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Racism: Psychiatry's Unsolved Dilemma

Racism: Psychiatry's Unsolved Dilemma

Across America, mean-spirited television and radio talk show hosts, skinheads and select politicians demonize multiculturalism. Academicians such as Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom, authors of the new book America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible, openly attack affirmative action as thinly disguised racial preference.

Voters in Houston recently rebuffed an initiative to eliminate affirmative action, believing that such programs applied primarily to higher education, specifically medical and law school admissions, California voters, however, approved legislation that seeks to eliminate all state-sponsored affirmative action. The fact that affirmative action has placed countless white women in jobs previously denied them is seldom acknowledged. Moreover, the scarcity of racial minorities receiving major federal and state contracts for building projects and entrance into other industrial businesses is often overlooked when affirmative action is debated.

Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's 1994 book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, became a manifesto on abolishing all laws against racial discrimination. Murray recommended that the nation leave justice and fair treatment to the virtuous forces of a self-regulating market, despite the recent nationally reported discrimination complaints lodged against Texaco, Dunn, Fleet Financial, Shell Oil, Nations Bank and National Car Rental, to mention a few (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Autumn 1997). Murray contends that because racial minorities, primarily African Americans, are genetically intellectually inferior, the country is wasting its money on educational and social programs designed to improve the education and social functioning of minorities. Seemingly, Charles Murray's opinion has had a profound influence on Congress, as it has drastically changed our nation's welfare laws, including Medicare.

What has happened to our nation since the 1960s and 1970s? The quest for racial equality appears to be rapidly dissipating. Blatant pre-civil rights racism has been replaced by a more virulent, yet camouflaged, form of racial bigotry. At times it seems that the most grotesque forms of racism are rationalized, as demonstrated by television commentator Pat Buchanan during his last bid to "reclaim America."

To wit: USA Today (Feb. 26, 1996) reported that Buchanan made a public presidential campaign appearance in Phoenix, where vendors sold hats emblazoned with swastikas and copies of the Anarchist Cookbook, which contains recipes for homemade bombs. In that same article, Mr. Buchanan unashamedly commented that "Illegal immigrants come here to get on welfare...or come to rob, beat and assault American citizens." Similarly, racism is never far from our national consciousness as we struggle to explain the burning of African American churches throughout the South.

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