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We Can't Undermine the Effects of Racial Trauma

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“Stop playing the race card. You are just another racist!” replied the commentator to an article that was written about me in reference to my involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement in my local newspaper. Me? A racist?

• What is PTSD?

We gain nothing by pretending racism doesn’t exist. We must talk openly about police brutality and replicate the efforts of officers in those communities where proactive community policing is the standard.

However, please understand racial trauma is systematic and it is real.

There is a causal effect of poverty and trauma on those who experience it, especially when you live in cities where you encounter an extraordinary amount of bias and unhealthy policing practices on a daily basis. Brain research has suggested for years that racism and poverty are toxic to a developing brain, similar to the impact of alcohol and drugs. Further, microaggressions (ex. Being followed around in a store based on one’s race, stop and frisk policies, driving while black, etc.) can be extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem and to their perceptions of the community around them. Persistent (and historic) oppression, harassment and racial trauma can cause a sense of helplessness and fear among those who experience it.

About race relations in America, actor Will Smith recently was quoted as having said, “It isn’t getting worse. It’s getting filmed.” Our society is constantly plugged in and nearly everyone has a video camera in their pocket thanks to modern technology. The recurring images of police brutality on social media can serve as triggers for emotional distress and it can also create a sense of fear in those who repeatedly view these images.

If you find that you are experiencing the following symptoms due to the increasing accessibility to these images: intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, irritability and jumpiness, then you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I would encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional, find support within your community with civic associations and groups who promote social justice and volunteer to bridge the gap that may exist between your community and area officers.

PTSD is real and seeing the images of Emmett Till, Philando Castillo, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling and countless others can have a very serious impact on one’s mental health. Racial trauma is real and should not be discounted.

Originally published: August 25, 2016
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