- BARI WEISS - JUN 4, 2021 - Katie Herzog -
'The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind'
A psychiatrist lecturing at Yale's Child Study Center spoke about 'unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way.'
A few weeks ago, someone sent me a recording of a talk called “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind.” It was delivered at the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center by a New York-based psychiatrist as part of Grand Rounds, an ongoing program in which clinicians and others in the field lecture students and faculty.
When I listened to the talk I considered the fact that it might be some sort of elaborate prank. But looking at the doctor’s social media, it seems completely genuine.
Here are some of the quotes from the lecture:
This is the cost of talking to white people at all. The cost of your own life, as they suck you dry. There are no good apples out there. White people make my blood boil. (Time stamp: 6:45)
I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step. Like I did the world a fucking favor. (Time stamp: 7:17)
White people are out of their minds and they have been for a long time. (Time stamp: 17:06)
We are now in a psychological predicament, because white people feel that we are bullying them when we bring up race. They feel that we should be thanking them for all that they have done for us. They are confused, and so are we. We keep forgetting that directly talking about race is a waste of our breath. We are asking a demented, violent predator who thinks that they are a saint or a superhero, to accept responsibility. It ain’t gonna happen. They have five holes in their brain. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall. It’s just like sort of not a good idea. (Time stamp 17:13)
We need to remember that directly talking about race to white people is useless, because they are at the wrong level of conversation. Addressing racism assumes that white people can see and process what we are talking about. They can’t. That’s why they sound demented. They don’t even know they have a mask on. White people think it’s their actual face. We need to get to know the mask. (Time stamp 17:54)
Here’s the poster from the event. Among the “learning objectives” listed is: “understand how white people are psychologically dependent on black rage.”
We’ve uploaded the lecture so you can listen to the whole thing yourself. Apologies for the less-than-stellar audio quality.
The talk, which was delivered via video in early April, was open to the public. But after it was delivered, Yale made the tape available only to those with a school ID. It was posted along with a trigger warning for “profanity and imagery for violence.”
Katie Herzog, who wrote yesterday about the spread of wokeness in medicine, interviewed the psychiatrist who delivered the talk, Dr. Aruna Khilanani.
KH: Your bio online says you are a “Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, with expertise in violence, racism, and marginalized identities. I left academic institutions because of institutional racism. Word.” Tell me about that. What happened?
AK: I trained at Cornell and Columbia and NYU and I really experienced all aspects of Cornell and Columbia as very racist. Less so NYU. NYU I found to be a lot more open. Cornell, I think we had one black faculty member. When I was at Columbia we had, I think, one black psychoanalyst. And just the way of thinking was all the same.
Do you have examples of what you experienced?
Sure. When I was at Cornell, I got beat up by a patient’s family member. I have a friend who is blonde and when she got threatened [by a patient] I think they did a Grand Rounds or a talk or some kind of symposium. They really addressed it. She was given a lot of support. And I’m not even sure if she was actually hit or not.
Now, when that happened to me, and I actually got beat up, the way they responded was, “Well what do you think you did to elicit this?” That's the question I got. Like I must have done something to provoke the attack.
Did you file a complaint?
No, because the more that you push back, the more they are going to keep attacking you. Also, in my first year, along with another person of color, I had the most Saturday call. These things are not incidental. There was a meeting where they actually tried to take away my vacation from me.
They came up with this idea that since I hadn’t put the request on the calendar then they’re not going to give it to me. So that one I did push back on. That one I reported. It was a very chilling conversation that I had with somebody. This is how these chilling conversations go. It’s never through email. They’ll call you on the phone and say, “We need to talk to you about something,” because they never want any of this stuff documented. They’ll be like, “Since you didn’t put this on the calendar, you’re not allowed to have vacation.” And I said, “So-and-so and so-and-so didn't put it on the calendar. Why do they get vacation?” And they’re like, “Do you really want to put yourself in the position where you're pointing out your colleagues’ stuff?” Like they needed to make me the person who is calling out my colleagues — not that it was unfair.
When was this?
When I was in residency. Either 2007 or ‘08.
Clearly the national conversation has changed a lot. I think in 2007, 2008, there were probably very few people who knew what anti-racism was. There was a lot more ignorance on the part of white people. Do you think things have changed in any meaningful way?
In some places things are starting to change, in other places, they really can’t reflect on themselves because there’s a lot to lose. I have a question for you.
Is what you're writing going to be from a conservative perspective?
Well, I’m not conservative so, no.
I ask because I actually think that conservatives are psychologically healthier.
They are more in touch with their anger and negative feelings. They can articulate it. They can say it, they’re not covering it up or like “Oh my god, I’m amazing, I love all people.” There's not all this liberal fluff of goodness. Conservatives can go there. They can say things that are uncomfortable that I think liberals would shirk at or move away from or deny.
I would feel more comfortable hanging out with Ann Coulter than a lot of liberals because she’s unlikely to do anything. She’s in contact with her anger and her hatred, and I think that needs to be worked through, don't get me wrong, for the country to heal, but she's actually in contact with those feelings that a lot of people can't say out loud and that's a safer space. Now do I agree with her? No. But liberals have no access to that at all. The thought is forbidden.
It sounds like what you're saying is that you think liberals would be healthier if they expressed racism.
Absolutely. Well, not racism, because racism is an action. Racism occurs in a couple situations: when you are unaware of aspects of your unconscious, then it will come out in the form of an action. So if you are not aware of your own hatred and rage, it’s going to come out in an action if the feeling is not metabolized. For people who can say that they hate something and work through that feeling, then there’s more hope there. That’s where the work really needs to happen. I can’t really help the liberal who says, “There’s no problem here.” I can't do that much with that person. This country doesn't really give white people the tools to deal with their negative feelings.
I know you have a background in critical theory. How did you go from academia to psychiatry?
My masters is in humanities and the focus is largely on critical theory. I don't know if you’re familiar with the University of Chicago, but it was very critical theory-heavy when I went. I did pre-med stuff in undergrad and had always been thinking of these issues. I also majored in English Lit and wondered about other ways of thinking. And I was interested in the unconscious for a long time, so it wasn't that big of a jump for me.
From my experience, therapists tend to act pretty neutral. Is your practice like that?
Not at all. I think that's a part of the racist aspect of psychoanalysis, this idea that people are neutral is, I think, a complete fiction. But I would say that who I am inside the room is exactly who I am outside the room. My patients have a pretty good sense of who I am. I’m not the stereotype of the psychoanalyst where I’m withholding or won’t say anything or will just be there as a sounding board because that sounds really fucking cold and empty. That sounds awful. I do have people sit with their emotions and get into unconscious stuff but I’m there as myself to be with them.
Talk to me about the unconscious. What is this?
Critical theory is about how you are positioned in the world. Ever since I was a little kid, since I’ve interacted with people who are white, and especially white women, I would notice that things were really off. So what I’ve done by going through psychoanalytic training, which is all about getting in touch with the unconscious, is literally work backwards. I'm like, “Ok, I’ve noticed that white people tend to put me in certain roles. White women will experience me this way, white men will experience me this way.” I'm going to use psychoanalysis to work backwards and treat all of this as a projection to see what I can learn about their mind.
What do your sessions look like?
I don’t do CBT [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy], I don’t do DBT [Dialectical Behavioral Therapy], I don’t do med management, except like once every three months. I only do intensive psychotherapy or intensive psychoanalysis with or without meds. I largely work with the unconscious. What does it look like? It's different for everybody, but the way people organize their anxiety is usually very meaningful. And the narrative they tell me about it is how they are uniquely suffering. I feel like it's my job to help them with that.
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