A Psychiatrist’s Perspective on Racism: 2020

Rahn K. Bailey, MD

What makes an individual racist? Carl Bell, MD,3 described these individuals having a psychopathological defect/narcissistic personality disorder which allows for dehumanization of others. Other psychiatrists have opined that racism may meet the criteria for a full psychotic disorder. Alvin Poussaint, MD,4 explains that “extreme racism” is a type of delusional disorder. I think, racism is a multifaceted construct. In my experience as a Forensic Psychiatrist, Psychiatric disorders cause functional impairment. This is not the case in most racist individuals. I believe racism is intentional. For example, an African American athlete/celebrity is cherished, only because of their achievements. Whereas a typical person of color may not be given the same treatment. One thing we can agree on is the psychological effects racism has on its victims.