The Stigma of Deviance

Albino Robin

I write with urgency.

45 used Joe Biden’s son’s struggle with addiction and mental illness as a way to belittle and demean Joe Biden. It’s as appalling as it sounds. The stigma of addiction, substance abuse and mental illness has a long history.

Some of ya’ll may know the story of Jesus and his healing of a man who was demon-possessed. The man had an “impure spirit” and lived in the tombs away from the population who could no longer keep him bound (Mark 5:3-5). There are multiple stories in the Bible about “unclean” persons who were separated in their uncleanness. Women with their “issue of blood” were unclean and separated, one woman for 12 long years; persons with leprosy were “unclean” and separated. These, along with many other religious beliefs in “uncleanness” have led to many atrocities including the Salem Witch trials, which occurred in the New England states of America.

Even folklore of old demonstrates such separations—Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer. Beast, hunchbacked, rednosed. Physical anomalies that required separation from society.

The stigma is ingrained. Once a society defines its own ‘normal,’ any deviation from that norm is ‘deviant.’ This is true everywhere but we’re going to focus on the good ol’ U.S. of A. You already know about the Natives and Slavery. And you’ve seen and heard the president mock the disabled, disparage and insult Mexicans and women. Now he has included addiction and mental illness to that list.

Now, because I am incapable of making a long story short, I want to take you through some American history that will enlighten you to the idea that white supremacy is a belief, the same as any other religion and how the president’s remarks are steeped in that belief.

It was the age of Enlightenment when colonists set up shop here in this land. They had began the dramatic shift from the simplistic Biblical faith of the collective and veered into individualism. Individualism would give way to superiority. Superiority would transform philosophy and science.

It was during this “Enlightened Truth” that Darwin created the theories of Survival of the Fittest and Evolution. Darwin observed the differences within a species and called those adaptations Survival of the Fittest. But Darwin’s theory not only did not account for ‘deviations,’ his theory all but guaranteed the displacement of those who had to be cared for beyond the age of maturity. Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory gave way to his theory of on the origin of species. From the “Origin of Species” we get the Theory of Evolution. Darwin adapted the hierarchy of species to a paradigm that explained how men came into being. Keep in mind the “Enlightened” individualism and superiority here.

Long before Darwin, an Enlightened thinker by the name of Immanuel Kant wrote his Critique of Pure Reason (.pdf). In it, Kant gave an outline of the human mind. The construct, as I call it, holds that at birth, the mind has the ability to absorb, decipher, categorize and name that which the senses take in. The problem with Kant’s construct is that any deviation from that construct is considered deviant.

Darwin’s theories operate on an underlying assumption of this deviance. Any species that does not evolve will not survive. This, by extension, led to Eugenics. One of the fathers of Eugenics is Francis Galton who happened to be the cousin of Charles Darwin.

In 1904, Galton laid out his theory in an address to a community of “Enlightened” scientists. Galton presents the science that will “improve the inborn qualities of a race.” He described the unique nature of “higher” species but that even within the ‘higher’ species there is found deviance that Evolution could neither explain nor rid society of. Galton’s plan was to help Evolution along. Explaining heredity in terms of ‘germ plasm,’ Galton explained that proper breeding could eliminate the deviance of nature. In other words, proper breeding could eliminate the undesirable segments of society including what was then known as feeblemindedness; proper breeding could eliminate drunkenness, prostitution and criminality. Galton explained that his “good stock” theory hinged on his and the scientific community’s ability to sell it as if it were a religion. Over the course of the first half of the 19th century, Evolution gained traction but Creationism still held sway. Eugenics, on the other hand, caught on like wildfire.

Those deemed feebleminded, criminal, drunkards, deviant if you will, could be eliminated by not allowing them to breed. Out of this came forced sterilizations and a primary reason to allow women to abort their pregnancies (abortions have been around since ancient times, but it was always frowned upon). While legal abortions did not pass the legal or moral muster of the times, forced sterilization became a law in many states, the most infamous being Virginia. Virginia’s sterilization law became the subject of the 1928 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell. In upholding the “constitutionality” of the law, the court declared that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” The Holocaust came some years later. Mississippi would be the last state to repeal its sterilization laws.

But what could all of this have to do with the current president’s attempt to disparage the father of man who was addicted to drugs and suffered from a mental illness?

Mental illness has always been considered deviant. Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction has always been considered deviant. Deviance from the white definitions of ‘Is,’ ‘Are’ and ‘Be’ is a hereditary complication found in the germ plasm. Germ plasm today is called DNA.

Trump’s insult goes much deeper than mere shame. He is literally telling Joe Biden that his genes, his DNA, his very being is deviant and that his son’s addiction proves it.

You may not have heard all of that history in Trump’s “insult,” and you may think me extreme in my opinion. But know this—the Proud Boys and others of their ilk heard him loud and clear because this is their belief. This, my friends, is white supremacy.