337 Cohen Hall
Mical Raz, Yale University
"Psychiatry, Civil Rights and the Politics of Intellectual Disability"
Abstract: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new category of disability came into being - “mild mental retardation” caused by cultural deprivation. As the concept of deprivation gained currency in describing the home environments of low income African American children, it was soon translated into an accepted etiological factor for intellectual disability, and within less than a decade, appeared in all the major professional classifications of the time. This helped shift the focus from the profoundly disabled to the large group of children who could now be diagnosed with “mild mental retardation.” These children were overwhelmingly poor and black. Excoriated by black activists for “resegregating” desegregated schools by creating “tracks” or “special education” classes that served nearly exclusively African American students, the overrepresentation of minority children in special education classes has been an ongoing subject of debate from the late 1960s. The new category of “mild mental retardation” caused by deprivation enabled the diagnosis of a disproportionately large number of African American children as disabled while circumventing a discussion of race and social disadvantage in mental health and educational policy.