Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by Louisiana physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity. He published a paper entitled, “Report On The Diseases and Physical Peculiarities Of The Negro race.” According to Cartwright, “drapetomania is derived from draptise. A runaway slave is mania mad or crazy. He opined that a nigger must be crazy to want to escape bondage from White people. Given the proper medical treatment he claimed that Blacks would not even want to or attempt escape even if they were given freedom.
DYSAETHESIA AETHIOPICA, OR HEBETUDE OF MIND AND OBTUSE SENSIBILITY OF BODY–A DISEASE PECULIAR TO NEGROES–CALLED BY OVERSEERS, ” RASCALITY.”
Dysaesthesia Aethiopica is a disease peculiar to Negroes, affecting both mind and body in a manner as well expressed by dysaesthesia, the name Dr. Cartwright gave it, as could be by a single term. There is both mind and sensibility, but both seem to be difficult to reach by impressions from without. There is a partial insensibility of the skin, and so great a hebetude of the intellectual faculties, as to be like a person half asleep, that is with difficulty aroused and kept awake.
Dr. Cartwright went on to write… “It is not my purpose to treat of the complaint as it prevails among free Negroes, nearly all of whom are more or less afflicted with it, that have not got some white person to direct and to take care of them.”
“From the careless movements of the individuals affected with the complaint, they are apt to do much mischief, which appears as if intentional, but is mostly owing to the stupidness of mind and insensibility of the nerves induced by the disease.
Thus, they break, waste and destroy everything they handle,–abuse horses and cattle,–tear, burn or rend their own clothing, and, paying no attention to the rights of property, steal others, to replace what they have destroyed. They wander about at night, and keep in a half nodding sleep during the day. They slight their work,–cut up corn, cane, cotton or tobacco when hoeing it, as if for pure mischief. They raise disturbances with their overseers and fellow-servants without cause or motive, and seem to be insensible to pain when subjected to punishment. The fact of the existence of such a complaint, making man like an automaton or senseless machine, having the above or similar symptoms, can be clearly established by the most direct and positive testimony. That it should have escaped the attention of the medical profession can only be accounted for because its attention has not been sufficiently directed to the maladies of the Negro race. Otherwise a complaint of so common an occurrence on badly-governed plantations, and so universal among free negroes, or those who are not governed at all,–a disease radicated in physical lesions and having its peculiar and well marked symptoms and its curative indications, would not have escaped the notice of the profession. The northern physicians and people have noticed the symptoms, but not the disease from which they spring. They ignorantly attribute the symptoms to the debasing influence of slavery on the mind without considering that those who have never been in slavery, or their fathers before them, are the most afflicted, and the latest from the slave-holding South the least. The disease is the natural offspring of negro liberty–the liberty to be idle, to wallow in filth, and to indulge in improper food and drinks.”
Apparently, you are a rascal if you do not wish to accept your ascribed role in the culture of the dominant people, given you could.
In other words, every mental state that would not allow Black people to simply accept subjugation is some form of disease.
When calling certain people “diseased”, the user attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents, in order to better control them. The same is true for labeling people. For example, if you define someone as controlling you do not have to evaluate your own behavior to determine if your behavior was inappropriate and you do not have to determine of whether any of the particular situations required someone to take control.
I was once involved with a woman whom would not allow me sufficient space, even to work. When she was finally ready to move on, she defined her actions as mental illness, and she found a host of other names for me as well. Those, similarly, were ways for her to refuse to evaluate her behavior and her name calling me or labeling me allowed her to dismiss me as a human being so that she did not have to deal with the causes of our woes or the ultimate consequences of her failure to treat either of us with dignity or respect in the end.
Those thinking like Dr. Cartwright have caused such a sickness in many people, not just White people.
We still have Black people today who believe that it is an illness to be Black. They still prefer “lighter skin” and so-called “good hair.” Some believe that Black people are lazy and shiftless or lack a proper “work ethic.” They attribute good work ethic to those they have been brainwashed into believing are better than they. Those others possess characteristics of what they have been taught is a superior “race” or a group of people.
Some still fear living amongst only Black People or living independently or to be free from White people. I am not advocating separation, or separate and equal or unequal. However, I am advocating Black folks learn to stand up, stand alone, and support themselves before just deferring to White people or any other people. In essence, we should learn something about accounting and investing, and do not just turn your books over to an accountant or an investor. Otherwise, you will not know if the accountant or investor is robbing you or is simply unknowledgeable.
Recently, I was at a function in Oakland, California supposedly honoring Security Ambassadors, those who help citizens with questions and who assist in cleaning the streets. Their basic tasks are to make white people feel safe when they conduct business in certain parts of the city. No such ambassadors exist in the less affluent areas.
What surprised me was even in today’s world, all of the Security Ambassadors were Black or others of so-called minority races. Over 90 percent of the Board of the directors who sponsored the event were mostly White. Even more surprising where the “Token Negroes,” entrepreneurs they honored who where not Ambassadors and seeing the huge grins on their faces just for being honored by White folks.
Meanwhile, they paraded these Ambassadors across the stage, still in uniform, as though the job has special training or requirements. The mostly white presenters described them as helpful, nice, courteous, and able to smile while working. I apologize, but aren’t those not the characteristics of a good slave? One guy they described as having such a great smile that one should consider himself blessed if he was lucky enough to catch a glimpse.
There was one who caught my attention. He happened to an Asian guy who was Ambassador of the year two years running. He was in college and about to complete his masters. This is what they all should be attempting. It did send other subliminal messages about the Black people, those who may also be working on higher education.
It was one happy plantation. I am sure any one of those honorees that complained about racism on the job would be diagnosed with Drapetomania.
If you ever feel a sudden onset of Drapetomania, relax; pick up a tool that may allow you to free yourself.
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