Marginalized Groups, Cognitive Dissonance, and a Call to Arms?
*This is a guest blog post from our friends at "Queer Brown Pride" blog
Just a few days ago, I was getting off work. As usual I waited at the bus stop, then got on. As I was walking down the bus aisle to my seat, an older Black gentleman came running down the aisle. From my first glance I looked at him and thought, “He looks schizophrenic.” Honestly, he looked like a crack head; and while I don’t know the stats on it, or whether it can be a cause of it, I started thinking of how crack and heroin can trigger mental illnesses.
So I sat down and let the image of this man ruminate for a bit. Then I started thinking about how in minority groups, usually groups that are lower in Class and Affluence, turn to drugs in order to cope/self-medicate cognitive dissonance.
As the man got off the bus, I started talking to the bus driver. She was also Black, and she was adamant about it being drugs that caused the gentleman to behave the way he did.She continued on to tell me how her son, at 19 years of age, had done something similar. He had started doing some drug and one day the police found him on the street and took him to the hospital where he was stuck in the psychiatric ward for three days.
We then started talking about how hard it is to obtain treatment, her saying “Well, if they can afford to buy crack or heroin, then why can’t they just go get treatment,” and me saying, “The majority of the time, there’s more of an ease of access to heroin, crack or alcohol than to mood stabilising drugs, and most of the time people don’t want to admit that there might be a problem, AND THEN sometimes those drugs you take end up causing psychotic breaks.” Then it was time for me to get off the bus.
Now, going back to cognitive dissonance (CD). CD occurs when you’re unable to hold two contradicting ideas at the same time, so your mind attempts to find ways to make things make sense, basically. It’s my thought that Minority Groups, ie People of Color, Queer Communities, Women et al, turn to drugs as a way to escape the societal construct that continues to tell us that we are unable to measure up to dominant systemic powers.
My experiences are soundly in the Queer PoC group. I’ve done a number of drugs, I’ve seen/known/heard of a lot of people in the community doing the same. And while this might be obvious, it’s a way to escape what passes for reality. We are constantly doping ourselves up try to cause this release of tension that envelops us. When these drugs are used, it causes a manic, euphoric feeling of grandness, like you’re on top of the world.
Let me see if I can break it down (cuz I think I have to explain it to myself, too.) Take for example the idea that in order to be on top of the world you need a fuckload of money. That’s one of the driving impetuses of the age. It permeates everything that we eat, drink, and shit. How many stories have we heard when a man or woman can’t provide for their family so they turn to alcohol to numb it all away, or turn to crack to forget about it completely. I think that’s what it boils down to, that we don’t just find other things to make things make sense. We try to completely annihilate CD by flushing it down the toilet.
While I know this affects a number of people, my primary focus is on Minority groups, and in particular Queer groups. Too often, we’ve bought into this idea of assimilating into the dominant culture. It’s becoming more and more easy. All you have to do now is tone up, find a hag, and crack a joke. We’re buying into the same capitalistic consumerism that’s completely fucked with our mindset before, but it’s okay now because it’s allowing some of us to get in with the big dogs. Which, you know, is totally what it’s all about.
I just think it’s time for us to open up our eyes, see that we will never fit into the dominant system as it exists today, and be TOTALLY okay with that. It took me a while to finally see it this way. It’s not something that can be decided in an instant. But in order for you to change the way things are, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are not the way things are. And that that isn’t a bad thing.