Sunday, September 4, 2016

A need to heal

With Donald Trump stirring up racism and the white supremacist crowd admiring the candidate Terrence Heath takes a look at the important issue of healing racial trauma.

Heath starts with the story of Legend Preston, age 10, of Newark. He followed his basketball into the street and looked up to see several police running at him with guns drawn. How the police confused Legend with a 20-year-old suspect is a puzzle. But the boy was traumatized. One stray motion, such as a hand near his waistband and the police would have opened fire.

Though not yet officially recognized, Race Based Traumatic Stress Injury is now being discussed and promoted by psychology professors. Many of the symptoms are similar to the well known PTSD. The damage doesn't have to be direct. It could be caused by being a witness or hearing that it happened to people like them.

Those symptoms include: increased vigilance and suspicion, increased sensitivity to threat, increased alcohol and drug use, increased aggression. And these symptoms increase the chances of encounters with police, especially when a whole community is affected. A loop that reinforces itself.

It is vitally important to end discriminatory police practices that traumatize communities. It is also vitally important to help traumatized citizens to heal. Perhaps several cities need something like truth and reconciliation commissions, which are usually used to help countries to heal after civil war or dictators.

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