Racism Still Pushing Some Over the Edge?

Three recent violent incidents involved blacks with mental health issues. Is there a connection?

CNN screenshot
CNN screenshot

Do Racial Issues Still Push Some Over the Edge?

Black Woman’s Chase, Slaying Renews Interest in Theory

The suspect slain after a chase from the White House to the U.S. Capitol Thursday wasn’t identified by race, unlike the Washington Navy Yard killer who left 12 others dead less than three weeks earlier. Miriam Carey wasn’t at large, as was Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas, whose race was broadcast when reporters had little else to go on by way of description.

The public also saw photos of Christopher Jordan Dorner, “a linebacker-sized ex-cop with a multitude of firearms, military training and a seemingly bottomless grudge born when the LAPD fired him in 2009,” in the words of the Los Angeles Times, describing him during a manhunt in February. He was believed to have killed three police officers.

All three had mental health issues, and all were African American. Is there a connection?

Amy Alexander, who co-authored the 2000 book “Lay My Burden Down: Unraveling Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis Among African-Americans” with Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, thinks so.

Today a woman allegedly attempted to ram her car into gates near the White House, ” Alexander wrote Thursday on the Medium website. “She reportedly attempted to flee, and was shot by local law enforcement officials near the U.S. Capitol Building. Two weeks ago, a gunman who was apparently suffering from mental illness that led him to believe that unseen forces were out to get him shot and killed 12 workers at the Navy Yard in the District of Columbia before officers shot him dead.

“The gunman in the Navy Yard tragedy was black, and early reports of today’s incident indicate that the driver of the car that seemed to be trying to [breach] security at the White House may have been black. Were their respective mental states affected by race in America? Scoff if you like. I consider this a legitimate area of inquiry.

“The race of these two individuals who caused these violent outbursts is both important and possibly not so important — what matters to me is that violence appeared to be their court of last resort. The motivations of their respective choices are worth examining, once we learn more about their lives.

“What’s obvious right now, though, is this: We’re trapped in an endless loop of denial when it comes to race and violence in America.

“We are living a weird mash-up of the Dickensian cliche — ‘the best of times, the worst of times’ — and ‘Groundhog Day.’ America sits atop the list of developed nations in terms of GDP, military might, and at least several cultural and intellectual sectors.

“We have twice elected a Black American man as President. We do not live — as was the case in my childhood — under the constant fear of a nuclear attack. We haven’t had a major race-related urban disturbance since 1992.

“And yet, our Original Sin — racism — continues to haunt America, including blacks and whites. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of working with one of the world’s most prominent psychiatrists, Alvin F. Poussaint, of the Harvard Medical School. We wrote a nonfiction book examining people of color in America and mental health. Dr. Poussaint joins other black clinical mental health experts in exploring a theory that gets little coverage in the press: Black people in America are experiencing something known as Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). The syndrome affects whites, too.

“As Dr. P. lays it out, the symptoms are highly detrimental to Blacks, foremost, though they are debilitating for whites too if in less acute forms and at fewer points that are immediately life-shortening. For Blacks, the symptoms and expressions of PTSS include fatalistic outlook, self-destructive behavior, and hopelessness; risky-behaviors including putting oneself in danger of violence, behaving violently toward others; over-eating, smoking, drinking to excess, and drug abuse. For whites, holding racist beliefs and bigoted [ideas] is a form of mental illness that can lead to symptomatic physical health risks such as heart disease. . . .”

After the Alexis rampage, some writers called for more attention to mental illness among African American men. “Misdiagnosing mental illness among black men has long been an acute problem — with consequences that extend beyond the Navy Yard killings to the daily gun violence throughout urban America,” Courtland Milloy wrote in the Washington Post. Among Alexis’ issues, a friend said, “He felt a lot of discrimination and racism with white people especially,” NBC News reported.

The Los Angeles Times wrote about a manifesto that Dorner issued: “Dorner felt isolated growing up as one of the few African American children in the neighborhoods where he lived and was the victim of racism, according to the manifesto. ‘My first recollection of racism was in the first grade,’ Dorner allegedly wrote, recalling a fellow student at Norwalk Christian School who called him a racial slur. Dorner said he responded ‘fast and hard,’ punching and kicking the student.”

Alexander’s thoughts are worthy of follow-up by other journalists. “Main point is that there’s a direct through line in our US history that links violence, racism,” she told Journal-isms by email. “Add mental health and you’ve a perfect storm of disaster!”

Freddie Allen, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Black Women Murdered by Men Three Times Rate of White Females

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Shut down and shot down in Washington.

Michael Daly, Daily Beast: What Pushed Miriam Carey to a Capitol Hill Tragedy?

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Could Brandajah Smith, 5, have contemplated suicide?

Emma Dumain, Roll Call: For Capitol Hill, Communication Was Fast and Furious


Matthew Kauffman,  Dave Altimari and Edmund H. Mahony, Hartford Courant: Woman Killed In Washington, D.C., Was Obsessed With Obama

Anna Merlan, Village Voice: Miriam Carey, Dental Hygienist Who “Made It Out” of East New York, Identified as Capitol Suspect

Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: Journalists Caught In The Middle Of Capitol Hill Shooting

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Tragedy is awful, no matter where it occurs

Daniel Tepfer, Stamford (Conn.) Advocate: Fragile mental health cited in Capitol shooting

Richard Weinblatt, CNN: Did D.C. cops have to shoot to kill?

Would Cleveland Indians Fans Dress in Blackface?

I saw these guys on last night’s broadcast,” Craig Calcaterra wrote Thursday for NBC Sports. “Hat tip to Ted Berg of USA Today for getting the screen cap:

“We wouldn’t accept it if these guys showed up at a party in blackface,” Calcaterra continued. “We wouldn’t cite ‘tradition’ or ‘enthusiasm’ and act as if it wasn’t racist for them to do so. If they wore blackface at a ballpark I am pretty confident that security would have them removed, for their safety among other reasons.

“But to pull Indian redface in Cleveland? Hey, no worries. Go Tribe. Quit your complaining, Calcaterra. Indeed, I’m assuming that for even mentioning this I will be accused of being an overly-sensitive P.C. liberal who doesn’t understand that no one finds this offensive and, hey, my Native American father-in-law has no problem with it. If they decided not to go the ad hominem route they’d probably offer something like, ‘hey, he’s on the caps. So obviously it’s about team spirit, not racism. It’s just a cartoon character, so it’s not offensive.’ . . .”

Meanwhile, “The Oneida Indian Nation is taking its ‘Change the Mascot’ campaign a step further,” the Indian Country Today Media Network reported on Thursday.

“On Monday, October 7th, the Nation plans to convene in Washington, D.C. to hold a public conference calling on the NFL and its teams to end the use of the slur, Redskins.

“The conference, which will be held in the Ritz Carlton, in the same hotel as the NFL’s Fall Meeting, is open to the public and press.

“This conference comes just weeks after the Nation broadcast its ‘Change the Mascot’ radio advertisements, and months after students at Cooperstown Central School District in Cooperstown, New York, made national news by voting to change their teams’ name from ‘Redskins’ to the ‘Hawkeyes.’ . . .”

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Cleveland reach out and touch the dream that is the 2013 Indians

Joanna Schroeder, Good Men Project: Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Embarrassing Context

Five Points the Press Misses in Covering Health Care Act

I’ve identified five points that the press, for the most part, failed to adequately cover” in reporting on the debate over President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Trudy Lieberman wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review. “These are threads that would have helped people understand what the law is all about, as well as comprehend the ongoing backlash.

“1. The press did not make clear enough to the public what the law would do. . . .

“2. Reporters did not adequately explain how Obamacare was financed, and why — why the modest wealth redistribution the ACA calls for is necessary to bring health insurance to more Americans. . . .

“3. Another tough topic the press has avoided is the individual mandate and why it is necessary. . . .

“4. The media failed their audiences by passing along the spin from the law’s supporters. . . .

“5. Reporters failed to truly explain Obamacare’s Republican roots — and the irony of the Republican backlash against the law. . . .”

She also wrote, “Going forward, Obamacare becomes three distinct stories: the consumer story that helps people buy a very complicated product; the business story that comes with myriad questions about how the law will actually work; and, the ongoing political story . . . about wealth redistribution and who will support those who cannot pay for their medical care. But to tell all these stories well, to better explain to the public what Obamacare does and does not do (and why, and how), reporters must to go beyond what the politicians and other stakeholders are talking about. Every time.”

Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: Why blacks will suffer the most from Republicans’ Obamacare opposition

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Minority Rules

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: ‘Immorality’ and Obamacare

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Obamacare and the Conscience of a Radical

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: A Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts

Peniel E. Joseph, The Root: Obamacare Isn’t Big Enough

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Obama Can’t Bow Down to Pathetic GOP Antics

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: House Tea Party Caucus like a Ghetto High School Gang

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Playing the blame game

Charlene Obernauer, Huffington Post: ‘Obamacare’ vs. ‘Affordable Care Act’: Why Words Matter

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: John Boehner’s turn to give in

Elinor Tatum, New York Amsterdam News: We know the real reason for the shutdown

Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff, New York Times: Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law

Armstrong Williams blog: Government shutdown