The emotional trauma of racism and racial violence

The unrest following the death of George Floyd has stirred emotions across the country. But many black Americans are feeling mental exhaustion from yet another example of racism.

"In order for it to be PTSD, we'd have to be post the trauma, right?" Dr. DeShaunta Johnson, a new york-based psychologist, said. "We'd have to be past the trauma."

Incidents like this intensify the anxieties that many blacks experience, she added.

"Living with racism as an African American person in this country means constantly existing with a low hum of anxiety that harm is being done to you and will continue to be done to you," Johnson said. "But when it elevates to the level of threat to life and you have the physical evidence of that being done to people who are just like you and just like your family members, the fear that it engenders is something different."\

For many black families, discussions of racism begin at an early age as was the case with Gary Griggs, 73, and his son Guy, a Manhattan advertising executive. Gary taught his son to be mindful of his surroundings and people, and that as a young black man he may be subject to discrimination.

"It's definitely taxing," Guy said. "And I'd be lying to say that this one doesn't hurt more than the others."

However, both father and son agree while this latest example is very hard to look at, not looking at all would be even harder.

"With all of those things happening to black Americans, it's really just underscored it, it's punctuated it, and it's made it that more frustrating and sad for me," Guy said. "I'm exhausted but I'm actually motivated more so than I've ever been in trying to enact positive change."

Gary said black Americans may seek to communicate all this their white counterparts.

"They don't see things, they don't experience things as you do and will not unless you provide the landscape upon which they are to build," he said.


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