The Real Delusion
August 9, 2012, 11:30 am
Filed under: Mental Illness, Race, Society | Tags: , , , , ,

“One must be careful not to take refuge in any delusion–and the value placed on the color of the skin is always and everywhere and forever a delusion.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

After I copied this quote from the book (The Fire Next Time), I realized that it refers to being out of touch with reality, as do the other quotes I’ve posted recently; two are my own and another is Baldwin’s.

I like random quotes on mental health, especially when they’re part of a work that’s not focused on mental health, like Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time. I especially like references to society as a whole being mentally ill because I believe a lot of popular practices (such as not telling or asking someone’s age if they look over 30) are based on denying reality.

Yet, people with mental illness, such as myself, are seen as being singular in their disconnection with reality. Even in A New Earth by Eckart Tolle, Tolle refers to the insanity of the ego which drives a lot of people’s actions; he also believes that this ego-driven culture is coming to an end. Like in Baldwin’s quote (above), Tolle talks about people’s tendency to identify themselves with “form.”

Form can be anything material, such as race, income, sex, job titles, parental roles. It’s pretty much common sense in American culture that things like parental roles and  job titles define individuals. And when I look around, it’s obvious that race seems to define people so much so that most people marry only people of their same race or socio-economic background.

It seems like insanity to me that no one realizes that our popular practice of identifying with skin color (and other “forms”) is the complete opposite of what Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of. Yet we celebrate his dream as if we’ve accomplished it. I’d be crazy not to acknowledge that we’ve made progress in our interactions, and in educational equality, among other things. But in reality Americans are still far from valuing the content of a man’s character over the color of his skin (or over his income, or ESPECIALLY his marital status, which is celebrated as a character strength in America).

Sometimes I feel anti-social talking about this phenomenon of people only marrying someone of their same race because it’s so common. How do I make friends with people when almost everyone around me does something that I see as problematic? I don’t want to push people away, but I don’t want to swallow my beliefs either.

But I end up doing a bit of both: avoiding people and zipping my lips about my views. It feels awful not getting to live more fully.

Particularly there’s a married couple I used to love spending time with. But after I posted some notes on Facebook about my perceptions of marriage and same-race marriage (and after posting some comments on Facebook when I was in a psychotic state), I feel the need to avoid socializing with them, partly to protect myself from rejection, but also because I feel like I’d be a traitor to myself otherwise.

At least in being alone I have more time to find true comrades, like James Baldwin and even Eckart Tolle who, in revealing themselves, hold up a mirror to for me to see myself and my views. They make my views seem noble and loving, not so viscous and divisive.


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