top of page

Issue 17 Out Now

Police Brutality on Social Media Impacts Black Trauma Responses

2020 was a year full of racial tension. Due to the many tragic black deaths such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, protests sprouted worldwide. A year full of racial tension can’t help but spark a year full of racial trauma for many members of the black community.

Social media has not only become a place of toxicity in general but for black people, its become a place of risking triggers. Not only are black people aware of these horrible events occurring in their community, but they also have to be reminded of them. It seems like every month, a video of a black man being harassed or killed by police surfaces on the internet. Seeing it for myself, I can’t help but feel anxious about my boyfriend, father, and brothers. Black people are forced to face these issues in their community and risk anxiety and depression, while non-black people go on about their day unscathed.

We have become so desensitized to black deaths. I remember when my mom told me about George Floyd. I told her that she was mistaken for a different death that happened years ago, Eric Garner. We are so used to this kind of behavior that it’s sickening. Just as food can be triggering for people with eating disorders, posts of black deaths can be triggering. This is known as racial trauma, which is the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias, ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes.

“Traditionally, when we think about trauma, when we think about disorders like, say, PTSD, it’s often thought to be the result of a single, identifiable trauma. What we’re finding … is that traumatization can happen from cumulative experiences of racism and discrimination” — Monnica Williams, psychologist

I was one of the many people affected by the events of last year. I was tired of my people being killed with no repercussions and decided to take action. I shared informational posts, talked to people, and attended protests. I found myself angry, crying, and in constant distress. I felt helpless like I wasn’t doing enough and that nothing would ever change. My mental health declined, and it only worsened when seeing comments from ignorant people who would justify the officer’s actions.

Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant, is a prime example of this trauma. After George Floyd’s death, she found herself in distress, being reminded of her son’s death in 2009. Although many black people haven’t been affected personally, they can still feel what Johnson feels.

“I began to shake. I was up for two days, just crying. Just looking at that video opened such a wound in me that has not completely closed.” — Wanda Johnson

Because most non-black people are more unfamiliar with black deaths, they may see it odd as to how a whole community can be affected by a few deaths but that’s the thing. It isn’t just a few deaths. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are one of the countless black men, women, and children who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement. This has been going on for years. The black community is in a sick cycle that seems unbreakable.

It’s hard to say how this situation can be mended. The imagery of police brutality is horrific and leads to trauma but it’s also important for black deaths to be announced. These videos and posts can be evidence and can become the catalyst for many to take action, although imagery shouldn’t be the only reason for them to take such action. It’s a sticky situation that has no answer. For the black community, I would recommend to recognize this trauma and get help if need be. Don’t be afraid to spend some time off social media and tend to yourself. It isn’t healthy to see these events as much as we do.



bottom of page