Black/Brown/White Relations: Race Relations in the 1970s

By Charles V. Willie | Go to book overview
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Methods Used by Blacks to
Negotiate White Institutions:
Mental Health Implications

Charles V. Willie

In the past, analyses of mental illness and mental health among blacks and members of other minority groups have focused on the negative consequences of life for a person in a racist society. Little attention has been given to the multitude of possible responses to racism. Fortunately, James Comer has begun to bring these alternative responses into focus.His professional experience taught him that the, "Constant daily reminders that it's tough to be black caused many youngsters enough discomfort to turn off or turn away." Then he remembered his personal experience in a family where his parents always said, "You never let race stop you from doing what you want to do." Comer concludes that the formula worked.He went to school—"hurt feelings or no hurt feelings"—got an education, and got ahead.When his self-esteem was battered, his parents patched it up and sent him back into the battle (1, p. 23). Today he is a psychiatrist and a member of the faculty at the Yale University Medical School.The professional and personal experiences of Dr.Comer illustrate that adversity can turn one off and turn one on.

Alexander Leighton also called attention to the multiple responses that individuals may make to similar situations in his study of Japanese in relocation camps in the United States.He wrote that cooperation, withdrawal, and aggressiveness are three basic


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