I had someone comment on a Facebook post about the Charleston shooting, suggesting that mental illness must be involved.
I responded in a number of ways, including asking whether all the people in lynch mobs in the south some decades ago were mentally ill.
On the one hand, to blame mental illness can be a reprehensible attempt at blame-shifting. Jesus taught that murder is simply the ultimate outwards expression of anger and hatred. When we foster cultures or subcultures of hatred, in which some human beings are demonized and dehumanized, we are laying the groundwork for murder. And we share in the guilt, even if we ourselves did not pull a trigger.
On the other hand, one can perhaps construe the suggestion as meaning that racism is itself a mental illness. The question of what “sanity” is and how it is defined is an important one. Isn’t racism simply an individual or societal delusion? Should we begin to diagnose it and treat it in the same way we might deal with other psychological conditions that could lead someone to harm themselves and others?
What do readers of this blog think? Is blaming mental illness for a shooting like this an attempt to shift the blame away from racism? Or is it in fact an accurate diagnosis of what racism is?
There is much more coverage of this event around, for those who may be interested. CNN has video from the Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church at which Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people, ABC has details about his apprehension and his white supremacist views, and other Patheos bloggers such as Crystal St. Marie Lewis, Frank Schaeffer, Christian Piatt, Fred Clark, and Ben Corey have reflections.