An Introduction to Anti-Black Sanism


  • Sonia Meerai School of Social Work, Ryerson University
  • Idil Abdillahi School of Social Work, Ryerson University
  • Jennifer Poole School of Social Work, Ryerson University



anti-Black Sanism, anti-Black racism, sanism, racism, Critical mental health


Sanism is an oppression. It makes normal the practice of discrimination, rejection, silencing, exclusion, low expectations, incarceration, and other forms of violence against people who are othered through mental ‘illness’ diagnosis, history, or even suspicion. Of particular concern for us are the sanist experiences of racialized people who identify as Black, African, or of African descent, for we and others have long noted and experienced an anti-Black crisis in mental health diagnosis and “care.” For instance, young Black men are diagnosed with schizophrenia more than any other group, Black children are being psychiatrized at higher rates, and in our experience on the front lines here in Toronto, more Black-identified patients are being held against their will in hospitals. Is what we are seeing here a kind of sanism, a particular form of racism, or something combined that has not yet been named? In 2013, we three authors began to call this place of intersection anti-Black Sanism, starting a historical, theoretical, methodological, personal, and practice conversations in our community work, in our research, and in our classrooms. In this article, we outline our analyses thus far. We also chart the responses we have had to date, responses of the community, research, and pedagogical kinds. We detail how the anti-Black Sanist experience makes itself present in multiple places and spaces complicating “care,” critique, and madness.

Author Biography

Jennifer Poole, School of Social Work, Ryerson University

Associate Director, Graduate Program and Associate Professor