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How Black People Can Emotionally Protect Themselves in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter

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Karen Attiah, THE WASHINGTON POST

 
(The Washington Post) — “All of these police brutality videos on my feed are making me sick,” a black male friend of mine from college posted on Facebook recently, after Sandra Bland’s disturbing encounter with officer Brian Encinia in Waller, Tex., was caught on camera. Three days later, Bland was dead. It made many of us sick.

Yet again, we have video of excessive police force being exacted on an unarmed black person.

We watch the footage because in America, for black people to have any hope that we might gain justice in the event of police brutality, we need to have video evidence of the violence. But within that hope for justice that a released video brings lies a poisonous pill buried inside that we are forced to consume — that pill of audible or visual black suffering. From Eric Garner in New York, to 15-year-old Dajerria Becton in McKinney, Tex., to now Sandra Bland, we absorb in our souls the cries of a black person in pain at the hands of white officer, the fact that heads are being smashed, that airways are being choked and that ribs are being broken. Sometimes, that poisonous pill of black pain comes with an extra barb embedded inside for good measure — when we hear white officers respond to black pain with malicious indifference. In the case of Eric Harris’s death, an officer responded with “F— your breath.” In the video, Sandra Bland screamed, “I have epilepsy!” Encinia responded, “Good, good.”

While cellphones, social media and the #BlackLivesMatter movement have certainly helped to raise national awareness of racism and police brutality, it can literally hurt to watch these violent encounters. Even further, when we go online, not only are we surrounded with footage of police violence and related commentary, but also we are exposed to the emotional pain of our friends, family and allies expressing grief, anxiety, anger and fear on our social media feeds. Of course, there are plenty of white and non-black people of color who are shocked, angered and disgusted by such incidents. But for many black people, it can feel isolating when non-black friends seem to remain silent on these issues too.

 

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