Research Shows Entire Black Communities Suffer Trauma After Police Shootings ::: TruthOut

Research Shows Entire Black Communities Suffer Trauma After Police Shootings

Following several nationally publicized police killings of unarmed Black Americans in the United States, Eva L., a fitness instructor who identifies as Black, started to experience what she describes as “immense paranoia.” She would often call in sick, because she feared risking an encounter with police upon leaving her house. She also started to second-guess her and her husband’s decision to have children.

“Seeing Black bodies murdered and physical/emotional violence online and on the news” was a trauma she could no longer bear, Eva says. “I was terrified of bringing a child into the world we live in and experience as Black people. I thought not having kids was a truer sign of love than risk them being harmed by this world.”

A recent study sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania — released just before the anniversaries of the deaths of Eric Garner (2014), Michael Brown (2014), John Crawford (2014), and Philando Castile (2016) — found that there could be millions like Eva, for whom these killings have been a mental health trigger.

Research included data from the Mapping Police Violence Projectdatabase for police killings between 2013 and 2016 and information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of over 103,000 Black Americans. The results indicate that police killings of unarmed Black Americans are having a population-level impact on the mental health of Black Americans.

According to researchers, the incidents may contribute to 1.7 additional poor mental health days per person every year, or 55 million more poor mental health days every year among Black Americans across the United States. That means the mental health burden for African Americans caused by police killings of unarmed Black victims is nearly as great as the mental health burden associated with diabetes. African Americans have some of the highest rates of the disease, which contributes annually to 75 million days of poor mental health among them.

Eva started seeing a therapist who diagnosed her as having generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s been two years now, and she admits that her progress toward healing has been slow, yet steady.

Jacob Bor, co-author of the study and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, says the responses in his social circle to police killings of unarmed Black victims is what interested him in conducting this study. Bor noticed that White people were able to comprehend “the injustice on an intellectual level but did not experience the same level of trauma.”

The study findings confirmed Bor’s personal observations. The research team did not observe spillover mental health effects in White respondents from police killings. It should also be noted that among respondents of either race, there were no spillover effects for police killings of unarmed White people or killings of armed Black people.

The research is essential in considering our own personal experiences, says Bor, adding that the findings speak to the overall “value of different people’s lives.” This society “has a long history of state-sanctioned violence” toward racially marginalized groups, he says.

The mental health sector is only now researching the impact of police brutality, a concern that has affected African Americans for decades. “Clinicians can go through medical school without [gaining] any experience in treating the effects of racism,” Bor says. Studies like his, he adds, can help to create long overdue critical mainstream discussions about the effects of racism on mental health, such as, “How do we in public health, society, and among the clinical and mental health services support people when these incidents occur?” and “Can a profession dominated by White providers effectively treat the emotional struggles of ‘living while Black’ in this country?”

According to Bor, these discussions are needed to implement change. “Among many White Americans, there is an empathy gap … and a failure to believe when people of color say ‘this hurts me,’” he says.

Adding to the deficiency of culturally competent therapists, poverty and other formidable socio-economic challenges — also stemming from structural racism — remain steadfast barriers to African Americans accessing mental health care, according to the American Psychological Association.

New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, has also become a passionate advocate for what she describes as a movement for “culturally competent mental health care.”

“When you talk about people of color, who are obviously facing discrimination and legacy of racism and poverty in huge numbers, you are talking about something that is really tough to overcome,” McCray says.

Inadequate care undermines benefits from policies and resources designed to mitigate the burdens of systemic oppression. “Mental illness along with substance abuse disorders are hardship multipliers,” she says. Struggling unsupported with “mental illness can make everything that much harder.”

For example, holding on to affordable housing, staying enrolled in college, and even surviving encounters with law enforcement can be extremely more difficult for those suffering from mental illness or trauma, McCray says. In fact, the most recent annual numbers from the Washington Post’s database of fatal police-shooting victims indicate that “nearly 1 in 4 of those shot was described as experiencing some form of mental distress at the time of the encounter with police.”

“Mental health is the ultimate intersectional concern,” McCray says. “It is reflected in all of our policies … education, housing, school, relationships.”

In 2015, she and her spouse, Mayor Bill de Blasio, launched Thrive NYC, a $850 million mental health program that incorporates 54 initiatives. Among the program’s several core objectives is the aim to address the stigma around mental illness and increase access to treatment across the city. McCray believes that ThriveNYC’s community focused approach is one of several necessary steps toward reaching historically under served groups.

“Culturally competent care to me is all about trust,” McCray says. “It improves early identification, accessibility, and outcomes.” Also, she says, “People have to be seen.” From her advocacy experience she has observed that “people have to feel that they can turn to someone that they trust.”

Connecting people with the appropriate resources, however, means surmounting many challenges. “There is great deal of work to be done to eliminate the stigma,” McCray says. There is also the matter of affordability and infrastructure. “We’ve never had a well-coordinated mental health system in our country — ever. People who have the money find ways to manage.” She says she wants to fight for everyone to get the resources they need to cope.

Eva recognizes that her path to healing has taken a significant amount of work and support beyond the means of many African Americans. “Access to therapy is a privilege,” she says. “I know that most people can’t afford weekly sessions at $150-plus.” Yet, she adds, “[going through therapy] is the only reason why I’m OK planning for kids at 32.”

 

Tasha Williams writes about economics and technology. Follow her on Twitter: @riseupwoman.

When Black News Disappears: White Holds on Black Intellectuals’ Minds and Misinforming the Black Public

When Black News Disappears: White Holds on Black Intellectuals’ Minds and Misinforming the Black Public

Friday, 24 May 2013 09:49By Dr Tommy J CurryRacism Review | Op-Ed

As an historical entity, the Black press has not only offered critical commentaries and political critiques of the sempiternal racism of the modern world, but  correctives as to how white newspapers, opinion-makers, legislators, and most importantly the white public sought to justify their complacency towards and support for anti-Black racism and the sexual brutalization of Black men, women, and children. Today, however, the post-Obama lullabies of racial détente and the progressive liberal passivity of Black intellectuals have allowed the structural and ideological manifestations of white supremacy to remain unquestioned despite their persistence alongside the growing realities of Black death. For example, when Trayvon Martin was killed, Melissa Harris Perry thought it prudent to use the tragedy as a moment to teach white folks “how to talk about Black death”—she literally created a checklist for whites rather than deal with the horrors facing young Black men and boys in their communities.

Currently, the post-racial idea has contoured Black news into a narrow politically progressive ideology. This ideology is thematically geared towards convincing the Black public that the symbols of racial progress are in fact actual progress. This contest over “symbols,” rather than exposing the propaganda of the liberal endeavor, allows Black academics to retreat into their own ideologically predetermined blog’s rendering of “Black” events, so that their views, be it feminist, leftist, or progressive, are legitimized. Meanwhile, the Black public remains victimized by the political interests of multiple entities; each with their agenda rooted in de-radicalizing Black consensus and normalizing Black deaths, specifically the death of Black men, as having nothing to do with racism, merely accidental rather than systemic. As I have argued previously, Black academics and news personalities are rewarded for pimping out “the delusion of hope” to Black people while racism increases alongside the normalization of their death, incarceration, and poverty.

Has the Black Press Lost Its Way?

Since slavery, Black abolitionists, ministers, and revolutionaries understood the need for “Black perspectives,” on the racist evil that plagues America. The Christian theology that justified the horrors of slavery was indicted, and the white Christian, the earliest imperialist, was not held to be the savior of civilization but its greatest detractor whose abuse and degradation of Blacks was rooted in their imperial lust for power and profit. As David Walker says in Article I of The Appeal:

“I have been for years troubling the pages of historians, to find out what our fathers have done to the white Christians of America, to merit such condign punishment as they have inflicted on them, and do continue to inflict on us their children. But I must aver, that my researches have hitherto been to no effect. I have therefore, come to the immoveable conclusion, that they (Americans) have, and do continue to punish us for nothing else, but for enriching them and their country. For I cannot conceive of anything else”

With the rise of Freedom’s Journal, the Black press took on the radical mission of liberation that up to that point was confined to pamphlets, and the now revered slave narrative. The Black press, its editors and writers, were among the most notable Black thinkers of the 1800’s and beyond. T.Thomas Fortune’s (1856-1928) The New York Age was the training ground for no less an intellectual than W.E.B. DuBois. It was a publication where Fortune’s radicalism which advocated for Black self-determination and security, even by armed resistance if necessary, was center stage. It not only gained him notoriety among Black journalists but earned him the admiration of the young Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) who would continue to develop his political philosophy of agitation and help build the first civil rights organization for Black rights; the Afro-American League. This radicality was present in most of the Black journalists at the turn of the century. Henry McNeal Turner and John Edward Bruce exemplified a political tone that was only matched by the radicality of the 1960’s and 1970’s in the founding and growth of the Black Panther Party and the journalistic accounts of the Black Power Movement. As my student, Ms. Judith Bohr, points out in her master’s thesis “A People’s History of Philosophy: The Development and Ideological Segregation of Black Nationalism,” the violence against Blacks in society, be it at the hands of police state militarism or the prison industrial complex, necessitates a compliant and complacent account of reality. As she states,

“The media assists in this erasure of police violence through their portrayals of African Americans as a danger to society…Whites’ fear, however, is for their privilege and not for their safety…Propaganda in the media functions through erasure and through distortions of the state’s as well as the public’s motivations for racial violence” (Bohr 2011, 30).

Thus, the de-radicalization of Black news and the complacency of the Black journalistic endeavor—its commodification into  predetermined categories, that ironically have academic currency despite being driven by political interests—does little to inform, much less improve, the conditions of Black people. The silence of mainstream Black news on the systemic political and economic divisions, divisions made necessary by the militaristic racist endeavors of the U.S. government, even under a Black Obama administration, is imperative in preventing the Black public from engaging the concrete American condition confronting Blacks, immigrants, and the poor.

Most recently, SiriusXM decided to change Sirius 128—The Power to urban driven entertainment programming under the new title of the Urban View. In doing so SiriusXM eliminated ReddingNewsReview, an independent Black political commentary dedicated to exposing the contradiction between Black political representation in the Obama era and Black political exploitation under Obama’s administration. The change in the lineup effectively changed the Power 128 from the “News and Issues” category to the Urban View 110 a “African American Talk and Entertainment” channel. Reacting to this change, Wade Simmon wrote a splendid editorial asking, “Is SiriusXM Trying to Undermine Black Power?” The effect of this censorship could be isolated, but it again begs the question as to why independent Black radio and press that dares to question the status quo of America’s race problem is so easily engulfed by liberal reformist agendas that take Obama’s symbolism to be of more importance than the actual economic and political viability of mass Black agendas.

Despite the criticisms one may make of Redding, the reality is that Black Americans lack a non-partisan interpretation of the Black condition that does not retreat into the ideologies of the blogosphere, where select academics, married to predetermined paradigms of reading Blackness, meet and greet. The Black public is usually deemed irrelevant in these deliberations from the outset. They are to be “spoken about” authoritatively, but rarely “spoken from,” since these Black people are outside the academy, and lack the supposed knowledge/education to “understand” the complexities of Black life. Independent Black radio, reaching back to the Ralph “Petey” Greene and radicals like Robert F. Williams, sought transgressive messages against empire and racism. Whereas today, many Black elites, the Melissa Harris Perrys of the world, confine discussions of racism to their specific opportunities to gain social capital and recognition from whites; choosing to ignore both the material consequences of the liberal agenda for Black people at home and its militaristic program against darker peoples abroad. ReddingNewsReview, like that ofVoxunion, sought to disrupt that narrative.

The same way Ida B. Wells-Barnett decided to report the horrors of Black reality, anti-Black violence through lynching, and the weakness of Black leadership in the 1890’s, so too did Redding in the 21st century. At the very bottom of Black politics, there is a need to recognize that the manipulation of Black media—the Black press and radio—to further the political agendas and social legitimacy of specific parties, namely the democratic party’s claim that they represent the Black/Browning of America, does nothing to arrest the imperial agendas this presidency like all presidencies before it continue to engage in the world over. As Dr. Jared Ball argues in his talk on “Colonialism and Media Psychological Warfare,” media, or rather propaganda, is at the heart of America’s white supremacist empire.

Conclusion:

Race-crits, critical sociologists, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous scholars cannot continue to embrace the symbolism of progress without making those symbols resonate with the actual economic, political, and extra-legal conditions of Black existence. There is a very real contradiction between the symbolism of Obama’s reign and the worsening plight of Blacks under Obama’s reign. Rather than being at odds with the type of progressivism that perpetuates the poverty, the apparati of state sponsored violence, and social repression, the Black press has taken to excusing it—pointing out the extraordinary cases of violence that shock us most, but leaving the racist narrative written into the foundation of America’s democracy, militarism, imperialism, and capitalist lust untouched.

ABOUT Dr. Tommy J. Curry

Professor of Philosophy, Texas A&M University

Tommy J. Curry’s work spans across the various fields of philosophy, jurisprudence, Africana Studies, and Gender Studies. Though trained in American and Continental philosophical traditions, Curry’s primary research interests are in Critical Race Theory and Africana Philosophy. In Critical Race Theory, Curry looks at the work of Derrick Bell and his theory of racial realism as an antidote to the proliferating discourses of racial idealism that continue to uncritically embrace liberalism through the appropriation of European thinkers as the basis of racial reconciliation in the United States. In Africana philosophy, Curry’s work turns an eye towards the conceptual genealogy (intellectual history) of African American thought from 1800 to the present, with particular attention towards the scholars of the American Negro Academy and the Negro Society for Historical Research.

In Biomedical ethics, Curry is primarily interested government regulation, the ethical limits of government intervention in the practice of medicine, and democratic potentialities that arise from collaborative doctor-patient diagnoses and regenerative medicine like stem cells. Currently his research focuses on the linking the conceptualization of ethics found in the Belmont Report to Civil Rights and social justice paradigms.

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