Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is Racial/Ethnic Prejudice A Psychiatric Manifestation?

This article is in reaction to Val Ngwa’s article: “Racial/Ethnic prejudice as a psychiatric manifestation; the Case of Graffi-bashing” posted on the Camnet forum on August 21, 2009 in reaction to Emmanuel Konde’s recent articles on the people of North West Province. Val Ngwa wanted to prove that “people who continuously make prejudicial remarks about other ethnic groups or colors, do so “because of an abnormal psychology”. The author starts on a faulty note to claim that it is no longer possible to tell the ethnic origin of Cameroonians simply from their physiognomies. It is stretching psychology for personal gains since there are serious physical differences between those of the Grand North and those of the South, the Bamileke and the Bulus, the pigmies of Mouloundou and those of the maritime areas even though both groups harbor similar forest topography. Furthermore, even if that posed a problem, the difference in languages will automatically reignite the prejudice in the individual if they were sinful. As such, the issue of prejudice between and amongst ethnic groups would not abate in the nearest future.

Today this author had just gone to Meyo Catering Service at Underground in Austell, Georgia to hang out with friends. He saw a young man and began speaking in Bassa with him. He asked him how the author knew he was Bassa. The author told him his face had betrayed him because he preached in their area. While the face may camouflage a little bit, but the voice, intonation and accent would exposed them. Thus, to claim that physical differences are no more outwardly apparent is far from the truth. Another example would be the white and blacks. There will always be black people and there will always be white people.

More so, the author argues that the usage of the term “Herd Mentality” is a result of “an inferior brain’s quest for probable accuracy”. Indirectly, the author classifies truth as emanating from an inferior brain since the expression “Herd Mentality” is an analogy in comparison with the manner a herd of cattle will follow their own into a pit without any judgment. The people from the North West of Cameroon have shown a proclivity on Camnet in joining their fellow autochthones from the same province to fight anyone who challenges one of theirs; whether they are wrong or right. Such is an observational truism that has nothing to do with prejudice.

It is erroneous to think that if there was prejudice at all, it could be considered an illness. Despite the fact that John Rocker was asked to undergo psychotherapy sessions, his actions could not be termed a psychiatric illness. Judy Jones and William Wilson (1995)1 argue that psychotherapy is “a European invention that created a lot of inadequacy of such and absolutionist point of view. Since it was difficult to determine who was sane for one thing and not for another”. If what both Rocker and Konde were saying is the truth, then truth be told; it may be bitter but must be swallowed. To one recipient such truth may be prejudice while to another it is truth as observed.

It makes Konde right because Konde is speaking the truth. Rocker should not have been ordered to undergo psychotherapy for speaking his mind, and Konde should not be cyber-bullied from stating a fact. He does not need the spurious psychotherapy. Rather those with a “Herd Mentality” need it (since they believe in it) to be able to accept the truth. Wilson had earlier indicated that that is a European invention that does not even work well and he wonders why the Americans keep believing in it.

Val Ngwa goes further to mimick false concepts almost like what we call in theology “eisegesis”; where you make a passage say what it should not and does not intend to say. He states the number for the research and treatment of psychiatric treatment but does not indicate that there are others who do not think psychiatric treatment could be treated that way. As you know, there are others who believe it is a demonic issue and should be treated by way of spiritual deliverance. The fact that the American Psychiatric Association propagates psychotherapy does not mean all psychiatrists accept the idea and does not make it right!

The problem here is not Konde; it is those with a “Herd Mentality” trying to run away from the truth. Actually, it has been evinced in this forum and many Cameroonian forums that those from the Northwest Province practice cyber-bully. When one of theirs manufactures subjectivities as facts, they hail him and call him messiah, but when another person does it, they say who “wacko”, “oh psycho”, “oh mentally ill patient”. While the truth is bitter, my brothers and sisters from the Northwest Province must learn to swallow it until they purge themselves of such cyber-bullying which in itself is the real sickness.

I don’t remember the Manyu incident you are talking about. If it did happen we will realize it is sporadic and not a chronic rule as exhibited by those with a “Herd Mentality” from the North West Province who have made it a rule. Perhaps this anecdote will suffice.

Efamandem (changed named): an African professor in a university in Michigan bought a home. He bought and wrapped the most expensive candy with his business card to introduce himself to his new family. After receiving it, the community quickly convoked a meeting, they deliberated and concluded Efamadem was a child predator trying to lure their kids with candy. They cautioned the neighbors to avoid him until he was kicked out of the neighborhood. The police patrols increased. When he sees one of his neighbors in the morning and wants to greet them, they quickly ran back into their house or hopped into their car. Those who were bold put on plastic smiles.

Efamadem was single and ready to mingle. So he kept hitting on the ladies until one of them finally fell and gave him the revelation. He now believes Americans are hypocrites. “Why was no one kind enough to confront me” he soliloquized? To those Americans, candy was bait for kids while to Efamadem, it was metaphorical. The same way this candy is sweet is the same way he (Efamadem) is sweet. His statement “Americans are hypocrites” is not prejudice but a generalization based on his experience. If he had left from there to Africa, then that would have been the only community he has lived in and that statement is truth to him as an individual. Although those who have mingled with other Americans will find that myopic and prejudicial, but that does not amount to psychiatric illness. This will mean every truth rejected by an individual is prejudice, and the messenger should be checked into rehab for prejudice detoxification. It is shortsightedness but not prejudice!

Bell’s findings seem to reinforce Carl Rogers assertion that “evil is not inherent in human nature” (David Noebel 1999)2. The greatest weakness with the proposition from Bell and Rogers when citing psychotherapy as medicine is that even if prejudice was a psychiatric illness, the fact that it is inherent in human nature (soul) makes it difficult for such treatment since the soul is not auto-sufficient. The truth is that man is inherently evil due to his freewill. God made us that way (Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks 2004)3 and if we are to be healed from the inherent evil, the healing can only come out of mankind. That is where God comes in.

If prejudice is classified as a psychiatric illness and it being a sin, infers that every other sin should be classified as a psychiatric illness since all sin like prejudice come from the mind because actual sin is from peccatum originale (original sin) as stated by Berkhof: “This inner corruption is the unholy fountain of all actual sins” (Louis berkhof 2000)4 .

Consequently, the author errs in thinking that outward physical appearances of Cameroonians is no more apparent; meanwhile, the same ethnic groups still exist, errs in thinking that prejudice is a psychological illness but does not show the dichotomy between truth and prejudice and errs in thinking that prejudice could be cured by subjecting the individual to some psychotherapy though the latter has been shown inadequate. Physical appearances could easily differentiate Cameroonians from each other and place them in their respective ethnic groups. It is clear that prejudice is not a psychological illness and that though a frailty in human character could only be cured by trusting God and believing in Christ who transforms from the inside. If everyone loved his/her neighbor as himself /herself (a central theme in the message of Christ) then there will be no prejudice. In the course of loving, one would see the creature of God and not an ethnic group or a color.

[1] Judy Jones and William Wilson. An Incomplete Education. ( New York: Ballantine Books, 1995), p 444.
[2] David Noebel. Understanding The Times-The Religious Worldviews of Our Day and The Sea
[3] Geisler Norman and Brooks Ron. When Skeptics Ask – A handbook on Christian Evidence. (Grand Rapids: Michigan, 2004) p. 61rch for truth. (Colorado Springs: ACSI and Summit Ministries,1999) p. 165.
[4] Berkhof Louis Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Michigan, 2000) P. 251.
Until then, let us live together.

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk

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