Black Trauma refers to both the experiences of racism, trauma, and often violent acts, suffered by black people, as well as the cumulative effects of racism on our mental and physical health.
In the last year, examples of Black Trauma have been ever present on social media as we are routinely subjected to the news of another black person being killed by a police officer in the US. Simultaneously, the trauma faced by black mothers in the health care service has also been highlighted by many, including Candice Braithwaite who continues to advocate for black women and mothers. Time and time again, society’s institutions show us the lack of empathy for black women, men and children.
Last year, many watched police officer Derrick Chauvin murder George Floyd, a 46 year old black man arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes from a convinience store.
Derrick Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.
This violent and traumatic act was recorded by onlookers, an attempt to catch the police committing the heinous act and to get justice for George Floyd. The recording was used in a Channel 5 documentary Racism: My Story and was generally available on social media for all to see, repeatedly, affording George Floyd no honour, or dignity, in his death.
Black Trauma is part of society’s media consumption. It is easily accessible and relatively “normal” vieiwing. But this is not okay. And despite a video clearly showing the murder of George Floyd, a trial still took place for an act of violence so many watched with their own eyes.
Colonial policing practices very much underpin contemporary police practices. Black people are still regarded with an inherent distrust, fear and racial prejudice so much so, trained officers can mistake a gun for a taser.
It’s important to acknowledge that the public display of black bodies suffering trauma and violence is not new. In fact, such displays have a long history in the history of brutality, racism and the enslavement of black people. If we think about lynching in America and punishments during slavery, all of these acts of violence took place with an audience – other enslaved black people during slavery and the community/towns folk during Jim Crow. This was done to make a spectacle, an example, of what could and would happen to other black people in the community, or on the plantation, if they were seen to be committing crime or behaving/speaking out of turn. Displaying racial violence against black people is, and has always been, used to incite fear and also anger, an anger which too will be reprimanded with the same force and use of violence thus reasserting the fear.
Recently, I spoke to a close friend about the Amazon series Them and the backlash the executive producer Lena Waith is facing for continuing to produce stories of black trauma in film (Queen and Slim) and TV. We both concluded that we were sick of seeing such portrayals and wondered who actually enjoyed such media aside from White Supremacists. One things for sure, we won’t be watching Them and good luck to anyone that can stomach it. And I certainly won’t be watching the new Netflix Original Two Distant Strangers, an Oscar nominated film about a black man stuck in a time loop, forcing him to relive his death at a the hands of the police.
Who the hell makes this sh*t?
I won’t even get into the video game being created where players are put in the driving seat, as a black man, making his way home with his son and the potential dangers on their journey !?!?
A video game quite literally about Black Trauma.
Black Trauma is not entertainment.
Black Trauma is physically and mentally draining.
We are exhausted.
Leave Black People Alone.
Yesterday, George Floyd’s family got the guilty verdict which they deserved to hear and Derrick Chauvin was correctly found guilty on all 3 counts of murder, as he so rightly deserved.
Despite this “win”, I’m not okay. I’m not satisfied.
There’s still so much work to be done and so much more needed than a guilty verdict.
And to think, we all sat up, waiting on the news and in our minds (and hearts) we left space for the grief that would come with a not guilty verdict because we didn’t trust justice to be served.
That in itself tells us all we need to know.
The Fight Continues.
Rest in Power George Floyd.
Black Lives Matter.