mental health” system. The same sort of racial profiling goes on within the justice system functioning in this country, and especially the role of the police. This profiling is based on deep seeded racism embedded within the fabric of our society and has its origins going back to slavery. If you want to do justice to using a slavery analogy within the ‘mental health” system you need to clear on the this fundamental question.

    Respectfully, (after 3 hours of writing) , Richard

    • Richard,

      I think you are a very kind human being who does his best to operate with a great deal of integrity. I have watched you grapple with a number of issues in the time I’ve known you related to the work in which you’ve been engaged at times.

      I recognize you put a great deal of time into your response. However, I am not going to respond to it point by point. Perhaps Iden, Earl or someone else will.

      What I will say is this:

      Identity politics is defined as: “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”

      That strikes me as a strange way to attempt to discredit this blog, given much of the *point* is to draw to the surface the *problem* with this movement not making space for people of color with its manner of speaking and the environments it creates.

      It seems absurd to me that asking people for basic respect, and to truly *hear* the voices of black people and others of color in this movement… To let go of some of their own attachments because they are *getting in the way* of making that space… To hear and take for truth some of the ways people have felt marginalized and not welcomed here.

      Responses to this blog have ranged from short and swear-filled to ‘whitesplaining’ like you wouldn’t believe (well, hopefully you would, ’cause it’s there for all to see…) to your response which comes across as a heavily intellectualized way of essentially doing the exact same thing: Dismissing and denouncing other voices – many of whom already feel unwelcomed here – and defending your own perspective to the death.

      I’d refer you to the post I made just below this one… The one where I ask what you and others think a black person might think if they walked into this room and saw so many white men fighting to hang on to some of these pieces… I hope you will continuing to think about this all.

      • Sera

        I went to great lengths to explain how I defined “Identity Politics” and what kind of philosophical outlook it was based on. The issues and struggles surrounding “Identity Politics” has a long history in revolutionary movements in this country and in the world; my involvement goes back 45 years. By the content of your response it seems as though you either did not understand or agree with the theoretical points I was attempting to make regarding what “Identity Politics” represents as a strategic approach in today’s political movements.

        Of course it is a natural process for people of different races, gender, and other common social identities etc. to often first come together as a political entity or force mainly by these types social identifications. This is a positive thing and represents many important avenues for the initial involvement of the masses struggling against all forms of oppression. This an historical phenomena and process that is necessary and important. I am neither negating OR criticizing this.

        What I am challenging here is when “Identity Politics” is promoted as an *overall revolutionary strategy or approach* for advancing an entire political movement. To build a successful Revolution in this historical era people must be able to move BEYOND “Identity Politics.”

        Unfortunately, in this case “Identity Politics” is being used as a means (and in some cases, as a “club”) to beat back other political positions with “a no right to speak” moniker based on not being a part of a specific “Identity.” THIS IS BOTH WRONG AND COUNTER PRODUCTIVE TO BUILDING REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE. Please reread my prior explanation in my past comment for why this approach will NOT arrive at finding *truth* and will NOT act as unifying approach to building a Revolutionary movement.


        • Richard,

          I have read and re-read your comment at this point. I see how you are defining ‘identity politics’, but no matter what you explain on or how it does or doesn’t agree with other people’s definitions of that term, your frame ultimately comes across as a dismissal. It comes across very similarly to how people’s attempt to discredit the discussion by making accusations of ‘political correctness’ comes across.

          The other thing I find strange about your definition of ‘identity politics’ is that this is a movement of people working against psychiatric oppression who very commonly say, ‘Hey, I get to make meaning of my story.’ In fact, it tends to be one of this movement’s most fundamental underpinnings.

          Yet, you seem to completely contradict that when you say: “Identity politics” promotes a view that only if you identify with a certain group (race, sexual identity etc.) then, and only then, can you speak with authority (or with some aspect of the truth) on this issue or political struggle.

          Sure. There are complexities to all this, and nothing is 100% black and white (as noted in the blog in, for example, the ‘internalized racism’ section)… But, you’re not going to get very far with me – someone who absolutely doesn’t want someone who’s not been forcibly locked up speaking with authority about what precisely that’s like, and who absolutely has looked to black people and others of color to tell me what living black or brown is like in this nation – if you’re trying to convince me that people who’ve ‘been there’ shouldn’t primarily be the ones saying what it’s like.

          Yet, with your ‘identity politics’ attempt to discredit… you not only seem to be saying that people who’ve ‘been there’ aren’t the holders of the truth, but that they apparently have approximately equal say or room to decide what that truth is as you do… Someone who’s white, not (as far as I know) been locked up against your will, etc.

          As I said in my first response, I know you to be a good and genuine person. But, I believe it is you who’s missing the mark here… And, btw, we didn’t make ‘psychiatric slavery’ the proof or ‘PRIME’ example of problems within the movement. It was one of *several*.

          In all this, I’m still wondering if you have read my comment below that begins with: “So, there’s only so long I can keep up this back and forth with some of you.. I’m going to go back and respond more specifically to some comments, but not all. Iden or Earl may choose to do differently. I just know I’m hitting both a time and energy limit here.”

          It asks some questions I’d be curious to hear your answer to… Some questions that only grow for me as I see Iden getting dismissed left and right here by white people telling him how wrong he is about being black in this world and how he should feel about what… And how – as more people join the conversation – they appear to continue to be white men.

          (And being a white man isn’t a terrible thing, btw… Unless we’re talking about racism, and your voice is just about the only one getting heard… and you’re using it to drown out what’s being said by the only person of color in the room…)

        • Part of the problem is that Richard is discussing the complexities of building a revolutionary movement with people who don’t accept the need for a revolution, it’s just another rad-sounding term they sometimes use. They would be happy with a bigger slice of the corruption.

      • Sera
        I would *welcome* Iden, Earl or whoever as human beings (hah) into whatever space I’m occupying at the moment. I would of course, notice that they were Black (or brown or red or yellow or purple or *whatever*) just like I would notice their hairstyle or their clothing choices. The first thing humans notice when encountering other humans is their *sex*. Pretty basic human behavior stuff. Personally, I try to be my best possible self in whatever situation I have found myself in, admittedly not always successfully–and I’ve been in some ‘interesting’ situations (jail, minority white girl in my Jr High School, only white patient in a hospital, the only white girl in a packing house) and managed to not only adapt, but learn *loads* of stuff I would not have normally have learned. But to focus on this one issue I believe takes away from overall important survival issues. I don’t know what it’s like to be Black, Brown, Yellow, gay, trans etc but we are all traumatized by our culture in different ways and at individually unique levels.

        I just feel ‘identity politics’ divides us, it does not unite us.

        I’ll try to re read the post and be more open minded. I usually like your blogs, Sera. I do find it interesting that they’re always *controversial*!!!!

    • Selma James is a world renowned British Marxist-feminist theorist and a lifelong grassroots activist — and friend of the anti-psychiatry movement — whom I had the honor of meeting over 30 years ago. At 85 she’s still going strong and is active in the international Wages for Housework campaign and Women’s Global Strike. I encourage people to check out her writings in general, but believe these quotes from a recent interview on overcoming racism and building movement unity are particularly relevant here:

      “The movement, by its nature, must cross these [race, class, gender] boundaries, which means that you are always addressing the power relations among us and always in your struggle, whoever you are and wherever you are, you must seek to undermine these divisions. That’s what your job is. Your job is not merely to organise; your job is to – I hate to use the word now that it is discredited – ‘unify’. But unify in such a way that nobody’s demands are demeaned or ignored…I think that intersectionality is a word that academia uses in order to draw the lifeblood out of the struggles to destroy the power relations among us. To overcome those divisions is really to win against capitalism…

      “People are against racism. Most white people don’t like racism. It doesn’t mean that they are not racist, but it means that you can win them over with a show of Black power which is compassionate and which is class-based, which means the poor are us and you and me, we belong together…If you look at any corner of Kentish Town, at the kids going past, there will be a white group with one or two Black people, or they’ll be a Black group with one or two white people. I’m talking about kids. They don’t want it any more. They haven’t entirely overcome it because the Black movement is weak, because it has been so sold out. But once the movement comes up, these prejudices will not be the problem they used to be. I wish it would hurry up and come together!”


    • Hi Richard,
      I like your comment.
      I think you misunderstand or are unaware of how I view the term “politically incorrect.” I (usually) view it as a compliment. I say politically incorrect things about psychiatric diagnoses, drugs, the mental health system, etc, all the time. To me saying politically incorrect things is a strength; I try to express the things that, for example, many therapists, psychiatrists, university professors, could never have the courage to say about psychiatric diagnosis or extreme suffering.

      Also, what is politically correct or incorrect is heavily based on perception and subject to influence, such as Big Pharma money. For example, the politically correct thing to say about someone who has delusions and hallucinations and can’t function is that they have a psychotic illness and need indefinite medication. But that is bullshit.

      In this article, the moralizing, prescriptive, paternalistic tone, e.g. the four exhortations for what white people should do, was a problem, as was pointed out by multiple commenters now. Whether or not it’s “right” is kind of beside the point; instructions to one race as to what to do in relation to another is unlikely to be practical in terms of working to change minds and behavior.

      The term “white-splaining” in particular is unlikely to be listened to or responded to at all by most white-people. This term smacks of what you talked about Richard – the assumption that one’s own view is right based on identity politics, i.e that one’s position as part of a particular race or class is the right one or the only valid viewpoint. So it is counterproductive for black people to use this “white-splaining” term, as it is for Sera to do so – at least counterproductive if they want change, rather than just feeling vindicated.

      You are correct that racism occurs very frequently in the psychiatric system as in the criminal justice system (where it is arguably even worse, IMO). I do not deny this at all. However, I do not see where I said that poverty was the central thing.

      • Matt

        Thanks for the compliment and the response.

        Here is the quote from your first comment where I believe you are minimizing racism and racial profiling in the “mental health” system:
        “Also, the higher diagnosis rates of non-illnesses among black and Latin people is likely primarily due to social factors more frequent in those groups, especially poverty and lack of economic opportunity. Their getting these labels is not caused directly by their skin color in a simplistic cause-effect way. Although bias by white people “over-diagnosing” (if one can overdiagnose an invalid psychiatric non-illness) is also likely involved.”

        Yes, of course class is an important factor to consider in all this, but the overall implication of your comment tends to minimize race as the essential factor in this kind of racial profiling, and the end result is more racial oppression for an oppressed minority.

        As to the issue of “political correctness,” I believe you are misusing the term and misunderstanding how this whole term developed as a “right vs left” conflict in this country.

        It started as more and more right wing people (especially as the political gains from the 1960’s were being overturned) would criticize those on the left (including more people who would self identify as “liberal”) for vigilantly pointing out racist and sexist terminology by criticizing spoken and written prose containing discriminatory or oppressive language.

        Right wing critics would then tell (or openly chastise) people for being, or trying to be, too “politically correct” all the time. They would say things like, “lighten up” or “stop being so picky,” “it’s not that big of a deal,” and stop promoting some type of “left wing” or “liberal agenda” all the time.

        Due to political changes moving things in a right wing direction in this country, many left leaning people would cave into these sentiments and back off, or grovel in the face of this by saying something like “I’m not trying to politically correct here” and apologetically make their point, or back off all together.

        I believe the very best responses to this whole trend was to take it on in a very direct and unapologetic fashion by saying, “what’s wrong with being politically correct.” This flows from the correct assumption that there is such a thing as “political correctness.” Some words and ideas represent the forward motion of history, that is, trying to overcome all things oppressive, including outdated and/or oppressive language.

        And some words and ideas represent the status quo and the past, that is reinforcing and maintaining oppressive social relationships and trying to overall stop the forward motion of history. Therefore I believe WE SHOULD ALL STRIVE TO BE “POLITICALLY CORRECT” ALL THE TIME OR AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, AND NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR BEING THIS WAY.


        • Hi Richard,
          Thank you. Racism is so obviously very real and harmful, and unconscious racist bias results in overlabeling of non-whites with (invalid) illness labels, which are really forms of social control and distancing. The distancing keeps white “normal” people comfortably apart from non-whites who are believed to have a brain disease, and to come from a totally different economic and social background. I do see these things; but also think it’s very hard to quantify how much of these dynamic constantly-changing processes are due to race and how much due to other factors. It’s possible on the group level that poverty might be more important when it comes to who gets labeled; I don’t have the precise numbers to back that up, however. I think this is probably true, though, from reading John Read’s research about factors contributing to getting a severe mental illness label.

          I have a different perspective on being politically correct; I think political correctness has gone too far. We shall have to disagree a bit on that.

  24. Wow. People absolutely needed to hear this. I could quibble with this or that point (e.g. it’s not an “analogy” but historical fact) but you address many relevant points here that are crucial to developing a truly unified movement. I think the contents of the blog are too ambiguous in ways to pose in a “for or against” manner, which is part of the problem.

    The other problem right now is that this is a polemic which diverts us from the immediate task of defeating Murphy/Cures.

    • Second time through this. Richard, I’m floored by your cogent analysis, articulation of that analysis, your use of appropriate historical examples and, amidst all that cold hard objectivity, the passion you obviously put into this. Definitely worth the 3 hours. Then again, you’re an old white guy so maybe this is all just a way of denying your privilege. 🙂

  25. So, there’s only so long I can keep up this back and forth with some of you.. I’m going to go back and respond more specifically to some comments, but not all. Iden or Earl may choose to do differently. I just know I’m hitting both a time and energy limit here.

    But, several things before that…:

    1. The commenters above who are responding *negatively* are (mostly) older, (mostly… maybe all?) white, (mostly) men… Some of them have said they don’t have much time for this discussion, and then proceeded to invest an *enormous* amount of time in this discussion.

    2. The commenters above (and in my Facebook and personal world) who are responding *positively* are (mostly) women and/or queer and/or people of color… Do I think that *all* people from each of those groups will respond the same? Absolutely not. In fact, we wrote that reality right into the blog above. But… at the same time… It seems awful notable to me.

    3. I wonder what this incredible mess of a comments section would look like to a black person who just randomly wandered in here. Earl and Iden have chosen to be here in their way, and all three of us *knew* the comments section would be rough. (In fact, we did talk with the Mad in America crew before the article was published about whether or not it wouldn’t be a good idea to have *all* comments automatically set to moderate because we *all* knew it would be rough.) I *do know* that the last time I engaged in a conversation of this nature in a comments section, a black person did speak up and voice that they felt alienated by the idea of psychiatric slavery. Their concerns were basically ignored or dismissed. Haven’t seen that commenter round these parts any time recently, I don’t think.

    So, yeah, if a black person wandered in here and saw a bunch of mostly older white men feeling *so invested* in terms like ‘psychiatric slavery’ and disagreeing so vehemently (and often nastily) with the people who challenged that, and said it was not okay…

    Well, this is not to say that every black person would react or think the same about it, but is it any wonder why this movement is so damn white?

    Before you post another response about how you should get to say whatever you want, or how the black (and white) people in the room who are challenging you have no idea what they’re talking about… Just take a look around at *WHO* is posting. Especially who is posting over, and over, and over.

    Who are they? And who aren’t they making space for?

    No. No. Wait! Seriously. Give it a minute before you tell me I’m playing ‘identity politics’ or just dividing us up further. LOOK around. Who’s taking up all the space? Who are you so invested in shouting down? And who isn’t talking at all?


    • Are any of these black people you are speaking of past or present ‘slaves’? If so, I’d love to hear them speak to us from their first person ‘lived experience’ in slavery. Otherwise, why are we even having this conversation? It’s like asking how much northern European bloods flows in this or that person’s African American veins. Northern European blood is not what makes a person free either. In the case of rape, or something similar that doesn’t go by the same name, I’m sure you can find racism there, but sexual abuse occurs in mental hospitals as well, and the offenders often get off with little more than a knuckle rapping.

      An American doctor in 1851 came up with a mental disorder for slaves who tried to flee slavery, Drapetomania. Hmmm, maybe these two institutions, slavery and psychiatry, aren’t really so far apart as some of us would imagine them to be. I’m definitely not against exploring the idea.

    • I wonder what this incredible mess of a comments section would look like to a black person who just randomly wandered in here.

      Which “Black person”? No stereotypes there, huh?

  26. I agree with some of the points made in this blog, and I think that racism is important to talk about. I disagree with some of the criticisms leveled at this blog, because I find some of them to be oblivious and self-centered. That said, I think that the blog as a whole (along with many of the authors’ comments following it) is manipulative. It is manipulative because bourgeois identity politics and call-out culture are inherently manipulative. I’ve been reading along, and have been afraid to say so, because of the totalitarian nature of this “discussion,” but there it is.

  27. I just read the article and most of the comments.

    I congratulate the authors for writing it and for engaging with the comments in such an evenhanded, fair and consistent manner.

    There are some things in the article I might question or debate or suggest related areas to explore but on the whole I am impressed by the article and that it was published by MIA. Psychiatric oppression disproportionately affects people of colour but that is not reflected in the authorship of the blogs.

    Psychiatric oppression disproportionately affects poor people and marginalised groups in general. It is a kind of canary in the cage as far as oppression goes and this is definitely not reflected in the blogs.

    This blog however is about racism, a subject that at this moment in USA and European history definitely needs debating. The racist and nationalist far right is on the ascendant in both the USA and Europe.

    I echo a comment from one of the authors: how many black people and people of colour would feel welcome at MIA pages after reading these comments? The tone was overwhelmingly, “We do not want these debates here.” They were not, “How do we use these ideas, whether we agree or disagree with parts of the blog, to build a stronger movement?”

    Strong movements engage all sections of the community. That includes marginalised communities. It isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes planning, thought and continual reflection to do it well.

    I am not presently involved in any movements of any kind, anti-psychiatry or anything else. However at one time I had a job of dealing with power and privilege for a climate campaign. I gave up as the job was impossible. The group was dominated by an informal hierarchy of mainly white, age 25 – 35, upper middle class, elite university graduates and post graduates who were very keen on power and privilege providing it was seen through their lens and did not challenge their power.

    I think class intersects with race. Not in the sense that class is more important than race but rather who decides what is racist and who decides what issues are the most important to address first? Hopefully people of colour decide what is racist but I also hope that the voices of poor and working class people of colour are included in deciding what the priorities are.

    This comment maybe slightly off topic and overly influenced by my rather galling experience of trying to address power and privilege in a climate movement a few years ago.

    I hope however that after some reflection on this article and how it was received we will see more articles on racism on MIA.

    • I think you’re missing some of the undercurrents here, as there are several levels to this discussion. To conflate comments which clearly don’t recognize the underlying racist dynamic of capitalist society with others that challenge these issues from different perspectives in terms of how best to unite the movement is a recipe for confusion. It’s a no-brainer that all white people in the U.S. harbor elements of racism, even when they attempt to be anti-racist, and this should certainly not be seen as a contentious statement. FIGHTING racism involves pulling it apart from all angles, learning from history, and coming up with scientific strategies to defeat it. Saying that race and class intersect is also no-brainer, but the proponents of “intersectionality” fetishize this in a way that promotes individualism over collectivity. Various elements of oppression don’t just randomly “intersect” at points, there is a very centralized corporate power structure/dictatorship which manifests in each of these different varieties of oppression.

  28. It’s interesting that so many people are bringing up historical and non US slavery as if to say, me too. NO, not me too. As a sometime visitor to the US Im probably going to be slammed for this, but I saw racism against African Americans all the time. I was constantly uncomfortable around the continued put-downs, hostile looks, deliberately ignoring people, and aware that these good WHITE people, who paid their taxes, never committed crimes, `believed’ in universal education and human rights, never saw that they were doing it. They seemed to me to be blind to their exclusion of the `other’ as routine.
    In including historical slavery I feel people are saying, `What are you whining about? It’s not that bad, my people were conscripted, enslaved, chained to a factory machine etc and I and my family and friends have made good, why can’t you? Look what we’ve done for you etc and still you mess up.’ – Really that’s saying all over again – you’re no good because you are a lesser person. In Australia we don’t have a large minority that’s `different’. (We have the aboriginal people but like yours most were killed off and the same issues exist there but in much smaller numbers and our record stinks, too), so I don’t have the same experience of living in a dichotomised society, but I am A WOMAN. We are put down, objectified, excluded, paid less, pushed aside, discriminated against in so many ways whilst still being told we have equal rights, respect and the vote, so when I see people denying, excusing, justifying, being blind to the inherent privilege of being white skinned and/or male, no matter whether you’re in the same mental hospital or jail, I get discouraged. One thing, if black people think it’s going to change anytime soon, think again – women have always been slaves, and despite lip service, still are.

    • Again, there are different levels of discussion going on here at the same time. Many involved in this brouhaha have no argument whatever about the existence of privilege, only about how to fight it.

      Case in point — How would you feel if one of the authors put you down as a racist for saying that “women have always been slaves”?

  29. To play the devil’s advocate, as well as to highlight that critics of social justice advocates make their own valid points, I’d like to share a few conservative articles I read recently. On RealClearPolitics, I read articles from both left and right-wing writers. Here are some of the right-wing ones which are relevant to the issues of identity politics and black-white relations raised above:


    Quote: “After the Dallas shooting, Rohini Sethi, an incoming senior and the University of Houston’s vice president of the Student Government association, took to her Facebook to express her disgust after the Dallas shootings. “Forget #BlackLivesMatter,” she allegedly wrote. “More like AllLivesMatter.”
    The reaction was swift. The president of the University of Houston student body both publicly denounced her actions and suspended her…. Black Lives Matter did not simply wish to censure her speech; they threatened her. Public humiliation, shaming someone in authority who does not agree with what you say is more than abusing your position of power to curtail free speech. It’s potentially destroying someone’s life and future.”


    Quote: “Two out of three black people prefer the term “all lives matter” to “black lives matter,” according to a Rasmussen poll released Thursday. Only 31 percent of black people surveyed said that the statement “black lives matter” most closely comports to their own beliefs, compared to 64 percent who chose “all lives matter.” (The Rasmussen poll surveyed 1,000 respondents from Aug. 17-18 and has a 3-point margin of error.)

    Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley drew criticism for telling a group of Black Lives Matter protestors that “all lives matter” at an event in New Hampshire last month. O’Malley has since apologized for the claim. “That was a mistake on my part and I meant no disrespect,” O’Malley said. “I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.” GOP primary front-runner Donald Trump called O’Malley a “little, weak, pathetic baby” for apologizing.”


    Quote: “The media, which lean overwhelmingly left, and the political fraternity, with its own leftist component, don’t fool around much with narratives that contradict left-wing (aka “progressive”) essentials. Among these essentials: the conviction that American whites, having racked up a record of racial oppression, are due for a comeuppance. On such terms, a dead white cop, shot by an inner-city (or in the Harris County case, a suburban) black man isn’t half so interesting a story as an inner-city black man shot by a white cop.”


    Quote: “When the phrase “all lives matter” is seen as derogatory, the person holding that view is seriously in need of a course correction. The idea behind the position seems to be that because of victim privilege, only black people have the right to say their lives matter. Everyone else stands on a different moral plane, so that saying that their lives also matter is an affront to the priority that the victim-race must maintain…What about people who see the phrase “black lives matter” as excluding them, as if their non-black lives don’t matter? Do they have moral standing in Shep Smith’s universe? I suspect not, because such people are not anointed with the sacred status of victims.”


    I certainly don’t agree with everything in these articles. But they make points showing that any given African-American writer may not necessarily speak for most black people (a point Oldhead also made), that Black Lives Matter advocates threaten police and try to restrict the free speech of those who disagree, that whites will not respond well to being relentlessly guilt-tripped and having reparative behavior prescribed, and that overfocusing on how one is oppressed and victimized may backfire.

    These ideas are mostly politically incorrect, but hopefully MIA will allow them to stay here as an example that we still have free speech in this country. On a lot of other internet blogs, a contrary comment like this would be deleted immediately even if stemming from sincere disagreement. We’ll see if this happens here.

    • Matt

      You said: “To play the devil’s advocate, as well as to highlight that critics of social justice advocates make their own valid points, I’d like to share a few conservative articles I read recently.”

      And then at the end of your comment you added the following point: “These ideas are mostly politically incorrect…”

      You have floated out a can of worms here that seems to be testing the waters to perhaps see how much people might unite with some of these more sophisticated attacks on the BLM movement. I am confused about your agenda and asking for more clarification before I respond in a full way.

      We live in an extremely racist world and the spate of police shooting caught on video cameras (and I say “caught on video cameras” only because these kind of shootings have been going on unacknowledged in our country at a high rate since slavery) It is out of this reality that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” emerged.

      Given this political reality, I believe it is politically correct to say that any person Black or white, or from any nationality, who makes a response to the BLM movement that “All Lives Matter” is either 1) terribly ignorant of this history and/or the overall history of racial oppression in this country 2) fearful of backlash from the BLM movement (especially if they are Black) and choosing a form of conciliation to this oppressive situation, or 3) or consciously upholding, defending and/or promoting racism. Of course, the third alternative is the worst position and most politically incorrect, but the other two are not very good either.

      That is my very brief and quick response to your post. But I believe it is your responsibility since you posted these quotes to explain which parts of these analyses are partially “valid” and which “…ideas are [not] mostly incorrect.” Your willingness to more deeply explain your position could help advance this discussion on important aspects of racial politics.


      • Richard,
        I was trying to make a polemical point about free speech, to say that there are a range of ways of looking at these issues.
        No, I will not take on the job this time of going into detail about which part of each quote is “correct” or not.
        But, thank you for your sincere engagement and your genuine goodwill about all these issues, I really appreciate it.

    • Matt,

      The issue is that whether you use the term, “BLM” or all lives matter is that a huge disproportionate number of people of color are getting shot dead by police. Meanwhile, as demonstrated by I believe a 16 part series on the Democratic Underground website, confrontations with white people are solved peacefully. Sorry, I tried to find the links but couldn’t.

      Anyway, I feel we get so hung up on language that we lose track of the main issues. And before anyone criticizes me, I definitely understand why using the term, “BLM” is important. But if Martin O’Malley has spoken out against people of color being shot to death by cops in huge number (I don’t know if he has or hasn’t), isn’t that what is important?


      • AA,
        If you find that link I would be interested in seeing it.

        The police shootings are very bad; one can’t help but be aware of them.

        Nevertheless, I think even more important than police violence (which I view as an effect, not cause) is the extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunity that affects so many African-Americans. I think these economic factors, primarily lack of good education and good jobs, are the biggest underlying drivers of crime (which leads many young African-American men into confrontations with police). Without addressing these economic factors substantially, I do not see how simple changes in attitude on the part of white people will significantly impact the social problems facing minorities. Of course they are all interwound, because discriminatory attitudes from whites do affect the educational and economic opportunities of minorities. It is complicated.

        • Matt,

          I don’t know the percentages but not all African Americans shot to death by police had criminal histories. I don’t disagree that economic issues aren’t important but the issue is that many police forces are extremely racist and wlll shoot to kill and ask questions later, particularly if the folks involved are minorities.

          Ok, not the link I had in mind but here is one about police confrontations with white people being settled peacefully.


          • AA – I know this is true. Racism by police is real and it’s really bad. On the other hand, I think most police try to do a decent, fair job most of the time. We hear constantly in the media about the unfortunate (but significant) minority who are discriminating against and mistreating minorities. I think sometimes this makes things seem even worse than the are, i.e. how the media constantly focuses on what is wrong and not what’s right. However the problem is still real.

  30. Sooooooo… I took tonight off from this blog’s comment section… I’ll come back to it tomorrow.

    In the mean time, I just want to share this:

    The absolute most telling thing I’ve seen in the last 48 or so hours since this blog was released was looking at the page of someone of color on Facebook where they posted this blog, tagged many people of color, and asked them if they’d consider coming to read the comments section here and speaking up with their own thoughts and reactions. (In doing so, btw, that person did not otherwise express an opinion or ask them to say anything in particular.)

    One of them said – without (as far as I can tell) looking at the blog itself – that they’d pretty much never come to a white-led, self-absorbed (not quite the words they used, but that was the general gist) place like Mad in America, and to never ask them to do so again.

    The other person that I saw comment thus far said that they came here, started looking through the comments, and had to give up long before they got to the point of commenting because it was just too upsetting.

    Just two more voices… But, ya know. I thought it was pretty damn telling.

    See you tomorrow.

    • One of them said – without (as far as I can tell) looking at the blog itself – that they’d pretty much never come to a white-led, self-absorbed (not quite the words they used, but that was the general gist) place like Mad in America, and to never ask them to do so again.

      Why is that surprising? Many Black people would react the same way, I’m sure. Too many “white people problems,” as the SNL skits refer to them.

      The second example doesn’t “tell” much, as there’s plenty of racism and unconscious privilege reflected in the blog, enough to offend anyone. That doesn’t mean that your particular analysis is correct.

      Anyway I’m out. I decided there was no way to avoid the very ill-considered timing of this blog and I felt obligated to plunge in for a day since I knew some of this was directed at me. Tomorrow I’m back to Murphy. Focus.

      • And how many black people and people of colour, and more importantly, groups ran by and for black people and people of colour will be joining you in focusing on Murphy?

        That is a rhetorical question because we now have Sera telling us the black people have said that MIA is far too white focused for them to even look at it and some of those that did found the comments so painful to read they left without commenting.

        Once again, you may take issue with some of the points in the blog but the title itself is important if you want to achieve your aims.

        The problem the authors outline are found in most white dominated movements, not just this one.

        • One disingenuous aspect of this blog is that it takes many totally legitimate points and mixes them together with some totally specious ones. Then people who take issue with one or another of the specious ones are attacked as opposing the entire article, denying the existence of privilege, etc. The authors, especially Iden, seem to engage in what has been called the “politics of renunciation,” talking about “systems” but trashing individuals. Not trying to communicate but exuding moral superiority.

          Not sure why I’m expected to answer for MIA, I have nothing to do with its line or its policies, believe me. Also I’m not a part of the bogus “mental health “movement” Iden refers to; I wonder why he is.

          Anyway I told myself to stay away from this toxic discussion, I’m just here to post a Murphy update. 🙂

          • PS Also John, being a Brit, are a familiar with the work of Selma James, and do you have any comments about Iden basically dismissing her on the basis of being an old white woman?

  31. Iden,

    You said, “”The question to Oldhead was serious…why should a group of marginalized folks stand on the frontlines for another group of marginalized folks that have systemically oppressed them?””

    You are asking a good question but why are you making this an either or situation. The problem with doing that is why the democracy of the US is now at great peril thanks to the election of Trump. People hated Hillary so much that they couldn’t see that Trump was alot worse alternative in my opinion.

    It seems like you are doing this with the issue of racism which I am not minimizing by the way. You find it so abysmal in the “white” movements that are fighting Murphy that you seem to be forgetting that the Murphy bill is the ultimate in racism in which the policies will affect people of color extremely disproportionately.

    Again, I am not minimizing your concerns but hopefully, you understand the points I am trying to make.

  32. Well it is great to see the dialogue even if it is uncomfortable
    So many of you I respect even if I don’t see exactly eye to eye
    Like Stephan G and thanks for standing up and telling your story
    The First Nation Story is so important and many times has been neglected by all the movements
    This forum for me is my contact but I want to add just some more thoughts
    When I had my school social work placement in Alexandria the school was officially desegregated but not unofficial
    It was just a transfer of kids from one school to another with staff and faculty staying in place
    The African American and White communities all lost out especially the Blacks because any subvert strengths the community had built were made roost turvey by this change that was not really a change
    So principals in the segregated times knew families in generational terms
    If you got in trouble you would know your whole family would know
    With the transfer of students this chain of communication was broken
    I think this happened to the disability movement or maybe we should say
    American Ither Movements
    It looked and walked like a duck but no it didn’t really sound like a duck even though the power that be said it did sound like a duck and it was a duck
    Ways to make things were while making cosmetic improvements!
    The de facto tool for segregation then became reading scores
    And the used to be a white school library murals
    I was stunned all white Western European story book characters and then little black sambo in a loin cloth
    This is whatmI think from Matt and others life story
    Until you walk into that type of room and the subvert racism you just don’t no you just can’t really get it
    And the powers that be know that and COUNT on that to divide all of us others in whatever way or shape we are as other
    I worked with two outstanding actually more African American professionals in the system
    As far as I can tell they have all left my locale
    Which says what I am still left to deal with here in the rust belt ble turned red state
    The AAPsychiatristvwas the one who suggested staff try a haldil pull to see what it was like
    We were all too afraid
    How I wish he would have been around when my life was falling apart
    I think he could have helped prevent me from getting into the system but who knows?
    I also had a great supervisor but again he also left the area
    I had tried to but family in the end made it hard to leave
    How easy it is for us to digres into our own stuff
    Have to be more aware
    California and the disability and other change groups
    Here I am thinking not only of the deinstututulization movements but all that the powers that be want us to forget
    When folks are making you angry or uncomfortable remember talk and dialogue is so important and no one is perfect and we all need to have eyes wide open especially now
    They don’t want us to dialogue that don’t want us to remember they don’t want us to make overt and subvert connections
    They want us NOT talking and NOT exchanging notes
    Have to remember the long history of otherness in human history
    It’s not just our times it’s all time and maybe if the worse is here we have a chance to at the very least create a wind tunnel if change that may not be a cure all but create a new pattern of life for ALL of us

  33. Note to all!
    For a person with finger issues from drug induced Parkinsonism
    and learning disabilities
    I have many some worse than others
    My posting typos are frustrating to the max
    The edit tool is unworkable for me at times
    This is another ism that gets lost
    I survived and almost successfully adapted to so called normal life with my slew of learning disabilities
    I passed many times and made it through with the help of sometimes a kind and intelligent secretary
    With the change in paperwork and concurrent hugely massive OMG life stressors I was an accident waiting to happen and before I became an almost train wreck U tried hard not to fall of the tracks by doing yoga and meditation even when none of my friends knew what I was talking about or doing
    They had no good 360 view of me
    Many family members too or the ones that got it were either dying or in grief that family folks were dying
    So please excuse the typos
    Some things don’t make what I really wanted to say
    So make those accommodations in your way and a better editing tool someday please!
    The tw prong disability really you know what!

  34. I think that what the authors are outlining is probably common to all white dominated movements in white dominated countries.

    I live in the UK and have recently stepped back from a local environmental network for a variety of reasons. At one meeting the chair said they wanted to know why so few black and ethnic minority people came to their meetings? Sometimes this is followed up by the statement, “Don’t they care about the environment?” I would not be surprised if white psychiatric survivor activists ask similar questions.

    These are the wrong questions. My local environmental group needed to go to the Mosque, the Hindu Temple, the Pakistani, Indian, Jamaican and other ethnic minority groups and ask them what were there environmental concerns, how could we all work together and what would need to happen to enable us to work together? Specifically, what changes would the white dominated environmental group need to make in order for black and ethnic minority groups and individuals to want to participate in environmental justice issues more than they do at present.

    This blog eloquently starts by saying black and ethnic minority people are disproportionately harmed by psychiatry, just as they are by the police. This is true in the UK too. The blog then says that this movement is dominated by white people. MIA certainly is. The blog then proposes some things that might be done to enable black and ethnic minority voices to be heard.

    I see few writing that they agree with the initial premise as set out in the blog and that they want to debate the proposed solutions and suggesting other potential solutions that might be complementary or alternative. The majority of comments repeat what the blog says are the counter arguments to addressing racism and lack of ethnic diversity in this movement, ie it is important that we all pull together now, without looking at why that is not happening. Or they say we can only debate racism on, “our”, ie white people’s, terms.

    The statement in the blog, “our best efforts thus far to correct for all that (lack of black and ethnic minority people in this movement) have tended toward demands that white people make space for those who are not white at tables where we’re not even sure it’s worth having a seat” is backed up from the comments Sera wrote from black people who either looked and decided they do not want to comment or have already decided that MIA is not for them.

    If this white dominated movement wants to be more inclusive it will need to:
    1 go to black and ethnic minority groups and ask them how they experience psychiatric oppression, what are the important issues and how do they think all this needs tackling?
    2 ask black and ethnic minority groups what help can this white dominated movement offer that they would be of use to black and ethnic minority groups?
    3 ask black and ethnic minority groups what strengths do they have that they would like to contribute to this movement?
    4 ask what black and ethnic minority groups would need to participate in this white dominated movement if they wanted to?
    5 ask how we could support each other’s struggles?

    It maybe that this movement does not want to be more diverse.

    Judging from the majority of comments so far that might very well be the case.

    • Absolutely, John. (I’ve really appreciated your comments here, btw.) The image we pulled re: veganism was kind of to that point. We pulled that image from an article written by a woman who’s in Scotland.

      The point certainly isn’t that this movement is the only one that has this issue.. It’s more that we aren’t at all immune to this issue. There are signs of racism and white privilege all over our movement, and we *should* and need to be better, especially if we want to access our full power as a movement.

      • Thank you.

        I did a fair bit of training about power and privilege when I was in the Climate Campaign and I was for a while helping run a theatre based diversity training organisation. I read around the issues.

        At the very least the dominant group, and this is a white dominated movement, need to listen to black and ethnic minority and other marginalised groups if they want to be more diverse, tackle systemic racism and grow an effective movement.

    • John,

      Excellent comments and advice.

      But just because people don’t respond in the manner you think they should does not mean they don’t want the movement diversified. Just saying,

  35. Sera,

    I think you’re misunderstanding my point regarding the issue of not seeing color vs. seeing it. When I have dealt with anyone of color, of course, I don’t ignore what they are. But again, when there are issues that threaten someone’s life, like involuntary commitment and forced drugging, whether that person is white or of color, it doesn’t matter as I am concerned about the oppression.

    At the same, as I have mentioned before, I definitely understand that people of color are greatly affected a lot more by forced outpatient AOT and that needs to definitely be addressed. And I realize there are plenty of other issues in psychiatry that effect minorities than white people.

    I mean no disrespect but you seem to making the issue of racism an either or situation. I find it interesting that you criticize my “not seeing color” comment but don’t give me credit for understanding that police brutality greatly and forced outpatient AOT greatly affects minorities a lot more than white people.

    • AA,

      I think there has been a great deal of good in what you’ve said. I’m sorry that I haven’t recognized that.

      It’s not so much that I see it as an ‘either/or’ situation… As in, either you’re totally racist or you’re totally not (if that’s what you mean?)… Rather, I think it’s important to *assume* that we’ve *all* been impacted by racism the prioritization of white people’s needs, beliefs, image, etc… And that it does require a lot of attention and openness to see all the ways that that shows up in ourselves and others around us. And that being ‘good’ on one issue, doesn’t negate the possibility (the inevitably, really), that there are still other issues that need more dialogue and more openness for us to uncover…

      • Sera,

        I don’t disagree that I could be blind to other issues that I am not aware of. I just felt that criticizing me because I didn’t see color in certain situations was unfair.

        Thank you for your clarification.

    • What’s more, the police brutality issue especially makes allying with the black lives matter movement apropos. We are being accused of violence, but what about police violence? I think there is very much a double standard involved with this particular blind spot. It would seem to me that we have cause and reason to ally with black people because of pervasive sanism or mentalism in society and the world, and not to alienate and distance our civil rights movement from their civil rights movement.

      There is also the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment inspired by something Martin Luther King Jr. said. Here’s another way we might be able to work together rather than at cross purposes, and rather than presuming that psychiatric oppression was psychiatric liberation. I mean, really, not so.

      Black Pride spawned Gay Pride spawned Mad Pride. I don’t have a problem with flexing a little Mad muscle either, and showing a little Mad backbone. Mad Power, like Black Power, is not a bad thing in my book.

  36. Yes
    Go everywhere where they maybe folks open and or ready
    One of my other life stuff is car accidents and possible TB
    We were hit on Christmas Eve by a drunken driver when the kids were small
    Even now decades after it is hard to pull out the knots and tangles from just that one incident
    Go to all the places where others are at!

  37. As I was trying to explain once before, racism and slavery are not synonymous. I think the association itself is racist. There is also what is called white slavery, and it is as much slavery as black slavery. Slavery is not, in and of itself, a racial issue.

    “White slavery, white slave trade, and white slave traffic historically refer to the enslavement of Europeans by non-Europeans, as part of the Arab, Barbary and Ottoman slave trades, as well as by Europeans, such as the Vikings slaves. The term can also mean sexual slavery, including forced prostitution and human trafficking.”


    The issue is about racism and sanism/mentalism more than it is anything having to do with slavery. Slavery, in and of itself, is not a matter of race.

    • I think the authors addressed that point. Irish people found it possible to assimilate into USA culture as they are white yet Irish people were treated appallingly in the past.

      Slavery has happened all around the world and in many parts still does. However the USA experience was overwhelmingly of black people being enslaved by white people and the shadow of that experience is still being played out.

      The authors are asking for a little tact around this issue, not asking for the entire history of slavery to be ignored or eliminated.

      • Sure.

        Enslavement isn’t racist.
        Enslavement of black people, that’s racist.

        In this country there were enslaved black people up until the middle of the 19th century. Dealing with the reality of the issue, and its legacy, requires a whale of a lot of tact.

        I’ve been accused of conflating psychiatry with slavery by someone who is conflating racism with slavery. Okay. Slavery in itself isn’t racist. Psychiatry, as it is practiced today, well, is that slavery? I leave the matter with you.

  38. I am reading Rules for Revolutionaries – how big organising can change everything by Becky Bond and Zack Exley. It is an account of how part of the Bernie Sanders campaign achieved such huge number of participants.

    One chapter is called: Fighting Racism Must Be The Core For Everyone.

    this is first paragraph of that chapter:

    “If it not led by people of color and immigrants, if it doesn’t have fighting racism and xenophobia at its core, and if it is not mobilizing white people to lead other whites to choose multiracial solidarity over fear and hate – then it’s not a revolution.”

    This is the last paragraph of that chapter:

    If we do not listen to black leaders and do all these things, our revolution is doomed to fail. The literal war on black people will go on, with the body count going up everyday. Participation in a racist system will also continue to hurt white people as they prop up the elites and billionaires who use dog whistle racism to divide the working class. Starting now, we must all unite to defend black lives, or the billionaires win.”

    Replace, “Billionaires.” with, “Psychiatry and drug companies,” and then re read the title of the blog:


    and essentially you have the same argument.

  39. Iden,

    To be honest, I feel very angry at your response and perhaps it is due to my severe sleep issues.

    You said, “”My personal agenda is to ensure I speak for myself first and foremost. I don’t have the power to threaten any anti-Murphy struggle and even if I did that wouldn’t be where I would place my energy. “”

    In response, I said, “”Why wouldn’t you fight against the Murphy bill if you had the power to do so””

    Your response was “That’s not what I said.”

    I am angry because I feel your last response was a gotcha moment. If that isn’t what you said, why not clarify since my intentions were good in asking you a question instead of making assumptions. It just seems like you are assuming the worst about people instead of trying to have a dialogue with them.

    Anyway, why wouldn’t you put your efforts towards fighting the Murphy bill? An honest question.

    • My conclusion is that this whole blog is a “gotcha” moment for someone disguised as a sincere discussion. It might be telling to discover who amongst us has engaged in what sorts of anti-racist ACTIONS as opposed to talking a good game.

  40. In order to expand all of our thinking
    Looking into other histories of oppression and exclusion
    I found Vold who quotes
    Foucault in Discipline and Punish
    He -Volf suggests Foucaults idea of binary division
    Mad/Sane. Abnormal/Normal
    and talks about carceral. mechanisms
    I think
    SJustuce Sonia Sontemeyer used this concept in one of her writings
    The work is out there
    I think it behooves every person dealing with otherness to research,read,and then act. And more is better – in this incidence than one.

  41. Iden, Sera, Earl and AVoiceRaised, thank you. All of you have given voice to the unease I have felt about the racism and elitism within the anti-psychiatry movement for a very long time. For the sake of so many people still stuck in the rotten system (myself included), I hope these issues continue to be addressed so that we can produce tangible gains rather than be relegated to the dustbins of history.

  42. I really appreciated this article, and have a lot more thinking (and eventually doing) to think/do about it. Judging by the comments section, it’s provoked a lot of thought (and strong reactions) already. Not that I want to add that pile, but I do have to note that the inclusion of the “Black Tourette’s” comment struck me as pretty problematic, especially considering the context of this article and its otherwise thoroughly intersectional awareness. Just had to put that out there. Thanks again for making this article happen!

    • Thanks, Jordan.

      The inclusion of that term in such a public forum was my fault (I wrote in that part), and it had occurred to me even before your comment that I probably shouldn’t have… Although I think that it was a reflection of several people’s experiences at the time that Paolo Del Vecchio was just kind of randomly and without care throwing out the names of several black people in his speech in a way that felt chaotic and problematic, I also get that it comes across as making light of something real (Tourette’s) and using it as a joke (which is how I think it is already commonly portrayed in the media) especially when written in to such a more permanent document.

  43. Just because perhaps working in the so called “behavioral health” field is the only option you have , or feel you have , to put food on the table for YOUR FAMILY. And probably oligarch policies left only that path or paths like it open. As they also have captured countless of victims whose human rights have been confiscated ,brainwashing many as I was at one time. The facts remain electro-pharma-psychiatry grows more deadly , attacks more and more people from the cradle to the grave , is slavery, oppression, torture, pseudo science, and a hoax. Oligarch financed and applied pseudo science in many areas constitutes the greatest threat to human life on the planet. The growth of Forced-Pharma-Electro- Psychiatry now, as a waterfall of government laws mandating it threatens to move into play and to gradually engulf anyone not working compliantly as an employee of it. The engulfing is also going on with AMA so called medicine and conventional ADA dentistry. The Oligarchs Therapeutic and Free use of Deadly Chemicals State in light of growing poverty absence of Clean Food & Water,Medical ,and Health FREEDOMS is being used to control and cull , and drug the population of people keeping us in a weakened state. Anti- Psychiatry is only part of the solution .Working together while leading ourselves regardless of who we are is also a part. So is accurate information.Read Edwin Black’s book” War Against The Weak” and Bonnie Burstow’s book” Psychiatry And The Business OF Madness”. Help each other out whenever needed whenever possible . Our only help may be each other .

  44. Still at it I see. If people put this kind of energy into actual organizing we might all be in a different place right now. Anyway here’s what’s going on in the Murphy department:


    TIM MURPHY has put out a last minute press release: https://iqconnect.lmhostediq.com/iqextranet/view_newsletter.aspx?id=154368&c=PA18TM
    He and six or so key legislators who have been pushing the various “Murphy” bills are holding a special meeting at 2:30 pm today to push it some more on fellow senators as they rush to ram the 21st Century Cures package down people’s throats.

    It’s unclear whether a vote will follow immediately but we should proceed as though it will. And since the Murphy component of “Cures” is getting an extra push it would help to give it an extra push BACK. Hence, this is the consensus of the best available minds as of midnight: 🙂

    Call BOTH your Senators BEFORE NOON TODAY. Tell them to OPPOSE THE 2!ST CENTURY CURES ACT BEING APPENDED TO H.R. 34. FURTHER, tell them you want MURPHY’S SO-CALLED “MENTAL HEALTH” PROVISIONS FROM HR 4626 REMOVED from the “Cures” package. (You don’t have to say “so-called” but I will.)

    Fidel Vive!

  45. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this article applies to this conversation. Not that I’m all that enamored of ‘Salon’ as a source.


    O, and reading thru the thread (a slog) I ran into this comment by Iden:
    “You said it. Your words carry more weight than mine…right? I’m just a lone Black voice.”

    When I hear/read stuff like that, it just gets my back up. Poor poor you. Perhaps this blog, the timing, the personalities involved was not well thought out or the right people employed. You are not going to win minds with the anger you so vehemently display here. I do not deny that there is systemic racism in *all realms* of public/private life by those of us who make up ‘Western Civilization’, and I don’t mind being called out on offensive behavior and asked to correct my ‘attitude’…but when those who are trying to do the correcting have obvious attitudes themselves…it does not serve you or your message.

    There is great suffering in the world. Let’s just try to be kind, huh? I have learned in the last 3 years of my PAWS experience a little saying, “it is better to be kind than to be right”…how do *YOU* want to be remembered?

    • Humanbeing

      You are making some excellent points here about the major problems with the political content of this blog and the feelings it has aroused at MIA.

      The authors of this blog stated that their intention was to increase diversity and inclusion at MIA by creating a more favorable environment for people of color to participate at MIA and in the movement against psychiatric oppression. THE OVERALL EFFECT OF THIS BLOG AND THE WAY THE AUTHORS HAVE CONDUCTED THEMSELVES IN THE COMMENT THREAD HAS DONE JUST THE OPPOSITE.

      The following quote from the above article you referenced does have direct bearing on this blog:

      “This illustrates the real problem with modern liberalism. Not that it is too preoccupied with promoting diversity or ending all forms of discrimination — there is really no disagreement on the left that these are vitally important goals — but that these efforts and achievements are often used to mask or divert attention from the deeper structural problems of our economic and political systems.”

      While I don’t support the purpose of the above Solon article in terms of its attempts to rescue the Democratic Party, I believe there is important truth in understanding the dangers of “Identity Politics” in all radical movement for change.

      I have made some serious and respectful efforts to point out important problems with this blog (see all my prior comments) and they have been met with complete disdain and derision, that is, absent of any real critical appraisal by its authors. All I received (and other blog critics as well) was more “Identity Politics” as a justification for dismissing all criticism.

      And when I called out one of the author’s comments where I was denigrated (following what now appears to have been patronizing praise) and essentially called a racist who is “dismissing and denouncing other voices” at MIA, what did I hear back? – SILENCE!

      This is hardly an example of principled debate and discussion at MIA, and represents a prime example of where “Identity Politics” will take things at MIA if it is allowed to continue unchallenged.

      Huambeing, thanks for the courage of your comments.


      • I disagree with your second paragraph.

        I do not think the author’s blog or the way they answered comments reduced the diversity of commentators to MIA.

        The comments looked about as diverse as the rest of MIA, if anything I thought they were slightly more diverse.

        The authors are three people. The staff, bloggers and commentators also have power on this issue.

        Can I presume that you would like MIA to be more diverse in it’s contributors and commentators? If so do you have suggestions on how to do that?

        I ask as I hear hardly any of the people who are critical of the blog saying the agree with the basic premise and have other suggestions on how to make MIA and this movement more diverse.

        • I don’t know what the basic premise even is. It’s a hodgepodge. And as is becoming increasingly clear, and as staff have been keen to point out recently, the interests of the movement and those of MIA are not necessarily the same. It may soon be time for a formal separation. (None of this is directed at Bob W btw.)

    • humanbeing,

      There is a common trap left to lie for those of us who are speaking of systemic oppression from the vantage point of first-hand experience. I have been called out more than once for speaking out about misogyny and sexism in this movement, and *I* have been painted as the problem… Not the man about whom I was speaking (and I wasn’t swearing, or calling names… simply stating clearly that I would not work with a certain person and why, in one situation that comes to mind) who has explicitly done things that have hurt women. But, me for calling them out. Because I didn’t do it in a way that was most palatable for some in the group who was hearing it. (And, honestly, I’m not sure anything would have been palatable other than silence.)

      I have also been the person who was told that I spoke up in a way that couldn’t be heard by providers about psychiatric oppression… That maybe even that term is too harsh for their ears. That it’s great when I tell my story, but that it might be too much ( at least too much too fast) to actually expect them to effect some sort of change after I share some of the most intimate details of painful periods of my life.

      And – on the other side of things – at times, I’ve *been* the person who looked at some of the chalk drawings on my college campus’s walkways written out by the local LGBTQQI* community and said, ‘That seems a little too extreme They’re never going to get their message across if they say it like that.’ And, I’ve felt similarly in the past about some of the anti-racism actions I’ve witnessed. ‘Is inconveniencing people really the best way to get heard?’

      So, yeah, I’ve been on *both* sides, including the side you seem to currently be sitting on – where you’re telling Iden that he’s (we all are) being too angry to deserve to get heard. I can tell you, though, that I don’t feel proud about the examples of myself that I offered above. Because – while I do think there’s different best approaches for different situations – I also think it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. And, perhaps, more over, I think it makes sense that people *ARE* angry!

      Hell, Iden is the *only* black person who’s been responding consistently on a thread that now has over 300 comments, many of them being ones that reportedly feel quiet upsetting and offensive to several people of color (and others!). How long is he expected to tolerate that and not sound at least a little bit upset or irritated? What about all the other people who’ve sounded a little upset or irritated on this thread? Has that not bothered you?

      We simply *can’t* say, hey, come, non-white person, into this white world we’ve created here, offer up your thoughts, let us tell you how wrong you are, share your experiences and feelings openly, but could you do it *perfectly* (as defined by us)… and, please, don’t get upset, keep your voice down, stay calm(er than we’re expected to)… Or else we’ll have *another* way to discredit you.

      Well, I guess we can… But where it gets us certainly isn’t change.

      • You’re asking why aren’t other Black readers rising in Iden’s defense? Maybe they don’t agree with his approach, or his identification with psychiatry. Should they now be shamed as well? There are enough people here who recognize racism and privilege to support sincere efforts to encourage more diverse participation at MIA.

        However — and I don’t know which of you to primarily address this to — is the degree of diversity measured by counting the Black faces besides the comments (as seems to be the current practice)? Or is it measured by a level of commentary and analysis which is not condescending, speaks to the needs of the Black working class, particularly, and makes the discussion relevant to lives and the aspirations of the masses? I believe that “if you build it ‘they’ will come.”

        Anger isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution. But knowing where to direct it and how to use it is vital.

  46. I don’t buy the argument that is being made here. It’s alright to speak of rape by the psychiatric system, but it is not alright to mention psychiatric slavery. Coercive non-consensual psychiatry just like coercive non-consensual sex is coercive and non-consensual. There are enough women that see the parallel between psychiatry and rape to make this kind of connection without being challenged. Rape, sexual assault, sexual slavery, no problem there, especially as real rape all too often takes place in such institutions. However if you’ve got a mental health cop challenging any comparison between the institutions of psychiatry and slavery, we’ve got to check our language because this mental health cop happens to be black. I’d rather see a black activist take on the issues instead. We need more black activists in our movement. We can do a lot better without the language police. They just don’t help our cause if that cause be the cause of freedom and liberation.

  47. There have been several comments here and on Facebook from people who are saying there is no ‘movement’ or that there are multiple movements. I’ve said the latter, at times, myself… but I wanted to take a moment to say overall that this feels a disingenuous argument, at least here.

    Iden and I do – I think – disagree on language to some extent. I don’t use language such as ‘mental health movement’ (or ‘peer movement,’ or ‘recovery movement,’ etc.), and if I do speak about movements, it’s usually without any specific title, or ‘human rights movement,’ or (occasionally) ‘psych survivor movement’…

    However, I think it’s disingenuous to go too far down that path here for two reasons.

    1. It strikes me as silly to say that there is not a movement… When many of us are on the same email lists and list servs, when many of us go to conferences and see the same people (or know the same people who aren’t there because they disagree with the conference’s existence or what have you), when so many of us recognize each other’s names even though no one outside of this ‘movement’ would and even though we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, when – whether or not we agree – so many of us are familiar with the same ‘in’ language and warring perspectives and common points made within each…

    I don’t want to be associated with a movement that promotes ‘peer’ roles over understanding and undoing psychiatric oppression, or talks about ‘mental illness’ as a global truth, or wastes time on ‘stigma’ campaigns… My personal perspective tends to resonate most strongly with those of you who are talking almost entirely from an oppression/liberation point-of-view. AND, I know there’s still a movement. It’s a movement (or smaller, fractured, somewhat interconnected movements, if you prefer) that has dark and co-opted pieces to it… A movement that I think is largely failing. And many people with whom I *refuse* to unify because unity strictly for the sake of numbers, and with no attention to integrity seems like a failure all on its own…

    But, to say there is nothing… just seems so strange to me.

    2. This feels like a point of distraction to me. So often, when the topic of racism comes up, people look for other topics to bring in… And this feels like an example of that to me. A way to be talking about something else. And whether that’s the intent or not (unconscious or not), it is the impact. I understand why it might be important for people to name that they do not see Alternatives as ‘the movement’ or that it is a co-optation of the movement… Fine. I see it as a broken, co-opted piece myself, but also one where I might be able to go in and share information with people stuck there who don’t know there’s anything else. We can argue another time whether I’m wasting my time, and whether that’s good or bad.

    But meanwhile, that very same section that talks about Alternatives *also* talks about a blog by David Oaks, co-founder of Mindfreedom who is engaged in pretty much the same practice. And, Frank, that’s actually where I met you. At a Mindfreedom conference. So, presumably you don’t dismiss them as at least connected to the movement you’re a part of?

    So, in the end, I think there’s value to piecing out some aspect of this ‘what movement’ conversation, but this is a blog about racism… and how it has been maintained throughout *all* pieces of *all* movements connected in any way to this issue, and how we’ve really failed at making spaces and conversations that are accessible to people of color.

    I’m hoping that people can put this ‘movement’ conversation aside for the most part, while we talk about that.

    • Sera

      You are correct to point out that there is a “movement” (against psychiatric oppression is how I choose to label it) with all its many divergent political trends and contending elements.

      However, a more serious problem at this particular moment in the discussion IS NOT those people denying that there is a “movement,” instead, it is those people declaring or implying that this “movement” is “RACIST,” and then using “Identity Politics” as its main means to justify such an analysis.


      • Richard,

        I can see that you are very upset with me at the moment. For what it’s worth, my initial thoughts about you weren’t made up or simply to appease you. I’ve seen you challenge yourself and the approach the work you do with great seriousness and care.

        But, I’m also not going to cave here. I think your insistent focus on ‘identity politics’ is a problem that comes across as a dismissal, much like the ‘political correctness’ accusation. But, I’ve said this before.

        One thing I perhaps haven’t said before – or at least in this particular way is this: People in this comments section seem to be taking some of this very personally, and hearing me and some others as if we are saying ‘YOU ARE A RACIST.’ And, that’s not quite exactly what’s being said. At least by me.

        Racism is about systems… Systems that are developed and defined by and for those in power, which results in some of us having privilege that others don’t have because we fit (or are closer to) the image of those by whom the system was designed. I imagine I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before, and I could go deeper into it, but instead let me say this:

        While I *am* absolutely saying this movement is just as racist as any other that exists within this nation, that’s a bit different than calling particular people out as ‘racist’. I’ve heard others frame it as ‘every white person is racist,’ but I guess I would tend instead to say ‘every white person has benefited somehow from the privilege that comes with being white, and has participated in some way in perpetuating that structure, even if only by not acknowledging or working to change it.’

        But not saying that straight out allows for space for it to all continue on unchecked. I pointed out the same dynamics in relation to sexism and the movement with my ‘Dear Man’ blog. I can’t recall if you commented on that one. Did you read it and have the same reaction?

        You are pointing the finger and me, Iden and Earl for ‘identity politics’ and behaving poorly throughout this whole comment thread. I am pointing the finger at how we have all been together, at the reality that this movement *is* extremely white and that that doesn’t seem to be changing.

        You seem to be blaming me and my co-authors for setting up the dynamic that has shut down this conversation, but it just seems so strange to me that you’d feel in a position to place that blame when everyone I’m aware of that is a person of color that has had a reaction to this blog (certainly more than Earl and Iden at this point) is reacting to what is being posted in the comments section by a series of white men.

        Does that mean you are ‘racist’ for disagreeing? No. Not exactly. It’s not that simple. But I do think that you and others here have substantially contributed to the perpetuation of keeping this a space that feels most comfortable to white people.


        • I think your insistent focus on ‘identity politics’ is a problem that comes across as a dismissal


          HIS insistence??? All he did was point out YOUR insistence on this approach.

          I pointed out the same dynamics in relation to sexism and the movement with my ‘Dear Man’ blog. I can’t recall if you commented on that one.

          Uh, hello…If you recall I was in frequent and near total support of everything you said in that blog. But you take some of the same principles and interpret them here in convoluted ways, most glaringly by trying to shut down discussions of psychiatry vis. a vis. slavery (which is mislabeled an “analogy”) based on the contention that it “upsets” some people. (Marx’s analysis of capitalism upset a lot of people too, as did the theory of heliocentrism.)

          Moreover you want to prohibit slavery “comparisons,” which is even more absurd. Look up the difference between “compare” and “equate.” I can compare a fish to a frog and observe similarities and differences; that doesn’t mean I consider fish and frogs to be the same. Likewise with slavery and psychiatry. When people cite similarities between different forms of slavery I would guess they would focus on dynamics, such as total control, more than the specific methods by which those dynamics are enforced. This doesn’t mean that I agree with all the arguments being made here on this, and certainly would never question the multi-generational repercussions of slavery. Still the way to resolve these issues is not to simply suppress the discussion.

          I recently heard someone say that when people have difficulty expressing what they mean it’s because they haven’t fully thought out what they’re talking about. I think it makes a lot of sense.

        • You are pointing the finger and me, Iden and Earl for ‘identity politics’ and behaving poorly throughout this whole comment thread. .

          OMG you actually said that. The old white guy won’t behave. Maybe he’s senile. Just like Iden disses the old white woman who has contributed more to the struggle in her time than he and you combined likely ever will at this rate. Amazing how ageism never seems to cross these “intersections.” And how, just like all our parents always said at one point in our lives, “young people like to believe they know everything.”

          I am pointing the finger…at the reality that this movement *is* extremely white and that that doesn’t seem to be changing.

          How about that. I hate that thing about “the definition of insanity” being to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. But maybe it applies here.

        • Sera

          So I will raise the question again, is the movement against psychiatric oppression RACIST?

          You are still implying by your above comment that this is the case when you made the following statement:

          “While I *am* absolutely saying this movement is just as racist as any other that exists within this nation, that’s a bit different than calling particular people out as ‘racist’.”

          So what is it? Is the main aspect of its presence (the movement against psychiatric oppression) in the real world to sustain and promote the existence of racism?

          OR is it MORE CORRECT to say that the movement against psychiatric oppression (which contains many different trends and political currents) is a VERY POSITIVE historical development that unfortunately contains many of the same forms of racism that pervades our society, and they need to be seriously addressed as part of the overall struggle.

          The position that over emphasizes the racist character of the movement against psychiatric oppression, is once again promoting an “Identity Politics” political line and assessment of the current situation. This line is ultimately divisive and holds back the overall political struggle, AND actually undermines the necessary efforts to confront examples of racism within the movement.

          And finally Sera, am I a RACIST? You have not retracted your denigration of me and my participation at MIA. In the above comment you said:

          “Does that mean you are ‘racist’ for disagreeing? No. Not exactly. It’s not that simple.”

          Well what is it? You need to be held accountable for those words that carry with them the utmost of heavy negative implications in today’s world.

          Are you capable of self criticism? Are you going to hold onto to some of your harmful words and negative viewpoints to “the death,” as you have accused those of us who have dared to wage political debate around these critical questions?

          No, I am NOT free of racist thinking. But I would like to believe that my behavior in the world AND the words I write on the internet are working towards making the the world a better place for humanity to be free of all forms of oppression and exploitation. That is what I aspire to with the best of my ability. ” The proof is in the pudding” as they say, so I guess it will be for others to make the final assessment over The Long March.


    • and a discussion, Sera, on why this movement is almost entirely white and what can be done to widen its demographics is a really important part of movement building.

      Whatever it is that people are defending themselves from in the comments on this blog has meant that this central question is avoided.

      That kind of reflects where I was in the climate campaign I mentioned above where I was supposed to be dealing with power and privilege and ended up giving up.

      Please don’t give up. I hope that because there are three of you who wrote the article, that a few comments have been supportive and that MIA staff approved of the article that you will not.

    • Is it possible that do to the prejudice felt by so many in our society and the hugh amount that still exists that all kinds of people who have felt its oppression including myself as a Jewish man perhaps not to the degree that POC and others etc. have been subjected to in present day America . Is it not true many POC and others do not want to be identified as having been diagnosed on top of the prejudice that they already get and would not want to speak of it here on MIA or any other public place because it could more negatively impact various opportunities in their lives. Also that many POC and others work in the “Mental Health” and ‘nursing home’ or AMA Health field and they see discussions exposing psychiatry for the hoax that it is and talk of anti -psychiatry as a threat to their incomes or a threat to any family members they have that have been captured by the Electro Pharma Psychiatric Industrial Complex? I know as a person 69 years old who has never all my life hid that I have been in mental institutions and have escaped many times from them what a price there is to be paid in lost opportunities . The record follows me around anyways . Besides I’m of the Bob Dylan school of “watch your parking meters don’t follow leaders”. I’m of the middle ground of “neither a leader nor a follower be “. I’ve experienced enough in life to know for a fact that no human being is infallible.I try as best as I can to think for myself while I do study idea’s from the wisest people I can find . Sorry I don’t find totally accurate information on where racism is or is not from the writers of this blog . Blanket accusing everyone , then dictating mandatory conditions , implying then we can work together in great numbers . Frankly I don’t believe it , nobody will ever lead me but myself , I don’t and cannot trust people I never met and have spent time with but I’m brave enough to try and be of help to my fellow human being without asking them for money.My experience in life is vast and nobody can make me believe it’s irrelevent and that all of a sudden as someone whose saved people of color lives and had my life saved by people of color that I’m some kind of racist .I guess I’ve said enough.

    • Most “movements,” as you describe the term here, do have progressive and backward wings. But there are some lines as to what constitutes a movement. A group of abortion opponents would not align with a group of pro-choicers and call themselves the “fetus movement.” Likewise an organization set up to preserve the interests and practices of psychiatry cannot be “one part” of the anti-psychiatry movement. Further, while racism affects ALL PEOPLE, hence all movements, I would expect there to be a qualitatively greater degree of racial blindness exhibited by those who are also blind to the inherent and innate oppressiveness of psychiatry. However there’s no magic elixir; all white people in the US harbor ingrained racism whether they like it or not.

      • Oldhead and others

        On the question of how do we characterize “THE MOVEMENT?”

        I believe there is a broad based movement, that on various levels, is fighting multiple aspects and forms of psychiatric oppression.

        Many people caught up in and/or working in the “mental health” system as peers etc. might not view this as a struggle against *psychiatric” oppression but just see many things wrong with the way people are being treated on a day to day basis by some psychiatrists and other “mental health” workers in the System

        We (activists) know by analyzing history and the particular role of psychiatry in the real world, that it is, in fact, correct to label this as *psychiatric* oppression.

        Of course, not everyone fighting *psychiatric oppression* is anti-psychiatry at this time, that is, wanting the institution of psychiatry to go out of existence and placed in the dust bin of history with other formerly oppressive institutions.

        And of course there are still some radical activists who still believe that Psychiatry can be reformed and tweaked in a way that would make it an institution worth preserving in the world. We need to wage political struggle, over the long haul, to convince them and others that preserving Psychiatry WILL NOT serve the best interests of humanity and WILL NOT lead to the total dismantling of today’s “mental health” system.

        So I would say that those of us who ARE *anti-psychiatry* represent the LEFT WING AND MOST RADICAL SEGMENT of the overall *movement against psychiatric oppression.*

        I hope this is a clear presentation of my thoughts on this subject and brings more clarity about how we should discuss and characterize *THE MOVEMENT.*


        • Dunno. Those who have actively worked to destroy the movement by forming faux organizations which rip off its symbols and slogans (there is documentation of this) do not count as part of “the movement” in my book. Those who have fallen under their spell (such as Iden, apparently) are not “enemies” of the movement but their ability to effect meaningful change is compromised, to say the least.

          However I am aware that Iden is probably unaware of the actual movement, which is certainly not his fault, however I do think he should read up.

      • humanbeing,

        I wonder why you think that all the steps toward unification must *look* like unification along the way? Doesn’t every such process – if there’s any honesty to it – also require a painful process of naming what’s wrong, what’s been hurtful, what needs to change first? And when that happens, how often is that not – at least at first – met with defensiveness and anger?

        I went into this with absolutely no expectation that everyone would be happy and unified at the end. I went into it because these problems aren’t being openly named, and our movement is not just ignoring but perpetuating them. I went into this with the hope that at least we might play some role in bringing that more to light. It would have been great if it had gone better, but this is a necessary step and I feel like we have successfully been a part of taking it.

        • Sure, Sera. But I’m not sure why *you* can’t see how whatever ‘unity’ there was in the ‘movement’ has been served by the attitudes demonstrated not only in the article itself (the tone is decidedly hostile), but the response by the authors to the commenters. Believe me, I’m scratching my head wondering how I came to the position here on this blog where I’m actually agreeing with oldhead and Richard-I have had many differences with them in the past (the ‘Dear Man blog). I’m not smart enough to do an analysis comparing the 2 blogs, but surely there’s someone out there who can name where this blog went wrong–or is it me and the nature of the issue?
          Of course we should all check ourselves and be sensitive to the feelings of disempowered of fellow participants. Isn’t that just part of being a caring human being? (‘scuse the joke) You’re right that the ‘leadership’ of most political/social justice (cringing on that term) inevitably is run by white males. But I think the analogy that Frank made above about rape/psychiatric rape is somewhat comparable. As a person who has been raped, it bothers me not the use of the term with regards to psychiatry.
          It’s the tone here. You are asking us to examine the role of racism in our ‘movement’…you are telling us that some poc are not being heard or having room made for them. The same could be said for women and poor people too, right? But it’s the way you all have said it. It feels divisive and authoritarian. It makes me want to rebel.

          Maybe someday I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with blinding insight as to what it is you all thought you were getting at when you wrote this, and I’ll be duly enlightened and even, perhaps, figure out a way to explain it to others in a less hostile way.

          Or maybe not, since I was born a white female in a relatively prosperous 1st world (that’s up for debate, too) country.

          We are all in this thing together. I don’t know how to facilitate the evolution of attitudes we as a specie need to make in order to honor ourselves and the other people and life around us. It may be asking too much. We are just silly, imperfect human beings (joke again), an evolutionary experiment, bumbling along the best we can with no predetermined outcome. Again, for me, myself, my ‘activism’ is ultra local. And I see progress being made on the fronts I chose to engage.

          • Sera and Humanbeing

            Just to clarify some history here. Both Oldhead and myself were overall very supportive of your “Dear Man” blog , especially, Oldhead (who was way more active in his support than myself).

            Where Humanbeing and I (and Oldhead as well) clashed (in an overall respectful way, I might add) was over a Benzo blog. There were some themes there pertaining to us being men (and in the view of some commenters we were attempting to take over or overshadow) a blog written and supported mainly by women.


          • I don’t recall the nature of your (or oldhead’s) participation, Richard, so I personally was not attempting to make any references to it (or any specific person). When I speak about that blog, it is primarily to point out that it followed a very similar course to this one in the comments section overall.

          • Sera

            I believe that one of the main reasons that people have felt “fearful,” “defensive,” and/or even “beaten down” from this blog is because of the way that its heavy dose of “Identity Politics” created a climate of “no right to speak” UNLESS you have the correct “Identity,” and/or are in COMPLETE agreement with the blog’s definition of racism.

            Sort of like, “Listen Up ALL You White People and Closet Racists – Up Against the Wall M$%%##F%$#&!. We own the historical rights to the slavery moniker. And any white person who has used this analogy (in the struggle against psychiatric oppression) in the past was acting as a racist AND anyone who uses it in the future will be declared a racist. And if anyone dares to disagree or criticize this position you are MOST DEFINITELY harboring racism and keeping POC from ever coming to the MIA website.”

            And then when people felt threatened by these demands and the overall verbal assault (that slammed them up against the proverbial wall) many commenters began to debate and struggle back out of fear and anger at these so-called racist charges and form of labeling. Some commenters (in this emotionally charged situation) now expressed words and beliefs (at times) that either showed ignorance about the history of racism and/or reflected a few common racial stereotypes. And BTW, I did try myself to address some of those more backward comments.

            It was then that some of the authors went into full blown “GOTCHA” mode. “AHA, WE KNEW THERE WERE SOME RACISTS HERE AND THIS ONLY PROVES OUR POINT!” This whole blog process comes across as a set up to bait and/or push people into the shadow part of their belief system. Yes, we need to take a cold hard look at these shadows but This is DEFINITELY NOT the way to challenge people or educate them about racism.

            All the valid criticisms of the blog were outright dismissed and the authors then proceeded to doubled down on those parts that were way off the mark. This was unfortunate because there was some very important issues regarding racism in this blog that very few people have discussed or debated because it was dominated by a negative core of “Identity Politics” and the over emphasis on the slavery analogy being THE dividing line question. BTW, the authors made this there the very first “STOP IT” demand to lead off the overall topic and set a negative tone that undercut healthy discussion.

            And it is important to note that there were some quite defensive responses from the authors who revealed several less than principled ways of conducting political struggle, including outright backward statements. Such as the following:

            “My personal agenda is to ensure I speak for myself first and foremost. I don’t have the power to threaten any anti-Murphy struggle and even if I did that wouldn’t be where I would place my energy.”

            Here is a classic example of “Identity Politics” making this a “Black vs. white” issue, and NOT making use of a CLASS ANALYSIS and seeing the material basis in the world for POC to seek ways to unite with the vast majority of white people (and vice versa) around a common struggle against the Murphy Bill. That is, even unite with white people knowing that many still harbor some deeply embedded forms of racist thinking, and probably will for many decades especially, unless and until, there is an overall Revolutionary change in society.

            Sera, for you to have NOT corrected or challenged Iden about this comment back to Oldhead, (and then questioned in several comments by AA and others) – this has unfortunately placed your co-author in a very uncomfortable position.

            In this situation it is interesting that we have a white person cheering on and encouraging her POC collaborative writers to freely run into the storm (so to speak) with more and more “Identity Politics” which will only lead to inflaming the climate and ultimately (and unnecessarily) casting them in a unfavorable light for some readers. This does NOT create favorable conditions for POC to participate here, nor for anyone else participating from that perspective.

            Sera, I hope you will reconsider your role in this blog and the best ways to fight racial oppression, especially how it manifests itself in the movement against psychiatric oppression. I appreciate the way you’re willing to put yourself out there with the hottest controversies, but this can be the territory where mistakes are most likely to be made. I hope we can all learn something important from this painful chapter.

            I realize that for Iden this whole blog topic and process (especially being one of the few POC writers here at MIA and thus unfairly being put in the position of trying to represent a so-called POC perspective) has been extremely difficult and untenable position, and perhaps if he had time to reconsider (in a less stressful environment) what was wrong with the above comment he would change his position. (there are other similar positions that unfortunately developed in a similar manner).

            I know just how difficult it can be to defend controversial blogs. I some times freak out from the pressure when I have written hot topic blogs, and I don’t have to deal with the whole racial issue. I want to learn more from Iden and Earl in future blogs and I’m hoping the discussion of this process will help create more favorable conditions for this to happen.

            As I said in prior comments, I will always be extremely careful when using the slavery analogy as it applies to fighting psychiatric oppression or other forms of oppression in our society. But NO ONE owns the right to use this term or analogy. And when it is misused or trivialized it then becomes a great opportunity to educate people about the true horrors and legacy of slavery in America; I will try to be a part of that process.

            I know that this discussion has caused me to reconsider the more trivial ways I have used the analogy in my everyday life, such as using humor and sarcasm with a friend by saying “I’m not your slave” when they want me to do their share of work responsibility. Or “I’ve been slaving all afternoon on this job” etc., etc. We all must carefully review our use of many forms of racially infused language.

            I hope we can find a way through this struggle to start over on better footing and create more favorable conditions to conduct these much needed discussions about racial oppression and the best way to replace the economic and political system that both engenders and thrives on racial oppression and class divisions in our society.


          • Believe me, I’m scratching my head wondering how I came to the position here on this blog where I’m actually agreeing with oldhead and Richard-I have had many differences with them in the past (the ‘Dear Man blog).

            Ouch. I’ve always considered you to be an ally on most things and have particularly respected your courage and willingness to call out Zionism AND Hillary in the midst of a tsunami of liberalism. So pray tell, what are you referring to? Maybe you should check the Dear Man blog again.

          • I don’t recall the nature of your (or oldhead’s) participation

            That’s hard to believe. I urge you to re-read it (and to recall our email exchanges in which I offered you some tactical suggestions).

  48. Sera

    I think Matt’s content here is problematic. It’s Richard’s and oldhead’s responses to you/Iden that I’m finding myself in agreement with.

    I *do* think you are not as familiar with the political blogs/information that I seem to share with them, or the criticisms of what passes these days as ‘liberal’/progressive positions. It’s all become dilute with the entrenchment of neoliberalism. ‘Identity Politics’ is a tool used by neoliberalism to divide and conquer. Surely you’ve heard of the circular firing squad??? Capitalism is the problem overriding all other concerns.

    Of course I related better to the “Dear Man” blog entry. I still maintain there is some difference, other than the targeted audience, between these two articles–what is it you want a person to take away from this article? To capitalize ‘Black’? To not use the term ‘psychiatric slavery’? To endow poc’s with authority and give them power in whatever group dynamic I’m also involved in? How can I do that when I don’t have those things, either? I *can’t* take on someone else’s experience or history…all I can do is listen and empathize and support them if I see them being mistreated. And why would I want to do that if they’re hostile to me?

    I am just one person living in a rather isolated area with not a lot of access to political power, not unlike most disenfranchised poor people.

    We don’t seem to be getting anywhere here. We are just entrenching ourselves into our dogma, thus achieving the goal the people in power hoped for. Complete deadlock, and ineffective.

    • Humanbeing,

      I wonder where we’d be able to get if we did the following:

      If a black person or other person of color says, “Hey, it hurts in a deeply personal way when you say that” [e.g., psychiatric slavery] or “it feels like you don’t see me when you say that,” [e.g., color blind] or “that’s a misuse of my (or another person of color’s) words or culture” [e.g., appropriation of MLK’s quotes, etc.], and a white person simply said, “Okay. Thank you for letting me know. I won’t do that again.”

      And if people who are not female-identified could similarly listen to those who are, and respond similarly when it comes to what it’s like to be a woman in this world…

      And if people who haven’t experienced psychiatric oppression could similarly listen to those who have, and respond similarly when it comes to what it’s like to be psychiatrized in this world…

      And so on. Where would we be then? Because that’s one of the central, underlying points of this blog, and the railing of so many white people against it is kind of exactly the opposite.

      • Yeah, I get that. Thanks for putting it in a way that I can hear. But, really? No MLK quotes? I’m forbidden to admire and look up to MLK and Malcolm and Che and Sitting Bull etc etc — I am forbidden to quote them? That’s going a little too far imnsho.

        • Nah, it’s totally not ‘no MLK’ quotes. A co-worker of mine, Caroline, took me on a lengthy walking tour of DC, and one of my favorite parts was the MLK monument and looking at all the quotes. He’s said *lots* of *great* things.

          The *problem* isn’t quoting him overall… It’s that Paolo (in the example in the blog) took his quote and warped it into something it was never meant to say… Or that David Oaks used his words to apply to mostly white groups and than suggested those mostly white groups were what MLK envisioned which again seemed at least a bit appropriative…

          In addition to that, there is a certain trend to almost only and ever quote MLK when one wants a quotable black person (which seems either representative of substantial lack of exposure to black history and the many people of color who’ve said important things and/or that MLK said things in ways that are more palatable to white people than some others might have), so it does feel important to broaden our knowledge and exploration of quotable people… But I don’t think anyone’s saying MLK is off limits entirely if you’re white.

        • Humanbeing and Sera

          The part of this blog that dealt with “appropriation” went over the edge on this question. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with quoting Black writers/ Revolutionaries etc. who have said something profound and meaningful.

          The key question is what quotes are being used AND MOST IMPORTANTLY for what political purpose are they being used. In other words, where (and what political direction) is the author using the quote trying to take his/her readers or listeners. Is the particular quote supporting an ideology and strategy (or a particular movement) for the advancement of the cause of freedom and overall less pain and strife for ALL of humanity, OR is its purpose to support the status quo and hold back the forward direction of the struggle against all forms of oppression?

          To characterize the issue of white people quoting Black people as MAINLY a form of “appropriation,” WITHOUT EMPHASIZING THE ESSENTIAL POLITICAL CONTENT AND PURPOSE OF THE PERSON DOING THE QUOTING, is to once again fall into a form of *Identity Politics* where it now becomes an issue of “Black vs. white” instead of , let’s say, Reformism vs. Revolution.

          In the main example used in the blog to support the case for “appropriation,” it is most likely that the authors are against the direction that the speaker (using the quote) wants to take the struggle. That is the main issue to be emphasized in one’s criticism of the speaker NOT the issue of a white person quoting a Black person.

          The best way to expose this is to say, for example, “Malcolm X said those words advocating for …..(this kind of radical change etc etc.), you are using those same words to justify conciliation with the System… etc. etc. Stop appropriating and twisting the words of Black Revolutionaries to promote and your agenda of defending the status quo…. etc. etc.”

          Yes, there are examples where white people are obsessed with only Black culture and fail to fully understand the historical nature of racial oppression, and from exactly what human living conditions this culture arose out of and why it developed the way it did. This does sometimes come across as a form of racism, especially if they are making big bucks from this culture and never (or rarely) pay homage and educate people about this history.

          Most often these these kind of white youth and individuals (with lower economic status) will embarrass themselves if they persist with behaviors that lack authenticity.

          But in the grand scheme of things I’d much rather have these people identifying with Black culture (even for some of the wrong reasons) then stuck in, or identifying with, the racial superiority of the white experience and history the pervades the world we live in.


      • “Appropriate” MLK’s quotes? You mean quote MLK? MLK was not a nationalist, I don’t think he’d mind. He believed very strongly in unity and was murdered on the first anniversary of his speech at the Riverside Church in which he called out capitalism, and the Vietnam war, and linked Black oppression to both of them.

        Where do you come up with this stuff? While we’re consulting on all this, should I cut my dreadlocks so I won’t be “appropriating” anyone?

      • If a black person or other person of color says, “Hey, it hurts in a deeply personal way when you say that” [e.g., psychiatric slavery] or “it feels like you don’t see me when you say that,” [e.g., color blind]…and a white person simply said, “Okay. Thank you for letting me know. I won’t do that again.”

        Once again with the theoretical (stereotypical) Black person. (And btw to whomever mentioned it, I believe I’m the only one here to capitalize Black. If anyone cares why, it’s because I considered Black to be more of a national term than a skin tone, just like African.)

        If someone takes a detached intellectual analysis “personally,” I think that has to be a problem for them to work out with themselves regardless; I can’t see getting emotionally worked up over, say, a mathematical proof or diagramming of a sentence. If someone says “I feel this way when you say that” you might explain what you were thinking, that you weren’t intending to “trigger” them (as much as I hate the term), or explore why they interpreted you the way they did. Or you might just never bring it up again, depending on the person and how important you consider it. But people can’t expect you to not make connections and comparisons, it’s part of what is sometimes referred to as “thinking.”

  49. I’m thinking this was more about grinding personal axes rather than actually having a spirited and enlightening conversation about racism, which, indeed, would be valuable to one and all. But when it becomes personal about specific people, the dialogue will undoubtedly tank. That’s when the community turns on itself–which, of course, is exactly what the powers that be enjoy so much, right? To keep oppressed people (already filled to the brim with anger, resentment, fear, and blame) from uniting on a common front?

    And if that is the intention behind the blog, to out others, then I believe the results are destined to be quite messy and bad-feeling. That’s what I’d call a negative agenda, and I believe it stands to reason that, in turn, it’s going to lead to a negative outcome.

    • I was specified by Sera in the comments before I even knew this blog existed. There is another person who also feels that the blog or its timing was directed at her. All I know is that shortly after I posted a passing comment on these “slavery comparison” issues in the OTHER racism discussion, this blog which I know has been months in the making suddenly appears. I think it is unprecedented for MIA to have TWO blogs discussing racism at one time, so it’s hard to not at least conjecture that the timing of this is a reaction to that.

      • The timing, oldhead, is that the blog was finally read to go. Nothing more nefarious than that! I took a quick look through the comments on Noel’s blog because I was interested in her blog. Didn’t even see your comparison. This blog was written because all the points above are serious issues… it’s not about you. 🙂

      • And if that’s the case, then we see what happened–cause and effect.

        I’ve been wanting the dialogue to be more in depth about our own experiences with racism or being around it, what have we internalized from our racist society that perhaps we can become aware of, own and shift, all that good stuff. That’s my intention with these dialogues, per my comments. To me, that would be moving forward.

        I know that a lot of suffering in society is due to the HORRIBLE way people are treated, due to their differences. Society seems programmed to sabotage people based on race, and other differences. At the very least, it makes life extremely more challenging for some more than others, simply from prejudice and bigotry, and by habit, simply not being aware. In my world, that is unacceptable. People need to wake up.

        I’m about to make a post below, which I came on here to do, and then saw your comment, so I responded to that, first. My next post is an example of what I’m talking about, with respect to how I, personally, would direct this dialogue, to more neutral territory.

        I really think there is a lot to learn and think about here, at least this has been very enlightening for me, to think about these issues and apply them to my own experience, while hearing those of others. Not into the personal squabbles, though. I think that is distracting from what is really important and interesting here, imo and fwiw.

  50. This discussion brought to mind a scene from an old film from 1947, Gentleman’s Agreement, and I happened to find that exact clip on YouTube. Not the greatest sound quality, but it’s doable (turn volume on high), and even though they are talking about anti-Semitism, I think this dialogue they are having is relevant, if not chilling in its truth. Dave Goldman (John Garfield), who is Jewish, is asking Kathy Lacy (Dorothy McGuire) about her experience at a party when the Jewish jokes and slurs started happening. What was her response?


    And then I searched Racism and White Privilege, I wanted to hear different perspectives on this, and found this, also extremely eye-opening, and to hear this perspective, and it is totally the other side of the spectrum from the above clip—


    • Thanks for these, Alex.

      Joy Degruy (featured in your second video), also has this on Youtube which is long, but I think really interesting and also worth thinking about, particularly in light of some of the comments here that talk about black people in today’s US never having been enslaved…


      • Looks awesome, Sera, thank you, extremely interesting. I’ll be watching this this week, I imagine I can learn a great deal listening to her. I’d never heard of Dr. Degruy until now. I like what she has to say, it all rings true, very direct and clear.

        As you can see, I got tons out of this. I feel expanded awareness coming on, so much to learn here that I think is of value–the subtleties of human interaction coming to light. Curious to where it will lead, but I do feel a lot of energy on this.

        Really powerful stuff, so again, I’m grateful to the authors for going to the edge with this. You gotta start somewhere! Always takes courage, because I think it’s inherently uncomfortable, until it no longer is. At that point, we’ll feel the progress, and following that, will be the witnessing of it, I do believe.

          • Thank you so much for sharing this video, Sera, I found it to be extremely riveting and enlightening in so many ways. I really could write a dissertation on all of this, and in fact I took notes and noted time codes as I went along, everything she said was so incredibly interesting and noteworthy. But for the sake of making a comment here, I will highlight a few things which I found to be particularly powerful and relevant, and it addresses a lot of issues I see made in this discussion. It is a bit lengthy, but I’m trying to cut to the chase, here.

            First, I do like how she begins the video, and I’m thinking this is a lot of what you all (authors) had in mind, that laying this all out directly and authentically would basically light up people’s shadow tendencies—in this case, racist inclinations. Which, I think is totally legitimate and to be expected, when at the bone like this with such a charged issue. As you say in one of your comments, it is, indeed, part of the healing process, to expose the root causes.

            And it affects us all so profoundly, we’re talking about severe social ills, is how I would put it. And it causes suffering which I think can be alleviated, and we can perhaps do some social healing here, were people to tune into each other with compassion and empathy, rather than defensiveness and entitlement. Although, that is a choice, as we do have free will. As Dr. DeGruy says, we’re all at different levels of awareness, and I think it is sound to honor that with compassion, universally.

            I think for this blog article, personally, I would have included this video up front, in the article, to be transparent about your intention. I think it still would be a hot and crackling dialogue, but people wouldn’t feel set up, as it seems some have felt this way, simply by responding authentically. I think it would have felt a bit safer, rather than to risk being interpreted and accused. I think that’s where a lot of the downward spiral came in the dialogue.

            I did a lot of inner work reading this, as I kind of outlined transparently in my comments along the way, and it really helped me understand a few things I’d been thinking about regarding my own identity, internal culture, and personal reality. To me, that is the value of bold writings such as this, to be a great healing tool, as well as a teaching one.

            Still, it’s true, that when we delve into topics such as racism, homophobia, sexism, etc., we all become vulnerable to the truth and rather naked. However, I don’t think we need to feel shame when we discover our “inner racist,” but more so, courage and humility to own it, and to really think about how we treat and think about people, simply by habits of social programming.

            We all have this in us, and we could all use self-enlightenment here. How can we expect change to happen outside of us if we don’t examine what is inside of us? That would be impossible. We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. I love what Gandhi said and I personally go by this—“BE the change you wish to see in the world.” I believe that is energetically sound, it is the only way change happens, really, to my mind.

            So much more to comment on, but I don’t want to write a book here. A couple of other things, though, before I sign off, just to touch on them, I think they’re important—

            I heard a lot of parallels between slavery and what if felt like for me to go through the system– mostly, the feeling of being dehumanized, quite brutally, where realities are concocted to soothe the cognitive dissonance on the part of the system/clinician/social services/abusers & oppressors (DSM diagnoses, for one thing, I think that’s a great example of this).

            I do not see my plight through the system as “slavery,” however, as it was not slavery, the way I understand it. But still, there are powerful parallels with the feelings of 1) dehumanization, 2) being dehumanized for the purpose of making others wealthy, and 3) lack of reparations.

            Like Dr. DeGruy says here, sure, it’s ok to heal, but don’t ask for reparations, keep your hands off of our resources. The mh system, et al, also gets filthy rich for how they dehumanize its clients, the way she described wealthy slave owners becoming filthy rich from their slave trade. I have yet to feel vindicated for all the money that I feel was literally stolen from me, under false pretenses. While I don’t think psychiatry is slavery, I do think it is FRAUD, pure and simple.

            I was treated as though I had no feelings, as though I had no sense about anything, like life, and they were shocked when I knew the law and got an attorney that saw my perspective and advocated for me. No slave would have that luxury, so I see a huge difference there.

            So while, indeed, there is no way slavery is the same as being a mental patient, to my mind, there are definitely overlapping very deep feelings of entrapment, helplessness, powerlessness, and punishment for saying “boo.” It’s also very paranoid-making, because of the utter lack of protection from social abuse. Those in the system do have their humanity robbed, I think that’s apparent.

            I have tons of examples from my own experiences that would lead me to believe that many of the clinicians and social workers I dealt with would have more than likely been slave owners in a past life, if one believes in past lives, because the attitude and energy feels exactly how I would expect that to feel. But certainly, it is not at all the same, because no one is really being bought and sold. That is a whole other level of sinister and dark insanity within humanity, to be sure.

            Finally, at 34:00, she says exactly what I was thinking as I read through this discussion earlier—have we forgotten that humanity is all one consciousness? She says, “Isn’t it a shame that we’re still debating that in 2008?” (when this video was made). My answer is, “Yes, indeed it is, and it’s 8 years later now.”

            This perspective applies here very practically—we are really just fighting with ourselves. Outer conflict and struggle is a symptom/indicator of inner conflict and struggle. When we heal what is inside of us, then we have the power to influence healing outside of us, but not until then. Inner healing is a precursor to social healing. This is what I heard Dr. DeGruy saying, and it is also what I believe, I’ve written that here often.

            Overall, I think what she says here echoes exactly in the intention of my film, Voices That Heal. As human beings, we cannot see each other with any clarity because of these filters we carry around, and in turn, we are afraid to tune into what is around us, for fear that it is a reflection of who we really are, and is that who we want to be?

            In short, we run the risk of seeing and feeling our own cognitive dissonance, and that can be a hard truth to face. It is humbling, but it is also totally empowering, when we own our shadow like that.

            We are human, human, human, each and every one of us. We all have interesting stories, backgrounds, cultural heritage, and unique perspective. Why on Earth can we not find peace????

          • Thanks so much, Alex. I appreciate your taking the time to really explore what we’ve offered and beyond.

            I want to be upfront that the video I linked you to and to which you refer in your comment here is one I only watched for the first time *after* the blog was written (it was actually already waiting on the Mad in America system for moderators to post when someone shared it with me), and I have no idea if Earl and Iden have seen it. So, our blog isn’t really based on that video, but there are many points that do resonate with it.

            I appreciate that you’re spending so much time looking for the connection points between what you’re hearing and learning and your own experience. Relating is *so* different than taking as one’s own, and is an important part of how we can build understanding and connection.

            Again, thank you for your time and comment.

            (A quick note to others: We decided to let these comments through because Alex’s conversation got cut off mid-way when we closed the comments, and it seemed to make sense to let it be completed!)

  51. Although things have quieted down a bit in here, we have collectively decided that closing the comments section makes the most sense at this time. But, before we do, we just wanted to offer some closing comments from each of us:

    EARL: Whoa! I am always hesitant to discuss race. It is kind of half the point of a racist society, the idea of making oppression such a quagmire to discuss that it isn’t worth it. However, if our thesis was that racism exists in dramatic ways in our movement, boy, were we right!

    The comments section has felt like quicksand and every time I thought of commenting, I remembered that I don’t want to fight you guys. This has felt terrible and unfortunately, this is what has been put out to people of color. This visceral response has been noted and I am in agreement that ending it now makes sense.

    IDEN: One of the things I find most fascinating about the comments section is that it appears that mostly older White men populate the comments. They argue incessantly about liberals and the usage of particular language and whose voice should not be ‘that of millions’ yet they use their two or three as if they are ‘the voice for millions’ themselves.

    Making space for others in between the MIA pages is crucial to ensuring diverse voices are heard. There is nothing to be gained by listening to the few. There are many lessons to be learned in the MIA space around access, privilege, the use of writing as a privilege, and oppression, but most importantly using it as connecting. I wish to use it more for connecting.

    SERA: It seems relevant to note that this is only the second blog (of 55) that I have been a part of where the decision was made to close down the comments. The first was ‘Dear Man: Sexism, Misogyny, and the ‘Movement,’ published almost exactly one year ago. Comments were closed at 200 because of the level of vitriol that the topic drew out. This one made it over 350, but the response has felt very similar.

    A lot could probably be said in comparing the two blogs, but the basics are clear: Each directly asked our ‘movement(s)’ to take a hard look at the realities of how we’re treating particular groups of people, and how we’re perpetuating specific ‘isms’ whilst claiming to fight systemic oppression. I feel sad about this blog – which ultimately (simply and straightforwardly) asked people to consider the images and words they use, and to center the feelings and voices of people of color, particularly when it comes to the experience of being non-white in this world.

    Regardless of how people felt about the ‘tone’ of what we had to say, it was offered honestly and because we see a serious problem – this absence of people of color in our movement(s). The comments section helped illustrate *why* that is the case. The question continues to be what do we do about it.

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