It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen: People have directed racial or misogynist slurs at me. (I’m an equal opportunity target!) When they announce their perspectives, they are almost always shouting and their tones of voice suggest anger and disgust.
Rarely do people with psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, express displeasure with my race or sex. I can only think of three examples when this occurred (though, to be fair, I just don’t remember the other times when this has happened):
- A woman in a crisis center who insisted that I was Bruce Lee’s sister, then proceeded to scream, “Chink!“, when I told her I was not;
- A man with dementia in a hospital who felt compelled to tell me (and only me) in a loud voice about the “gooks” he killed during war; and
- A man in a jail cell in psychiatric housing who, upon seeing me walk onto the unit, made loud comments about “fucking dykes with short hair“.
It is far more common for people out in the community to shout racial and misogynistic slurs to me in passing. Sometimes their apparel is shabby and soiled; more often, their clothes are clean and their cars are shiny.
My data comes from an N of 1, but this is how I think about it: Yes, it is possible for someone with a psychiatric condition to use speech brimming with prejudice only when they are experiencing acute symptoms. However, most people with psychiatric conditions, in my anecdotal experience, do not, regardless of acute or chronic psychiatric symptoms. If they do have prejudices, they are able to keep them to themselves, even when they are unable to contain any delusions. If they are expressing ideas about people, they tend to be specific to how an individual relates to them (e.g., that person is trying to kill me; that person knows I don’t have internal organs; those people can hear my thoughts; etc.).
Could it be that the use of racial slurs in of itself reflects mental illness? I don’t think so. Humans are adept at creating and using categories. We have all created and applied useless categories. For example, I am on Team Candy Corn. This team serves no purpose and it should not be a point of pride, but here we are. There is, of course, a difference between Team Candy Corn and Team Nazis, though the underlying principle of creating categories and then putting people into them is the same. (On Team Candy Corn, we do not hate and dehumanize.)
People with psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, like most other people, can feel hate. People with psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, like most other people, are not hateful.