... the other Black experience

OP-ED: Korryn Gaines didn’t have a mental illness, America does

Baltimore-based Hip-Hop scholar and artist, Labtekwon, proposes in his song “The Truth About Race”, that “racism is a learned psychological disorder, a psychosis, a delusion belief based on a premise that’s bogus.”

Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by an impaired relationship with reality.

When a SWAT team is deployed to a residential neighborhood to arrest one armed woman, kills this woman and injures her child in their home, this excessive use of force illustrate a mental disorder. This force shows a delusional belief and fear.

Korryn Gaines does not have a mental disorder, she is navigating a society with a mental disorder, whose fears of Black people outweigh utilizing logic in conflicts. If through her survival, as a Black woman in America, she is mentally damaged by that society, it is a learned behavior.

America has a mental illness: racism.

By Fire Angelou*, AFROPUNK contributor

It is not a mental illness that sits in the corner, silent, thinking to itself. America’s mental illness is omnipresent. It permeates every system: government, religion, school, and more. It is a mental illness that is loud in policy and in action.
White supremacy is a global mental illness.

Any Black person that is working to understand this mental illness and/or organizing to subvert it, must understand the illogical nature of racism. For contemporary context, we need not to look any further than Charles Kinsey who was unarmed and lying on his back when he was shot by a North Miami police officer. When Kinsey asked the officer why he shot him, the officer replied: “I don’t know.”


Black mothers are tasked with communicating this mental illness to their children out of protection. For survival, Black children must understand the mental illness of the white imagination because Black people are constantly living in it; the white imagination creates alternate realities in which white people perceive they are in more danger when a Black body is around.

A Black child has to understand the white imagination before their own.

To be a Black mother in America is to simultaneously teach a child how to live and how to protect their life. Gaines had to teach her child how to understand death when he was still understanding what it meant to live. She was a beautiful mother and a martyr. Gaines utilized her rebellion, survival and ultimately her death, as a lesson for her child.

Gaines was not mentally ill, she was aware of America’s mental illness.

This is what it means to be a rebellious Black Woman and a mother in America. It means holding your gun and your child.

Black women don't need guns to be soldiers. The mere fact we exist and smile is a testimony to our warrior womanhood. During my years in this country, I have learned that to be a Black woman in America is to learn how to have a rhythm with your rage; it is remaining strong even when everything is trying to break you. It is constantly battling with depression, anxiety or hopelessness.

Being a Black person in America is constantly working to not let the American mental illness of racism become your own.

To truly become rebellious in America, one must understand the depths of the American mental illness of racism from which children, even Gaines’ 5-year old son, is not exempt.

When the police shot first with a black child in the room, they did not consider him a child. Historically, white terror has denied Black children childhood and the ability to be seen as innocent and valuable. As Stacey Patton said in her article “Killing Black Children is an American Tradition”, “the very notion of black childhood continues to be tied up in the definition of black people as property, as subhuman, and inherently dangerous. In other words, there’s no such thing as a black child.”

To those officers, that Monday morning in Gaines’ house, there was not a mother and a child. There was a growing Black man and a Black woman. Two forces, they have been socialized to believe, threaten their safety.

These police officers, and others across the country, were living in delusions about how “unsafe” they were. Even when police are heavily armed with more officers and more weapons than the civilian, they still feel unsafe.


Therefore, we cannot trust how “safe” and “unsafe” a police officer feels because they have a mental illness. No amount of weapons that an officer holds can protect them from their mental illness of racism. Their feelings are connected to abstract ideas and not tangible realities; their feelings of being “unsafe” is directly connected to just encountering Blackness.

And when Blackness dares to protect itself, we see police acting out of an intensified delusional fear. If they understand Blackness as inherently more dangerous then the police will respond to imaginary situations. They will respond with the intention to eliminate instead of deescalate. This is why we have seen many police encounters where police take in armed white men peacefully, and why Gaines and her son were shot in their home.

Over a traffic ticket. Or whistling, driving, selling cigarettes or walking home. There is nothing too trivial to kill a black person over.

Mental illness is not an excuse for brutal police actions. It is a historical observation of American consciousness and how it deploys race, and its imaginary fears, to create real, material conditions for Black people. It is how a delusional idea about a group of people can impact the physical world -- and take a beautiful human life.

America is a mental illness.

What is perhaps more terrifying than the mental illness itself -- is denying that it exist.

*Fire Angelou is a truth-teller who flips fear into strength. She celebrates blackness, uses the personal as political and ain't got time for enablers of white supremacy. She enjoys drumming, twerking and making black people smile. Follow her daily slaying @fireangelou or visit her blog at

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Comment by Tiesha on August 6, 2016 at 1:33pm
My beloved Sis.Gaines I salute a strength that surpassed all understand may her son and daughter grow up with love and compassion fighting all the odds that will be against them.My fellow brothers and sisters we need to stand together on 1 accord at all times.Much love Tie.
Comment by Taifa on August 6, 2016 at 1:31pm
Miss Fire, wooooo girrrrl... thank you for making me smile!
Comment by Cindy Cruz on August 5, 2016 at 9:06pm



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