You can’t claim mental illness as a legal defense in a racist crime but racism is still a social pathology

The distinctions being made about treating Black & Arab gunmen as terrorists & criminals & white gunmen as mentally ill are very powerful politically. The reasons for not allowing a diagnosis of mental illness as a criminal defense for racist gunmen are inarguable. But the truth of the matter is that racist massacres are not normative even in the white supremacist US where tens of thousands of people are schooled in high-power assault weapons & other methods of mass murder in the military.

People harbor all sorts of prejudicial & hateful social attitudes but most are not violent & can be overcome with the exercise of political power, as we saw after the civil rights & women’s movements. Political power either persuades or intimidates–or both.

After the compelling political comparison is made, it still has to be acknowledged that racism, which is systemic, is also a social pathology even if it’s normative & that massacring people because they’re Muslim or Black is social derangement. That doesn’t mean guys like Dylann Storm Roof should go to a halfway house for the criminally insane rather than a penitentiary–but they are nuts.

Militarist, genocidal regimes like Israel in Gaza, India in Kashmir, Myanmar against the Rohingya, the US & European regimes in several countries are the matrixes which form the Dylann Storm Roofs of the world. The political responsibilities this presents to humanity are obvious even if they’re not easy to accomplish.

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