[reading list] BLACK MAD LIVES MATTER

Last Updated 7/9/20

[If you’re in need, find a comprehensive list of mental health resources here.]

Black people stim. Black people have intrusive thoughts — including violent ones. Black people hear and see things others do not hear or see. Black people have panic attacks. Black people have meltdowns. Black people are hyperactive. Black people live in dissociative/multiple systems. Black people yell and otherwise “act out” in public.

Black people attempt and complete suicide. Often.

Black people are unable to comply with heightened demands of “compliance” under a system of white supremacy and psychiatric hegemony.

Black disabled people, particularly Black Mad people, are routinely overlooked both within Disability/Mad studies activism and scholarship as well as in larger conversations about prison and police-abolition. This is perhaps most evident in discourses of police replacement with social workers, therapists, and psychiatrists, and the replacement of prisons with group homes and other psychiatric/”therapeutic” institutions.

Those we typically call “cops” and those we might deem “brain cops” serve identical purposes: not to alleviate suffering but to maintain social order. Vitale’s (2017) claims in the incredibly-relevant, yet deeply flawed, book, The End of Policingreflect sane/abled presumptions about the role of medico-psychiatric professionals in civilian lives. Vitale contrasts these a priori “benevolent” and “healing” professions with the police, whose endgame is social control. This is a, dare I say, “criminal” obfuscation of the realities of psychiatric violence.

In bodyminds marked in perpetual opposition to (white) rationalist idea(l)s and deemed both cause and result of their own inherent dis-order(s), Mad Black people face what Abdillahi et al (2016) call “anti-Black Sanism.” The inherent violence of diagnostic pathologization and institutionalization increases exponentially in severity, too. And psychiatric institutionalization — I cannot over-emphasize this — is carceral in nature.

Psychological professionals police (in the definitional sense of maintaining order or curing dis-order(s)) affective realities in all patients, but it is Black patients for whom requisite “social skills,” “emotion-regulation” techniques, “self-discipline,” and other therapeutic, coded language for self-surveillance remains least attainable. Not only are the so-called “social [survival] skills” demanded of Black people impossible to fulfill, but for as long as Blackness symbolizes disorder itself, the white supremacist psychiatric industry will never overcome its centuries-old compulsion to white supremacy. Perhaps it needs to see someone!

Below is a list of resources regarding the unique violences faced at the intersection of Madness/neurodivergence/psychiatrization and Blackness. By no means does this frame every person whose areas of specialization include psychiatry — indeed, Frantz Fanon (read here) himself was a psychiatrist who utilized his knowledge to disturb the hegemonic “commonsense” other psychiatrists seek, in “treatment”, to preserve. That said, the profession of psychiatry remains committed to the normalization of “aberrant” individuals, and under a white supremacist social order, the system itself remains entrenched in racism.

This is by no means a complete list — just the result of a week of searching and reading. If you have more resources, message me, and I’ll add them. Read. Share. And critically reconsider your calls to replace prisons with prisons of another name.

Racialized In/Sanities; Eugenics; Mad Black Studies

Black Medico-Psychiatric Trauma/Abuse

Depression & Anxiety

Neurodivergence:

Schizophrenia, Bipolar, PDs:

Disordered Eating, OCD, Addiction, Trauma:

Fiction, Poetry, Poetics:

  • An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Bird-Eyes, Madelyn Arnold
  • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  • The Bull-Jean Stories, Sharon Bridgeforth
  • Citizen, An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  • Just Another Dead Black Girl, Michelle Evans
  • Mosquito, Gayl Jones
  • The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  • Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler
  • The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
  • Sula, Toni Morrison
  • The Turner House, Angela Flournoy

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