During the course of writing this blog about common white tendencies, I sometimes discover as I do so that I myself am unwittingly enacting a common white tendency. In my previous post, for example, I responded to an email from "L," a reader of this blog, about a white man who only dates non-white women. I thought I was writing about this man as a white person, but I also ended up writing a lot about a particular personality disorder that I thought he might have.
As many commenters soon pointed out, writing about a personality disorder, and suggesting that this interracial dater might have it, was not a good idea, primarily because I'm not a medical professional. The offending post provoked such a strong reaction that I deleted it (I've reposted that response, for the record, in the comments to that post, here). My response implied that I was diagnosing this man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and yet, I don't know him; again, even if I did, I'm not qualified to diagnose him with anything like that.
My gratitude goes out to that post's commenters for diagnosing my demonstration of this common white tendency, and for their thoughts on that tendency, especially Commie Bastard, RVCBard, Ana Paula da Silva, Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, Kit,IzumiBayani, Lady Dani Mo, Cloudy, Restructure!, Victoria, honeybrown1976, Spiderlgs, Sheila, Doreen, Kinsley, bluey512, Julia, and Jillian (please let me know if I've missed anyone). These observers taught me something that I hadn't realized about my whitened self -- white people often offer amateur diagnoses of mental illness. Apparently, non-white people rarely do that (further comments on these provisional claims are of course welcome here).
In response to complaints about my response to L, I tried to point out in the comments that the post was really about whiteness itself as a sort of narcissism, but that didn't go over well either. Explaining what one meant to do after a screwup -- instead of simply acknowledging and apologizing for what one did -- is also a common white tendency (one that also deserves its own swpd post). As Kinsley wrote in that comment thread, "More and more it seems to me that with whiteness, the impulse to explain and the act of derailing/taking center stage/etc do sit awfully close together."
I'm more aware of that common white tendency than the tendency to diagnose mental illness without professional training, but I still do it sometimes (and hey, I'm writing and running a blog -- it's all about explaining things! just kidding). I won't do it here; that is, I won't explain anything else about my messed-up response to L's query. I acknowledge it, I apologize, I appreciate the chance to learn about another common white tendency, and I promise to do my best to never do it again.
Finally, there's this question: if white people do tend to offer amateur diagnoses of mental illness more often than non-white people do, why do they do so? When they offer such diagnoses of non-white beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and so on, I think it's more clearly a racist tendency. What is it that's happening differently when, as in my case, a white person offers an amateur diagnosis of mental illness in another white person?
Since I just learned about this tendency in myself, I don't have answers to these questions, so I'll simply offer them to you.