Black Lives Matter, And So Does Our Mental Health

Black Lives Matter protestors gathered in Biscayne Bay on May 30 as part of the ongoing demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

Judith George/Contributing Writer

I was 12 years old when Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012. I remember watching the news for updates on the case almost every night. Even before the final ruling, somewhere within my 12-year-old mind I just knew there would be no justice for that 17-year-old boy. 

More than eight years later, I’ve seen and heard about the many injustices done to African Americans than I could even begin to fathom.

There was the cold case of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-year-old boy who on July 11, 2013 was found in a rolled up wrestling mat with a bloated bloody face and missing internal organs. His death was ruled as “an accident” because the scene depicts him reaching for a shoe (that was not his), which led him getting stuck inside the mat.

There was the case of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old woman who was found dead in her cell at Waller County Jail on July 13, 2015. Bland was sent to jail under charges of a pretextual traffic stop. To this day, her death is still ruled as a “suicide,” despite the public demanding a deeper investigation into her death. 

Then there is the list of names: Eric Garner. Alton Sterling. Philando Castille. Tamir Rice. Stanley Floyd. Michael Brown. Elijah McClain. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

These are just a few of the names people can recognize. Sadly, they’re also only a small percentage of those who died without justice, with some of these cases being years old. These names, alongside many more left unsaid, having been appearing almost everywhere. Especially on social media.

You can see people marching for those who can no longer walk this earth themselves. Shouting and chanting their names that threaten to fall victim to time. Proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” in a country that claims “all men are created equal.” These same individuals who are exercising their right to peaceably assemble are being hit with tear gas, rubber bullets and being abducted in unmarked vehicles.

If I’m mentally exhausted just seeing these events from my 6.1-inch screen, I could only imagine similar or even more intense feelings from other people in the Black community fighting on the front lines. 

These ordinary people who came in peace were met with violence by people who wore a gold badge. So, they responded in kind; the burning of cities, vandalism, the burning of police cars, destroying businesses and so on.

Watching these events on my Instagram timeline, I couldn’t help but to think that African American people are simply responding to the outcry of  Erik Killmonger, “BURN IT ALL!” These same people are descended from the slaves who built the foundation of this country from the ground up. The same power their ancestors had to build it up, they possess to tear it back down.

There were days where I wouldn’t even open Instagram. It hurts seeing the obvious racial injustice, the violence and the graphic content of some of the deaths filmed or recorded.

All the while, that same thought from when I was 12 lingered in the back of my mind: there will be no real justice served. This country will do anything and everything to protect those who are in the wrong, even with video evidence clearly catching them in the act. Even if action is taken, it will be minimal, at best, with the likely chance of the criminals being released on bail. 

It mentally exhausts me to know that Black brothers and sisters are killed in cold blood and their killers can continue about their lives without any real repercussions. If I’m mentally exhausted just seeing these events from my 6.1-inch screen, I could only imagine similar or even more intense feelings from other people in the Black community fighting on the front lines. 

Mental health has become a growing topic within the recent years. According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), mental health is more than our emotional reactions to a situation. It can alter our mood and thought process as well. Even though anyone can develop a mental health problem, NAMI claims that African Americans are more susceptible to getting more severe versions of it. Reread that previous line and think about it. Really think about it. 

There are many pre-existing stereotypes that are linked to Black people, such as growing up without two parental figures (especially the father), being aggressive to any and everyone, being incapable of being more than their background and so on. Having such things being shoved in your face on a daily basis can cause you to become and live like that stereotype. Especially if you’ve been hearing it since a young age. Can you imagine dealing with loss of lives on top of that? 

Can you imagine being a child and being told that your dad isn’t coming home because a police officer—someone sworn to protect and serve—killed him? Seeing your mom, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle etc. being married to death against their will? Or even witnessing them dying right in front of you? To see their killer roam free while you stare at your loved one’s face on their obituary or on a T-shirt?

There are a lot of African Americans who are hurt, angry and devastated. Who have to see their Black brother or sister buried and have no justice served. Who are doing everything in their power to give a voice to those who no longer have one. All while seeing it met with silence.

To my African American brothers and sisters, yes, continue to take action. Yes, continue to hold people responsible for the crimes they committed. Yes, continue to demand true equality in a country that boasts equal opportunity and liberty. But please, take some time to get away from social media. Take some time to stay off the news. Take some time to protect your peace. Take some time to reach out to someone if you need to talk.

Take advantage of counseling and psychological resources available to you. For example, FIU CAPS is available to all students and staff. To reach out and make an appointment, simply call 305-348-2277.

Black Lives Matter, and you do too.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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1 Comment on "Black Lives Matter, And So Does Our Mental Health"

  1. Your anger and frustration is base on untruths told in order to send black people into an violent rages, burning & looting and destroying America. For example; the student, Kendrick Johnson who was found dead in the wrestling mat did not have any organs removed. Please go to other sources than the ones you have been using. The Left are attempting to use black people as tools – once again.

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