Shankar Vedantam, one of my favorite science writers for the WaPo, just published this piece exploring the line between normal bias and pathological bias.
Throughout the piece, Vendantam interviews psychiatrists who are both for and against classifying exreme bias as a mental illness. Among the arguments against putting pathological racist or homophobe in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM), are:
1. Do we want to consider perpetrators of hate crimes as mentally ill?
2. Will the classification of this "syndrome" or "disorder" further compromise the integrity of the DSM?
I would note that what makes it into the DSM these days is also a good candidate for future psychopharmacological solutions.
Of course, I agree with Belkin that psychiatric disorders have social norms embedded in them. I think Belkin is also astute that classifying socially inappropriate behavior does not necessarily mean that we cannot or should not punish/sanction it. To further make his point, Belkin notes that clinical depression is a diagnosis the reflects social context as much as any diagnosis in the DSM.
We medicate regularly people diagnosed as depressed. Part of the reason why we can medicate these people is because they have a diagnosis, which then allows Big Pharma to make a compound that treats this diagnosis.
What I am wondering is: will we have anti-racist or anti-homophobe drugs one day? Apparently prisoners in Sacramento considered pathologically racist are already given anti-psychotics.
What might the Eli Lilly's or Pfizer's call anti-racist drugs?
Would we make anti-sexist drugs too?
I am having fun with this. Anyone else want to play along with naming anti-pathological bias drugs?
UPDATE: Shakes Sis has more on bigotry-as-mental illness here as well as John at Americablog here.