Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among victims of reverse discrimination.   Victims may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Victims of Reverse Discrimination
Originally published March 17, 2000

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Adversity.Net Special Report -- by Tim Fay, Chairman and Founder

          As many as 7 percent of Americans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lives.   Modern psychology now recognizes that many traumatic incidents besides combat can bring on PSTD, such as sexual assault, car accidents, on-the-job trauma, and even discrimination.

          I speak with and correspond with hundreds of victims of reverse discrimination.  The most common emotional state they all manifest is a non-combat equivalent of "shell shock".  They universally exhibit an attitude of "I just can't believe this happened to me!"  And "I don't know what to do about it!"

          These are decent, work-ethic kinds of people.  Some of them are professionals with college educations, some are tradespeople, and all are (or were) hard working individuals who just wanted to earn a living.  They span all age ranges.  My personal contacts have been with individuals aged 30 to 70 years old.  All of them were economically productive, and emotionally whole, until faced with a traumatic incident of reverse discrimination which said to them, in essence, "You cannot reap economic reward in this country unless you are the 'correct' race, gender or ethnicity.  Unfortunately, you are 'white' and therefore we are going to pass you over for a person of the correct color."

          The victims I have dealt with most commonly manifest a severe erosion of self-confidence as a result of this devastating encounter.  Most of them suffer varying degrees of anxiety and depression afterwards. Virtually all of them experience multiple occurrences of reverse discrimination, and each episode serves to further reinforce their feelings of helplessness and "wrongness".

          While most of my dialogue with fellow victims have been in cyberspace, I have met some of them face to face, and I've spoken with others on the telephone.  These are brittle, damaged people.  You can tell by their voices, by their eye contact, by the way they hold themselves.  They live in fear that it will happen again -- and again.  And for many of them it DOES happen again and again.

          Some of the individuals whom I've met are so incredibly angry that they can barely speak of the discrimination without their voices shaking, or without becoming loud and angry, or without weeping.  Some of them were barely able to make eye contact with me, as if they were ashamed of what happened to them.  Many of them seem to find themselves trapped in a recurring nightmare.

          In layman's terms, all of these damaged souls are obsessed with what happened to them.  It occupies most of their waking moments, and frequently occupies their sleeping, dreaming moments.   As the psychologists say, they have "intrusive recollections" or "flashbacks", which means that they find themselves mentally reviewing the incident, constantly thinking about it, even though they do not want to.

          None of the victims with whom I've been in contact have demonstrated racism or bigotry.   They do not bear animosity toward "persons of color".  Many of them have friends or intimate relationships with individuals who are considered minorities.   But that only seems to make the pain of their reverse discrimination experience even more acute.

          My conversations with one victim in particular, who has himself become something of an anti-quota, anti-preferences activist, directly led me to the idea of analyzing these symptoms in terms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

          Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a bona fide medical / mental disorder as classified in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-IV).  The Americans with Disabilities Act also recognizes PTSD as a mental disability whose victims are protected from employer discrimination.

          Consistent with the APA’s diagnostic standards regarding PTSD, it has become clear to me that reverse discrimination often precipitates severe and lasting emotional and psychological symptoms in its victims.

          Symptoms such as profound shock, anxiety and despair are often manifested in victims who have been denied employment, education, or government contracting opportunities simply because they are not protected by preferential government and private sector programs which specify that persons of the correct race (non-whites) be given preference in hiring, promotions, and contracting. 

          The victims of reverse discrimination most often analyze the incident in terms like this:  "Wait a minute!  You're telling me I can't have this job, promotion, or contract because I'm the wrong color?  That's racist!  That's prohibited by our laws, by our constitution!  You can't do that!" 

          But then it IS done to them, and shortly thereafter they find that the courts and the political process do not care that they were discriminated against because of their race.  This belated discovery only serves to deepen their sense of confusion, anger, and depression.  They ask "How can this be?  I didn't do anything wrong!  I didn't discriminate against anybody!  Why can't anyone see how wrong this is?"

          The idea that victims of reverse discrimination suffer from PTSD has been validated, perhaps unintentionally, by advocates for minority victims of racial discrimination at the annual convention of the National Medical Association in 1997.

          In a 1997 article in Clinical Psychiatry News [25(10):1-2, 1997. 1997 International Medical News Group] the findings of Dr. Hugh F. Butts regarding the effects of racist housing discrimination on minority victims are presented.  Dr. Butts examined 30 victims of housing discrimination who were minorities.  The article states, in part:

          "Housing discrimination [based on racism] provokes "severe and lasting emotional symptoms" in some individuals, who can rightfully be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said a New York City psychiatrist who is a consultant for the Fair Housing Clinic of Columbia University School of Law.

          "Speaking at the annual convention of the National Medical Association, Dr. Hugh F. Butts described symptoms of profound shock, anxiety, and despair suffered by people turned away by landlords because of the color of their skin.  In his evaluations of 30 people referred by fair housing groups, Dr. Butts found that most react with stunned anger and momentary confusion to slammed doors or mysteriously rented apartments that were available just moments before."

          Since reverse discrimination is based on racism and/or sexism, it is more than plausible that the same diagnosis proffered by Dr. Butts should -- must -- also be made for victims of reverse discrimination.   Most victims of reverse discrimination react with anger and confusion when job opportunities, educational admissions, or government contracts are denied because those opportunities have been reserved for persons of a certain color or gender.  Most reverse discrimination victims who have contacted me initially express disbelief that this could be happening to them.

          A very few lucky individuals are able to "forget about it" and chalk up the incident to reverse racism in a crazy, politically correct America which is obsessed with granting special race-based and gender-based favors to politically defined protected classes at the expense of "non-minorities".  (This is consistent with Dr. Butts' presentation, cited above.  This phenomenon is also consistent with the APA's diagnostic criteria.)

          However, for many other victims, feelings of depression, apathy, or sadness may develop within hours, weeks, or a few months of the incident, and these symptoms may persist for many years -- or for a lifetime.  Disturbed sleep patterns often result.  Many victims report a pathological change in appetite, eating either too much (and gaining weight), or eating too little (and losing weight).

          Like all victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, victims of reverse discrimination often focus incessantly on the original, seminal incident during which they experienced denial of their right to equal protection under the law without regard to race or gender.  The incident may dominate their thoughts to such an extent that they go to bed thinking of it, and they awake in the morning thinking of it.  Many PTSD victims have dreams about the original incident.

          This is entirely consistent with symptoms manifested by victims of disasters or acts of war:  "Why is this happening to me?  I didn't do anything wrong!"

          Victims develop an extremely heightened sensitivity to subsequent, unrelated incidents which merely remind them of the original, seminal reverse discrimination incident.  These secondary incidents cause extreme stress in and of themselves and, over time, can lead to full-blown depressive disorders and to clinical Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

          Reverse discrimination victims may find themselves unable to apply for a new job, or unable to bid on a new contract, or unable to apply to another school.  They often become fearful that any efforts to seek employment (or admission to a school) will result in another incident of reverse discrimination!  They may feel so helpless that they are unable to seek legal redress.  If they do seek legal redress they often find that the deck is stacked against them, and that the courts turn a deaf ear to their pleas because, after all, these victims are white and therefore they are presumed to have been "privileged". 

          Their self-esteem and self confidence are damaged, or even completely shattered.   Most of them to some degree lose confidence in the U.S. legal system and in the representative political process.  "How could this be happening to me?  I played by the rules!  I am not a racist!  I was not a slave holder!  And I sure as hell wasn't given the opportunity to vote for or against this policy!"

          In particular, government contractors, federal employees, students, and municipal employees such as police and fire fighters frequently report they are rebuffed in their attempts to obtain employment, promotions, government contracts or educational admissions because they are "white" and/or male.  These individuals are further devastated when acquaintances who are "the right color or gender", i.e., who are defined as a "minority" or as a "preferred class", more easily obtain jobs, promotions, contracts or admission to the school of their choice.

          Victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder induced by reverse discrimination often experience gastrointestinal disorders, substance abuse problems, heightened "startle response" (loud noises or other other, sudden, unexpected occurrences cause them to overreact).  Depression and/or migraine headaches may manifest for the first time.  Many such victims succumb to various cancers or cardiovascular problems.  

          Due to their trauma-induced emotional state (closed, fearful, and self-protective) many victims develop problems in their interpersonal relationships.  Victims' marriages and friendships are frequently shattered in the aftermath of reverse discrimination incidents.  One insightful victim to whom I spoke last week candidly attributed his advanced colon cancer and the dissolution of his marriage to his repeated experiences with reverse discrimination.  [This victim most recently worked for the American Red Cross during Elizabeth Dole's leadership of that organization.  He reported to me that Ms. Dole's aggressive support of racial and gender quotas virtually guaranteed that non-minority males at the Red Cross would never be promoted.  His own experiences at Red Cross, as he reported to me, proved that assumption to be correct.]

          There is a definite tendency in the politically-correct "pro-quota" world to downplay the effects of reverse discrimination upon its victims.  This fact is painfully evident to the victims themselves, who have become hyper-sensitized to the adverse effects upon them of any race-based policy. 

          The message these damaged souls repeatedly hear from the popular press and their elected officials is:  "Oh, its not so bad.  You victims are white, and you're privileged, and you can always find other work".  But the evidence overwhelmingly suggests otherwise:  White (non-minority) employees and contractors often cannot find other work, especially if they have lodged official complaints or initiated legal proceedings pertaining to their reverse discrimination.  Retribution appears to run very high for those who seek color-blind justice.  Victims become hyper-aware of the legal and political efforts to define "criticism" of these policies as non-protected speech.  (See also Eugene Volokh:  Is Criticizing Affirmative Action Illegal?)

          Based on the hundreds of stories of reverse discrimination cases which have crossed Adversity.Net’s desk, it is quite evident that many -- perhaps most -- victims of this abhorrent, unconstitutional practice suffer from real and verifiable symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

          Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an actionable/protected mental disability within the definition of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Victims thus may qualify for protection from employer and workplace discrimination against them for manifesting this disorder. -30-
[ 2000, 2002 Adversity.Net.  All Rights Reserved.]

[ About the Author:  Tim Fay is a federal contractor in Washington, DC.  He has repeatedly been subjected to reverse discrimination and denial of business opportunities because of his race and gender.  He continues to be amazed that federal officials routinely tell him that he is the wrong race to be performing contract work for the government. For a capsule summary of Mr. Fay's documented reverse discrimination experiences, see especially Case 1 and Case 24.]

Links, References, and Sources:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (American Psychiatric Association)

"Symptoms -- PTSD usually appears within 3 months of the trauma, but sometimes the disorder appears later. PTSD’s symptoms fall into three categories:

"Intrusion -- In people with PTSD, memories of the trauma reoccur unexpectedly, and episodes called "flashbacks" intrude into their current lives. This happens in sudden, vivid memories that are accompanied by painful emotions that take over the victim’s attention. This experience, or "flashback," of the trauma is a recollection. It may be so strong that individuals almost feel like they are actually experiencing the trauma again or seeing it unfold before their eyes and in nightmares.

"Avoidance -- Avoidance symptoms affect relationships with others: The person often avoids close emotional ties with family, colleagues, and friends. At first, the person feels numb, has diminished emotions, and can complete only routine, mechanical activities. Later, when reexperiencing the event, the individual may alternate between the flood of emotions caused by reexperiencing and the inability to feel or express emotions at all. The person with PTSD avoids situations or activities that are reminders of the original traumatic event because such exposure may cause symptoms to worsen.

          "The inability of people with PTSD to work out grief and anger over injury or loss during the traumatic event means the trauma can continue to affect their behavior without their being aware of it. Depression is a common product of this inability to resolve painful feelings. Some people also feel guilty because they survived a disaster while others—particularly friends or family—did not.

"Hyperarousal -- PTSD can cause those who have it to act as if they are constantly threatened by the trauma that caused their illness. They can become suddenly irritable or explosive, even when they are not provoked. They may have trouble concentrating or remembering current information, and, because of their terrifying nightmares, they may develop insomnia. This constant feeling that danger is near causes exaggerated startle reactions.

          "Finally, many people with PTSD also attempt to rid themselves of their painful re-experiences, loneliness, and panic attacks by abusing alcohol or other drugs as a "self medication" that helps them to blunt their pain and forget the trauma temporarily.  A person with PTSD may show poor control over his or her impulses and may be at risk for suicide." (Courtesy of the American Psychiatric Association)

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EEOC Notice Number 915.002 Date 3-25-97 -- Post traumatic stress disorder caused by reverse discrimination may qualify you for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (see links, below)

1. What is a "mental impairment" under the ADA?

          The ADA rule defines "mental impairment" to include "[a]ny mental or psychological disorder, such as . . . emotional or mental illness."    Examples of "emotional or mental illness[es]" include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (which include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder), schizophrenia, and personality disorders.  The current edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (now the fourth edition, DSM-IV) is relevant for identifying these disorders.  The DSM-IV has been recognized as an important reference by courts and is widely used by American mental health professionals for diagnostic and insurance reimbursement purposes.  Not all conditions listed in the DSM-IV, however, are disabilities, or even impairments, for purposes of the ADA.   For example, the DSM-IV lists several conditions that Congress expressly excluded from the ADA's definition of "disability."  While DSM-IV covers conditions involving drug abuse, the ADA provides that the term "individual with a disability" does not include an individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of that use.  The DSM-IV also includes conditions that are not mental disorders but for which people may seek treatment (for example, problems with a spouse or child).   Because these conditions are not disorders, they are not impairments under the ADA.

          Even if a condition is an impairment, it is not automatically a "disability."   To rise to the level of a "disability," an impairment must "substantially limit" one or more major life activities of the individual."

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Public and Private Sector Employers of 15 or More Subject to ADA

          "Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which applies to public and private sector employers with 15 or more employees, prohibits an employer from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability.

          "The ADA's prohibition against discrimination on the basis of an individual's mental impairment raises some of the most difficult issues for employers covered by the statute.

          "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported that 6,521, or 12 percent, of ADA charges filed between July 1992 and September 1995 involved mental or emotional impairments.  This number signals the complexity of the issues surrounding application of the ADA to mental disorders."

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More / Similar:  Oklahoma City Survivors Exhibit Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (08/25/99)

          CHICAGO — "Nearly half the bombing survivors studied from the Oklahoma City bombing had an active post-disaster psychiatric disorder, according to an article in the August 25 [1999] issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

          "Carol S. North, M.D., M.P.E., from the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and colleagues interviewed 182 adult survivors of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, approximately 6 months after the disaster. The bombing killed 167 and injured 684 people. The fatality rate inside the Murrah building was 46 percent and 93 percent of survivors who were in the building were injured. The study objectives included documenting rates of postdisaster mental health problems, examining functional impairment, and identifying predictors of these difficulties to help guide mental health intervention workers in future disasters.

          "The researchers found that 45 percent of the subjects had a postdisaster psychiatric disorder and 34 percent has posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The number of personal injuries and injury or death of a family member or friend increased the likelihood of a postdisaster disorder. Women had about twice the rate of PTSD as men (45 percent vs. 23 percent), major depression (32 percent vs. 13 percent), and were more likely to be diagnosed with any postdisaster disorder (55 percent vs. 34 percent).

          "According to the authors, onset of PTSD was swift, with 76 percent of the subjects reporting same-day onset. Few cases developed after the first month."  (JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999;281:755-762) 

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End Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.