Mind and prejudice

Are Racists Crazy?

Now that we’ve got so many of them coming out of the closet, it makes sense to ask, “Are racists crazy?” That’s the question that Sander L. Gilman, a professor of psychiatry, and James M. Thomas, a professor of sociology, set out to answer in Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Anti-Semitism Became Markers of Insanity (New York University Press, $35). Don’t expect an easy answer from these two academics, who instead give us the history of how we went from pathologizing race (running away from slave masters was a mental illness called drapetomania; even Jewish psychoanalysts once believed Jews were more prone to neuroticism and hysteria) to pathologizing racists. While some of us might call that progress, Gilman and Thomas take a much less partisan approach; instead, they focus on the concepts of interiority, hatred and the crowd mentality.