Can abolishing psychiatry and the police save America (and the world)?

Can abolishing psychiatry and the police save America (and the world)?

In the first of this two-part special edition, we examine how racism, ill-gotten attitudes towards mental illness, and heavy-handed law enforcement continue to devastate Black Americans.

Tanmoy Goswami

Before you begin: a note on this special edition

On January 10, Patrick Warren, Sr., a Black man from Killeen, Texas, was shot dead by a policeman in front of his house. Warren, Sr., was experiencing a mental health crisis, and his family had called for help. Instead, he was met by an officer untrained to handle the situation any other way except by drawing his gun.

This newsletter, part I of a two-part special edition, outlines the antecedents of this shocking violence, which has killed countless other Black Americans living with mental illness, strengthening the case against systemic racism made by the Black Lives Matter and Abolish/Defund the Police protestors.

It also focuses attention on the long and troubling history of power politics that led to mental illnesses like schizophrenia being portrayed — and criminalised — as exclusively Black disorders.

The second and concluding part of this edition will contain extensive commentary from experts about what the ongoing movements to abolish the institutions of policing and psychiatry have in common (or not), and whether abolition can be the answer.

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