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Blacks, Gays, Native Americans, EI and Teen Suicide
Yesterday I started thinking about gays, blacks and teen suicide. It seems to be relatively common knowledge now that there is a higher suicide rate among gays and blacks. And an even higher suicide rate among gay blacks. I was thinking about the Mayer-Salovey definition of emotional intelligence and how they seem to completely leave out factors such as discrimination as influences on a person's behavior. It doesn't seem to hard to imagine that a person who has felt discriminated against for years and years, as well as labeled, laughed at, ridiculed, insulted, ostracized and rejected would be more likely to commit suicide than than someone who had never experienced any of this -- even if they had exactly the same level of inate emotional intelligence as new-born babies.
While a gay person might also be afraid of telling anyone he or she is gay, it obviously is a little harder for a black person to not let anyone know they are black. I would guess that an emotionally intelligent gay person would learn very quickly that it is "not okay" to tell people they are gay in some families or sub-cultures, thus starting a life of painful emotional suppression.
This brings up the issue of conformity and emotional intelligence, by the way. (See article on "Calling Conformity Intelligence") If a person is born gay in an accepting family, or in a gay tolerant country such as Denmark, I think we can all assume that it will have a much different affect on a gay young person than if they were born in a non-accepting and non-tolerant culture. Yet if in one case a person killed himself because they could no longer live with either a) the silent fears of revealing the truth, along with the constant need act out a part which was against their nature, or b) the constant rejection and perhaps physical bullying (and I remember a case of a young person who was killed in the USA, in Texas I think it was, just because they were gay) would we say that this person had lower emotional intelligence than the gay person who had a relatively happy life in much more accepting environment?
Then today I read an article by a Native American who said that "One in three of Native American women is raped and we have the highest rate of teen suicide in the country." (source)
I didn't know that Native American teens had the highest suicide rate in the USA. But it doesn't really surprise me. It has long been known that Native Americans have a high rate of drinking and alcoholism. But is this due to their low emotional intelligence as Mayer and Salovey seem to believe? Or is it more a result of the Europeans imposing their values, life-style and culture on the Native Americans? To me it would be extremely offensive to be told by university educated psychologists that young people in my sub-culture are killing themselves, women are getting raped and men are becoming alcoholics because they suffer from low emotional intelligence. But more than offensive, I would argue that it simply is not even rational to think along these lines. It is possible, of course that Native American teens have lower EI than European teens, but wouldn't we have to be able to go back in time to see if young Native American teens were killing themselves at high rates before the Europeans took over most of North America? And were men raping the native women at the same rate they are now?
Something seems very wrong with Mayer and Salovey' idea of EI, and with they test they and David Caruso have created which they seem to really believe measures emotional intelligence. If one group comes in, takes away freedoms and imposes its culture on another, and then the first reacts in self-destructive ways, is it fair to say that the first group suffers from low EI, as defined by the second group?
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|Mayer-Salovey definition of emotional intelligence|
When Louis Gray was a kid, he liked playing Cowboys
and Indians. He always wanted to be a Cowboy. Not
surprising, I guess, except that Louis Gray was - and is,
of course - an Indian.
Gray, a former newspaper editor and publisher, is the
president of the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism, a
support group for Native Americans. He searches the
Internet daily for stories about two of his pet peeves -
team nicknames and mascots. And thats how his path
crossed with mine.