Zakia Williams, co-founder of Black Men Heal was moved when she saw a young Black man get emotional while talking about the mental toll that the past few years had taken on his mental health.
He said, "I just want basketball without fear of being shot. I just want life." Williams said that the young man stated the same thing at Kings Corner, a virtual therapy session for Black men in Philadelphia.
"Many of our men feel overwhelmed, tired, and like they are being attacked. They see George Floyd as themselves. They all say, "That could have been me."
Wednesday marked the second anniversary Floyd's death by a Minneapolis officer. This sparked a worldwide protest movement and calls to a racial reckoning in order to address long-standing structural racism that has impacted generations of Black Americans.
Floyd's death, and a number of other Black Americans being killed, have had a devastating impact on the mental and emotional health of Black communities that have been afflicted by centuries of racism and oppressive systems. According to mental health experts, the trauma caused by racism is deeply embedded in the country's fabric. This can be linked directly to the mental suffering many people are currently experiencing.
The nation has not been quick to recognize the generational effects of racial terror, which is a form identity-related distress that many people of color suffer from racism and discrimination.
"Black mental health is always a concern," Dr. Christine Crawford, associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, stated.
She said that "continuually seeing images of Black people being murdered... can trigger trauma-like symptoms among Black people and other people who feel somehow connected" to the events. This "impact of vicarious racistism" has led to worsening mental state, particularly within the Black community.
These past two years have been especially difficult for Black Americans, as the coronavirus epidemic ravaged their communities, taking the lives and loved ones of elders, community pillars, and others.
Riana Elyse, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, stated that her hometown of Detroit was hard hit by the pandemic.
"And the greater Black Community, when you look at the disproportionate impact it had on our mental health, financial well-being, and loved ones who are no more here, it's really difficult for us to move ahead."
On May 14, a white supremacist dressed in body armor attacked 10 Black victims at Tops Friendly Market, a neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Many feel that the grief is never ending.