Monday, October 17, 2005


Paranoia and Race Relations

Several years ago, a local radio talk show host conducted an interview with a black woman who was a cultural and diversity sensitivity trainer for a large corporation in the top 50 of the Fortune 500. Most was the same old, tired rhetoric. Eventually, the paranoid nature of her comments struck me.

She was talking of all the signs and symptoms of racism she saw in everyday life. Her example was this: While she was standing on the corner of the street waiting for the light to change so she could cross, a white man in a car stopped, apparently waiting for the light, locked his car doors. She believed the man locked his car doors because a black woman was standing on the sidewalk near his car. And, although she (the woman), was professionally dressed, the man, in his racist induced terror, locked his doors in fear she may try to cause him some harm.

I always lock my car doors because I taught as a child that locked doors are less likely to fall open accidentally or be accidentally opened from the inside. In fact, much attention has been given to the safety of car door latches and locks over the past 30-40 years.

Additionally, the woman is practicing mind reading which we all know is an impossibility for all except the most gifted of us. She has no way of knowing the man's actual motives for locking his doors but assumes a racial motive which is much more a reflection of her than of the man in the car.

The definition of Paranoid Personality Disorder from Wikipedia
A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
  1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her
  2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates
  3. is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her
  4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
    persistently bears grudges, i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights
  5. perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counterattack
  6. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner
Item one is the constant cry of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakahn, etc. regarding race relations. Item four encompasses the woman's delusional belief regarding the man in the car actions as well as numerous other reactions by black leaders to otherwise innocuous remarks. Item five follows closely with item four.

The other items may play a role in the paranoia also but I am not familiar enough with the black group psyche to know.

I truly wonder how much of the problems we have in our race relations in this country is due to a "mass paranoia" similar to the mass hysterias we've seen at times or the mass persuasion dynamics of Nazi Germany. Many black leaders certainly feed this paranoia and perhaps are actually caught up in it.

Unfortunately, paranoid delusions are extremely hard to breakdown which may mean that progress in race relations will continue to be painfully slow.

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