by Joshua Miller and Ann Marie Garran; Belmont, California, Thomson Brooks, 2007, 352 pages, $50.95
Dr. Bell is president and chief executive officer of Community Mental Health Council and Foundation, Inc., and professor of public health and psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
This is a well-written, comprehensive, interesting book authored by two self-proclaimed antiracism-activist social workers that takes an in-depth look at racism in the United States. If it was required reading, there would be less racial tension in all helping professions. The only flaw is the lack of psychiatric perspective—for example, the American Psychiatric Association's position on racism (1) and other psychiatric perspectives (2).
Beginning with a very nice conversational introduction framing the content, each chapter ends with individual, interpersonal, group, and organizational exercises that make grappling with this subject easier. Thirteen chapters supply outstanding text and visual representations of how racism operates. They thoroughly explore complex issues of power, privilege, and social identity, plus differentiate theory on ethnicity, race relations, and prejudice while highlighting structural theories of racism and critical race theory.
Material on the New Deal, Great Depression, civil rights movement, and the Great Society adequately covers the historical context of racism and explains that racial exploitation and subjugation built the United States. A great discussion on institutional racism includes an exemplary diagram pointing out the multilevel, systematic comprehensiveness of racism. This ubiquitous presence impacts all helping professions. Thus understanding racism is essential because it affects interactions between consumers, providers, and colleagues and affects what's researched, taught, and thought of as normative professional behavior. Residential, educational, employment, environmental, health, mental health, political, criminal justice, and media racism are well covered.
The authors admirably discuss the difficulty people with privilege have seeing racism—that is, the denial of aspects of white privilege in the U.S. They provide good strategies for confronting stereotypes and doing antiracism work in communities, agencies, and organizations, with ideas on how to alleviate intergroup conflict using pragmatic strategies—for example, finding common ground and developing leadership fostering healing, reconciliation, and racial justice.
Miller and Garran have a laudable exposition of the overlap between racism and other social forms of oppression—based on socioeconomic class, gender, sexual orientation, and citizenship or immigration status. There is an excellent analysis of how President Johnson's Great Society turned the South into a Republican stronghold and how all subsequent presidents used the issue of race to foment white working-class resentment toward people of color.
The authors assert that therapeutic consideration of social identity, culture, values, and world views of the therapist and patient, which along with the issue of power, are paramount, especially with mixed-race therapeutic dyads. They give great examples of how European-American theoretic biases make cross-racial clinical work difficult—for example, the Western notion of talking about feelings is not a universally accepted way to heal. There is good advice for clinicians who identify as white, as people of color, or as multiracial. Finally, the authors discuss how to dismantle racism by creating a web of resistance. This is a must-have book.
American Psychiatric Association: Resolution Against Racism and Racial Discrimination, 2006. Available at www.psych.org/edu/other_res/lib_archives/archives/200603.pdf
Bell CC: Racism-A Mental Illness? Psychiatric Services 55:1343, 2004