A report recently released by the Center For Disease Control estimated about 30 percent of inner-city children are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness commonly associated with soldiers who have returned home from war.
Last week Wendy Tokuda, reporting for KPIX 5 News, released a segment on the findings, saying kids in afflicted areas actually suffer from a more complex form of PTSD, what she referred to as "Hood Disease." Her "investigation" centered around the rising violence in East Oakland—a community that accounted for more than 50 percent of the murders citywide in 2013—and the psychological trauma residents grapple with as a result.
Ever the internet troll, CNN host Don Lemon offered a solution:
So, what's the solution?
The obvious one is to get out of the hood.
But, that's not as easy as just talking about it, especially when the parents are probably suffering from hood disease as well, and their parents before them, and their parents before them.
For many it's a lack of awareness that life can be different.
The assault on young men and women who live in areas with high concentrations of violence and poverty—Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, South Los Angeles—has been well documented, and is an ongoing battle for those who live it daily, but Tokuda's "Hood Disease," in clinical terminology, is not actually a real thing. Sorry, Don. (Also: the "obvious solution" is not just to get out of the hood, because that doesn't fix the problem, if that's how you choose to see it.)
Writing for Ebony, Keith Reed explains: "No researcher or trauma specialist has ever uttered the phrase. Neither Harvard doctors, nor CDC researchers were interviewed for the piece..."
Tokuda herself responded to Reed via email, saying: "I so regret using the term 'Hood Disease' which is not a term either the CDC uses or HARVARD. That came from a resident in Oakland, and we seized on it. It is my fault."
This is not to say that people who populate these communities do not suffer from PTSD—mental health is a taboo subject among the black community, one we'd rather sweep under the rug instead of confront head on—but the ways in which Tokuda felt the need to otherize the people in her report, effectively labeling them all "hoods," is troubling (ultimately, it was her decision to "[seize] on it"). How we consume blackness—or Latinoness, Asianess, or whiteness, for that matter—is important. bell hooks, the feminist scholar and author, said as much in her 1992 text, "Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance," writing: "We cannot, however, accept these images uncritically." So, it's not that Tokuda's report isn't needed—I'm all for discussing how mental health problems afflict (and affect!) communities of color and why it is we never want to talk about them—but the importance here lies in how we translate these messages and images to a wider audience. Labeling PTSD as "Hood Disease" for people who exhibit similar symptoms but happen to live in high-crime areas leads to all sorts of racial and social implications that, I'm willing to bet, Tokuda never intended.
It was Ice Cube who observed, "The hood is where I'm from, but it's not what I am."