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Police Killings of Black People Causes Trauma to the Mental state of Black America

A report published in a leading British medical journal has confirmed concerns long-held by racial justice activists: police killings of Black Americans have damaging effects on the mental well-being of Black communities.

The study, published in The Lancet, found that when U.S. officers shoot and kill unarmed Black people, it harms the mental state of Black Americans in those states Researchers pored over mental health survey data and a database on police shootings to solidify their findings, which they described as “observable and real.”

As someone who has worked closely with families of victims of unjust police killings, I can say firsthand that it takes an enormous toll on family members and friends’ mental stability.

A 2018 study in the journal Lancet found that Black Americans suffer higher levels of psychological distress following police shootings than white people even when they live in the same community.

According to data from the Census Bureau, within a week after George Floyd’s death, anxiety and depression among Black Americans were shot to higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group, by 41 percent. That is approximately 1.4 million more people.

Just being a black man and woman is stressful! The problem is our community leaders and politicians have shied away from an honest dialogue of the constant stress it is Black in America. 

The recent shooting of Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed after the officer meant to use a Taser but mistakenly drew her gun instead. Caron Nazario, an Army lieutenant, two officers pulled guns, doused him with pepper spray, and assaulted him; are constant reminders of the daily trauma of being black in America. 

The American Psychological Association’s report documents the racial perception of black men as larger and more threatening than similar-sized white men.

With the many questionable shootings of black men by police, the issue of racial bias has always been the pink elephant or, in our case, the big black man in the room.

Different studies have pointed to racial bias, but over and over, our Criminal Justice Scholars have yet to address the issue and find ways to change these perceptions.

There have even been elected officials and Law Enforcement Executives that even lied saying racism doesn’t exist within our local police departments.

How can racial bias or racism not exist? If the police department is a reflection of society and racial bias conscious or unconscious, racism and white privilege exist in the greater society; we insult our community intelligence to think that does not exist in our law enforcement departments.

How does someone respond to the criminalization of a loved one who police have unjustly killed or brutalized by police? From the first public report, the narrative is taken away from the victim, even when the victim is a black cop, military, or public figure.

New York State has a history since the 1960’s that black cops in plain clothes or off duty have been shot, shot at, or killed by their white counterparts. These type incidents have never happened in reverse where are uniform black cops shoots a plain-clothed or off white duty cop.

Should we be surprised at any report that expresses the need to address the stress and trauma of being Black? Today, the police are doing what they were initially designed to do to black people since the emaciation proclamation.

Venkataramani, a health policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and fellow researchers Jacob Bor of Boston University, Alexander C. Tsai of Massachusetts General Hospital, and David R. Williams of Harvard University, described their study as an attempt at examining the measurable harms of state-sanctioned violence on the broader psychological and mental well-being of Black Americans, The New York Times 

Previous research has found that the chronic stress caused by racism experiences can impact mental and physical health in myriad ways, from higher hypertension rates to increased breast cancer incidence.

Racial trauma is always the “pink elephant” in the room; everyone is afraid to talk about it even black leaders today in 2021. The more studies show that racism plays a role in police policies, practices, and culture, and how unchanged policies create generational trauma, the response is more symbolism of change but no substance that will ease the mental capacity of Black people.

Many studies support this position. The American Psychological Association has called “exposure to racism and discrimination” a cause for unusually high-stress levels unique to African-Americans. In 2012, the American Journal of Public Health dedicated an entire issue to the public health inequities based on race, including the “psychological distress” of racial discrimination.  

American Public Health Association released a policy statement explicitly affirming that “police brutality and excessive use of force are widely reported and have a disproportionate impact on people of color” and urging federal and state lawmakers to acknowledge and address the health consequences of police violence on people of color.

There should be no debate in 2021 that black communities and black people are under siege, even after having a Black President and now a Black Vice President, Black people still face white people calling the police oon black children, men, and women for nothing else but being black. 

The result causes Short-term stress and trauma, igniting a person’s adrenaline-fueled “fight or flight” response. It leaves many people with long-term health consequences, like elevated blood pressure, a faster heartbeat, and increased stress hormones. Most of these symptoms increase a person’s likelihood of having heart disease — currently the leading cause of death among black people in America today.

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