Michelle Kenney still has nights when she stays up crying over the death of her son, Antwon Rose II, a 17-year-old high school student who was shot three years ago by an East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police officer.
Time has also not healed the pain Zion Carr grapples with after witnessing the shooting death of his aunt, Atatiana Jefferson, by a Fort Worth, Texas, police officer in 2019.
But it hasn’t lifted the burden Darnella Frzier still bears after she filmed a clip last year showing Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis Police Officer, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck and killing him. Experts say there is no way to heal the trauma caused by police brutality against Blacks.
William A. Smith is a professor of ethnic Studies and chair of education, culture, and society at the University of Utah. He has conducted extensive research into trauma and how it affects marginalized groups, particularly Black people. To describe the effects of discrimination and aggression on Black people, Smith created the term “racial war fatigue”. It refers to anxiety, stress, and even health problems.
“It is a systemic, race-related repetitive stress Injury,” Smith stated. It’s not a posttraumatic stress disorder, or injury, because we’re not living in a postracist society. It’s something we have to deal with every day.”
Trauma “doesn’t leave you,” said Rufus Tony Spann, a licensed professional counselor and a Forbes health adviser.
“While we often think that PTSD is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can be ongoing trauma for many people,” he explained. “Continuous trauma is when I have experienced an actual event that has either shocked me, changed my thinking process or instilled fear. This fear is what caused Amber Carr, Zion’s mother to file a federal suit in September. Amber claimed that Zion, now 9, suffers from anxiety, terror, and agony after witnessing Jefferson’s murder.
‘Extreme mental and emotional distress’
Zion was playing video games with Jefferson, 28, when a neighbor called police for a welfare check because the home’s front door was open. The suit stated that the front door was left open in order to let a cool breeze blow inside.
Former Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean responded to the call just before 2: 30 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2019, and walked into the backyard of the home. According to the lawsuit, Jefferson heard a loud noise outside and she pulled out her legally-owned gun to protect herself. She then went to investigate through a window. The suspect, Dean, was standing outside the window holding a flashlight and shot Jefferson HTML1.
“At the age of 8, Z.C. The lawsuit said that Zion was forced to witness the killing of his aunt, Atatiana Jefferson by Fort Worth Police. It stated that Zion is now suffering from “severe, extreme mental and emotional distress.”
Carr could not be reached for an interview. In the suit, the family claimed that Zion’s trauma was caused by the city. The suit names Dean, Police Chief Ed Kraus and the city of Fort Worth as defendants.
Kraus was an attorney for the city. A representative for Price didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Dean’s lawyer said that he couldn’t comment due to a gag order from the court.
Dean, who was taken into custody shortly after Jefferson’s murder, was charged with murder. The trial for the former officer, who has been out of jail on bail, will start no earlier than late November, according to officials.
‘I’m not who I used to be’
On the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death, Frazier described how being a witness to the killing changed how she viewed life and took away part of her childhood.
“I am 18 now and I still hold the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago. It’s a little easier now, but I’m not who I used to be,” she wrote in an emotional Facebook post on May 25. My mom used to rock me to sleep at night because I was shaking so much. … I experienced panic attacks and anxiety every time I saw a police car. Not knowing who to trust, as a lot are evil with poor intentions. That is my weight. “
Frazier was walking to a corner store with her 9-year-old cousin when police attempted to arrest Floyd after receiving a call about a counterfeit bill. Frazier claimed she was “in the right spot at the right moment” when she took footage of Floyd’s arrest. Later, the video would play a crucial role in Chauvin’s conviction.
Frazier declined to interview her through her representative. In her Facebook post, she acknowledged how impact her video had on her life but said that she is still trying to heal from the “something I am constantly reminded of every single day.” “
‘I have to figure out … how to survive’
Kenney said she has days when the weight of Rose’s death is so paralyzing, “I can’t get off my couch; I can’t stop crying.” Her son was fatally shot on June 19, 2018, by former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld after a traffic stop.
Rose fled from a car that had been involved in a drive by shooting earlier in the evening. Two men were shot in North Braddock, Pennsylvania by a man sitting in the back of a taxi that was unlicensed.
Rosfeld fired at Rose as he fled, hitting him three times. A bystander captured the incident and posted it online. This triggered protests throughout the Pittsburgh area, including a late-night march that closed a major highway. The former officer was charged with homicide and later acquitted.
” How can you forget about the video of your son being shot to death that circulated around the world? Kenney said. “Everyone believes that this is a normal situation in which you must deal with grief. It is not. I must figure out how to survive day-to-day. “
Therapy, talking to a pastor and other ways Kenney has managed to continue her journey have been the best. But she stated that more needs to be done at the local level to help families affected by the police violence. She said that she wished every city had a resource center where families could get the help they need, regardless of whether they were looking for legal advice or mental health advice.
‘Black mental health matters’
A 2018 study found that Black people experienced days of poor mental health over a three-month period after a police killing of an unarmed Black person in their state. Law enforcement kill more than 300 Black Americans, at least a quarter of them unarmed, each year, according to the study. The study found that these killings have “adverse consequences on mental health among Black Americans adults in the general population.” Programs should be developed to reduce the number of police shootings and to minimize adverse mental health consequences in communities where such killings occur. “
Following Floyd’s death last year, officials in Newark, New Jersey, diverted 5 percent — nearly $12 million — of the city’s Public Safety Department budget to create the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery. The office has brought together several community-based units to make it easier to quickly provide resources in the aftermath of violent events.
” It’s taking an integrated public health approach to violence,” explained Juan Rios, assistant professor and director of the master of social worker program at Seton Hall University. “So if there’s a shooting, we’re able to not just work with the victim, but also work with those in the community who may be affected.”
Rios, who works with the trauma recovery office, said they can set up community members with therapists, provide mental health resources and even assist with possible relocation costs. Rios stated that this is an innovative approach.
” Rios said that this is an innovative approach to safety and well-being. Rufus Tony Spann (the Forbes health advisor) said that organizations like the Black Mental Health Coalition and the Association of Black Psychologists provide support at the national level.
Spann has also started working with a new tech company called Hurdle, which was formed in response to the killings of Black men by law enforcement and provides mental health resources to those in need. Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer, often assists grieving loved ones and members of the community following a police shooting. He has represented the families of Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor and many others. He said that the lawyer has developed relationships with mental health agencies across the country to which he can refer clients.
“We have to continue to talk about the mental effects on Black people because oftentimes society chooses to disregard it,” Crump said. “It’s almost as if we have to say Black lives matter, but Black mental health matters, as well.”