Before psychiatry had the concept of psychopaths, there was what used to be called "moral insanity:
""The term 'moral insanity' is unfamiliar to psychiatrists today, but it was an accepted diagnosis in Europe and America throughout most of the 19th century. As late as 1883, the American Journal of Insanity (forerunner of the American Journal of Psychiatry) published an article titled 'Moral Insanity.' Individuals who retained their intellectual capacity but harbored strange and unrealistic ideas had puzzled European physicians of the 18th century.
. . . Dr. J.C. Prichard (1786-1848) of England is credited with being the first to use the term moral insanity. In 1835 he wrote: 'There is a form of mental derangement in which the intellectual faculties [are uninjured], while the disorder is manifested principally or alone in the state of feelings, temper, or habits. . .The moral. . . principles of the mind. . . are depraved or perverted, the power of self-government is lost or greatly impaired, and the individual is. . . incapable. . . of conducting himself with decency and propriety in the business of life.'"
Moral Insanity: A Brief History, by Lucy Ozarin, M.D., M.P.H., Psychiatric News May 18, 2001Volume 36 Number 10, American Psychiatric Association, p. 21.
Since I don't like the ugly connotations that right-wing, Christian religious fanatics have created around the word "moral," let's call it ethical insanity. I think that in many ways it's a better term than "sociopath/psychopath" because it gives a more precise flavor of what's wrong with so many people. I think the term "ethical insanity" also helps us to see the nuances between people who aren't quite psychopaths, yet are still far outside the bounds of human decency and propriety.
The African-American collective is TEEMING with ethically insane individuals. Individuals who retain their intellectual capacity but harbor strange and depraved ideas that are far outside the bounds of decency and propriety.
We've seen examples of ethical insanity with the strange and depraved ideas voiced by a number of African-Americans regarding the Dunbar Village gang rape case. http://www.whataboutourdaughters.com/2009/08/waod-reader-responds-to-vanessa-lee-teacher-of-the-year-not/
We've seen examples of ethical insanity with the strange and depraved priorities of many of our (mis)leaders. http://www.whataboutourdaughters.com/2008/03/open-letter-regarding-naacp-sharpton-and-dunbar-village-atrocity/ [Please note that Maude Ford Lee, the President of the West Palm Beach Branch of the NAACP, is the mother of the ethically insane Vanessa Lee who is quoted in the first What About Our Daughters post linked above. It's obvious that this ethically insane "apple" didn't fall far from the tree.]
I was reminded of the issue of ethical insanity during our recent blog discussion about the emerging trend of historically Black colleges and universities becoming epicenters of HIV/AIDS infections. I was quite impressed by the commenters. They didn't do what African-American women typically do when discussing the skyrocketing numbers of HIV/AIDS infections among Black women. I was delighted to see that commenters didn't fixate on becoming what some gay Black male activists have called "down low detectives." [All of which is not to deny the need for concern about unwittingly dating down low men. But prudent concern isn't the same thing as an irrational fixation.]
My Sisters, Eliminate The KNOWN Risks Before Fixating On Speculative Risks
I've always wondered why so many African-American women fixate on becoming what some gay Black male activists have called "down low detectives" instead of starting by eliminating KNOWN, easily-identified risks from their sexual lives such as Black male criminals, drug users and playboys.
Yes, down low Black men ARE a large part of the problem as pertains to African-American women becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. But so are the straight Black male jailbirds, dope fiends and playas! It amazes me to see how fixated so many African-American women are on scoping out hidden down low signs instead of getting rid of the known, easily-identifiable risks such as the jailbirds, dope fiends and playas. I wouldn't call this behavior ethically insane, but it is irrational and self-defeating if the point is simply to reduce one's risk of dating an infected man. There's also a touch of unethical cowardice in only fixating on culturally "approved" targets of condemnation, instead of speaking the entire truth. Instead of also identifying the "sacred cows" of Black male jailbirds, druggies and playboys as sources of HIV/AIDS transmission to African-American women.
However, there are some Black female "down low detectives" who ARE ethically insane:
Ethical Insanity Outbreak At D.C.'s Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church
Here's part of the story published by the Washington Blade dated February 1, 2008 (you really need to read it in its entirety---it's that . . . special---my comments are in blue):
"One of Washington’s largest black Pentecostal churches was rocked by a female member of its choir who sent separate e-mail messages to the pastor in December and January outing more than 100 church members as gay, mostly male choir members.
The outings added to the inner turmoil experienced by a large number of gays who attend services at the 7,000-member Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, located on Rhode Island Ave., N.E., according to a gay former member who provided copies of the e-mails to the Blade.
“'I will be leaving the choir at the top of the year because 80 percent of the tenors are homosexuals and act more like a female in choir rehearsal than I do,' the church choir member said in one of her e-mails to Bishop Alfred Owens Jr., the church pastor. [Khadija speaking: So . . . let's see. This woman is writing the pastor complaining about allegedly gay men in the church choir that she also accuses of acting in a stereotypical effeminate manner. And she feels compelled to "notify" the pastor about this . . . because these multitudes of allegedly effeminate, gay men in his choir have somehow escaped his notice. Even though he watches these men sing each and every Sunday. Hmmm . . .]
The e-mail, sent in December, identifies about 45 fellow church members as gay. She sent a second e-mail to Owens on Jan. 2 identifying another 62 church members as gay. [Khadija: So, somehow the pastor (who we'll later see is an anti-gay bigot) supposedly never noticed over 100 allegedly effeminate, gay men singing in his choir each Sunday. That's . . . interesting.]
'The following people I am asking you to monitor very closely and my prayer is that you will sit them down from their ministries,' she told Owens in the December e-mail. 'Because they are ushering in the presence of sin, lies, a spirit of homosexuality and sexual spirits.' [Khadija: Whatever. Gee, I wonder what "spirit" this "blessed and highly favored" woman is ushering in?]
She sent a copy of her e-mails to a Yahoo list group that goes to more than 300 church members, the gay former church member said. [Khadija: Oh, my God . . . that's incredibly vicious. She already called herself "telling on" these men to the pastor. What possible, purportedly "good faith" reason could she have for doing this? As my best friend from New Orleans says in the gentle drawl that she pulls out for emphasis---Ahhh . . . naaawwww. This is some petty, evil, and downright Satanic mess. What sounds most likely is something along the lines that after spending several years in the choir, "Sister Bertha" was not chosen to do a solo and then she got mad. And then she decided to lash out. Whatever her true, petty gripe was, she's certainly ethically insane.]
. . Owens became the subject of media attention in April 2006 when he used the word 'fag' in a sermon on Palm Sunday. 'It takes real men to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior,' Owens said in the sermon, which was recorded by the church. 'I’m not talking about no faggot or no sissy,' he said. 'Let the real men come down here and take a bow — all the real men. I’m talking about straight men … praise God that you’re straight.'
The church’s web site includes a listing of twice-monthly sessions of a ministry called 'Breaking the Chains of Homosexuality,' which it says helps gays change their sexual orientation through counseling and prayer. [Khadija: All right, now. This church has been quite up-front in telling gays and lesbians that they are NOT welcome there; and that this place is NOT a church home for them. So why are they going there; and going so far as to participate in the choirs? In many ways this reminds me of how slave-minded African-Americans persist in shopping with Koreans and Arab shopkeepers who have nothing but hatred and contempt for them.
But it also raises the ethical question of what good-faith reason could gays and lesbians possibly have for going to this particular church? This church has already let them know that they are not welcome. So, why are they infiltrating places of worship where they've been told that they are not welcome? To my way of thinking, that's somewhat unethical. A house of worship is not intended to function like a government building. It's a place of private fellowship among presumably like-minded believers. There's NO obligation whatsoever for any house of worship to make any particular person or any particular category of persons feel welcome there.
It would be similar to me (as a progressive Muslim) infiltrating a Taliban-type mosque that's up-front about the fact that they preach reactionary madness. What legitimate purpose would I have for running up in there when I know they don't want progressive Muslims in THEIR mosque? And it is their mosque since it was founded, and is being run, according to their reactionary doctrine. That's their spiritual "home." How is it legitimate for me to either infiltrate or gate-crash their spiritual home when they've made it clear that they don't want me in there?]
. . . The gay former church member who sent the outing e-mails to the Blade also sent a copy of a separate e-mail from an outraged gay church member who was among those named in the first two e-mails as gay. 'I do not believe that someone would [have] the nerve to put my name to a list of known gays,' he wrote in an e-mail sent to Owens and members of the church Yahoo group. 'This has gone too far, I am not going down by myself.' He went on to name other gays, including some in high-level church positions. [Khadija: WOW! . . . just wow. . . Yet another example of ethical insanity.]
'It is so bad that in the last e-mail we are turning on each other,' the gay former church member, who sent copies of the e-mails to the Blade, said. 'Although I wanted to remain anonymous, someone has to do something.'" [Khadija: Yes, that was unfortunate. It's an important reminder that people can be victims AND victimizers at the same time. We'll get back to this point later.] http://www.washblade.com/2008/2-1/news/localnews/11956.cfm
Several Black gay and lesbian blogs discussed this incident at the time. Pam's House Blend (although her audience seems to be composed of mostly White lesbians and gays. http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do%3fdiaryId=4351 and Living Out Loud with Darian at http://loldarian.blogspot.com/2008/01/bishop-alfred-owens-some-people-never.html) discussed this incident at the time. You may find it interesting to read the discussions there.
There Are Many Situations Where People Are Victims AND Villains At The Same Time
Real life is filled with nuances and shades of gray. There are many situations where oppressed people are also victimizing and endangering others. A person can be a victim and a villain at the same time. I've talked about this before in the context of battered women:
"If You Choose to Help a Victim of Domestic Violence, Offer Help From A SAFE DISTANCE.
This is the part where I'm sure to offend many, if not most, survivors of domestic violence. I must admit that I'm not automatically as empathetic as I used to be about this issue. I've had too much work-related exposure to domestic violence victims. Both as a former prosecutor and as a defense attorney.
Here's the part that women's advocates won't tell you: Many women who are victims of domestic violence will ultimately, and eagerly, go back to their abusers. If you allowed yourself to get heavily involved in "rescuing" such a woman, she AND her abuser will paint you as somebody who just wanted to break them up (after she returns to him). This means that the male abuser might want to come after YOU after they are lovey-dovey again!
Many women who are victims of domestic violence will also destroy any sanctuary that you offer them. They will bring predators into the previously-safe environment. After she reconciles with her batterer, she will start having him come visit her in the new apartment that you provided for her. She will be resentful if you won't allow him to move into the new apartment. This scenario has happened to several other landlords I know. Good Samaritan, Beware!"
Several readers described their own observations of this:
One reader said, "As a child, I witnessed my mother turn on people who tried to intervene when she was getting beat on. As an adult, I was told by my brothers that once she regained custody of them, that she would turn on them whenever they tried to stop the fighting between her and her husband. They eventually just learned to tune it out, by going into their bedrooms and turning on some music."Another reader commented, "My niece had a friend who lived next door to us several years ago. The friend lived with her mother, and her mother’’s boyfriend. One summer day we had a cook out in the back yard when we heard screaming and yelling. The woman was being beaten by her boyfriend, and actually began screaming for my 8-year-old niece to help her!
She was actually screaming my niece’s name and telling her to come and help her!! My niece wanted to go upstairs, but my mother stopped her. Instead we called the cops. By the time the cops got there, it was over. We directed the cops to the right door, and when they knocked, she opened the door and told them that he had left. The cops told her they had to come in and talk to her, but I guess the boyfriend hid while she talked to them.
Do you know this woman didn’t speak to us for about a month after this incident! Apparently, she didn’t want the cops called. She just wanted someone to come and help her. As far as I was concerned, the cops were help! The boyfriend never spoke to us again, which was fine by me. My niece was very confused by the whole thing, and I was actually mad myself, so her not speaking worked for me.
I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if my niece had been visiting her daughter or if she had been in the back yard by herself. She probably would have gone up there to try to help. And what about my niece's friend? God only knows what she was seeing living there. After that incident I forbade my niece from ever going to their house again. In these situations, you are not only up against the abuser, you are also up against the abused. How many times have the cops put cuffs on an abuser only to have the victim scream to leave him alone. I can't save a woman from herself." http://muslimbushido.blogspot.com/2009/02/you-dont-need-anybodys-permission-to.html
There are many times when we have to protect ourselves from people who are being victimized by others. This down low phenomenon is one of those situations. Yes, the widespread and virulent anti-gay bigotry within African-American culture is what causes so many gay and bisexual Black men to hide their true orientation. However, this oppression does NOT give anybody license to use women (without their knowledge or consent) as cover stories. It's one thing to hide without involuntarily involving other people in your deception. It's something else to deceive women and endanger their lives because you want to hide. This sort of behavior is ethically insane.
Many Gay Black Male Activists Are SOLELY Focused On Avoiding Accountability For Their Group's Part In The Spread of HIV/AIDS---They DON'T Care About Public Health Or Safety
It's been disturbing to see that many gay Black male activists don't seem to comprehend the ethical insanity of down low gay men deceiving women, using them as involuntary cover stories, and thereby endangering these women's lives without their knowledge. Let's get real: Most women across the board are not going to insist upon their husbands wearing condoms. Period. The only thing many gay Black male activists are focused on is ducking and dodging having any level of accountability for this plague being assigned to gay/bisexual Black men.
I've read all sorts of utterly irresponsible statements from gay Black male commenters and activists. I'll just mention one such activist named Keith Boykin. I read his book Beyond The Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America. His book is basically several hundred pages of "Don't blame us gay/bisexual Black men for being involved in spreading this plague." Read the following essay to get the flavor of the book. http://www.keithboykin.com/arch/2005/02/03/10_things_you_s
No matter what the issue (violent crime, drug addiction, etc.), irresponsible African-American "thinkers" consistently argue that focusing on elimating our own destructive behavior is a distraction from the so-called REAL issue. And somehow the so-called "real" issue is always something that is outside of our control. This posture of ducking and dodging any responsibility for the negative results caused by negative behaviors is a tradition. It's a tradition with African-American males, and the African-American collective in general. Protecting an image is more important than the African-American lives that are lost. This posture is ethically insane.