In-Depth New York Times Story on ‘How Police Violence Weighs on Black Americans’ Focuses on Psychological Strain of Police Abuse

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By The Vanguard Staff

NEW YORK, NY – In a special New York Times piece this week, the nation’s prominent daily newspaper said it looked at “How Police Violence Weighs on Black Americans,” speaking to “more than more than 100 people about the psychological strain from repeated reports of police brutality.”

The answer found by the NY Times was paranoia. And fear. And guilt, among other feelings.

“It’s almost paranoia, a paranoia that there’s no safe place,” said Thomas Mayes to the NY Times about Black people and police.

“When police officers injure or kill someone, the psychological effects can stretch beyond those who are directly involved. As video footage spreads, viewers may see themselves or loved ones reflected in the victim,” wrote the Times.

Quoting a 2021 study of emergency room data from hospitals in five states, the NY times noted “researchers found a correlation between police killings of unarmed Black people and a rise in the number of depression-related E.R. visits among Black people.”

And referencing a 2018 study that found Black people “exposed to news about police shootings in the states where they lived reported adverse mental health effects for up to three months after the shootings,” said the Times. 

The New York Times said it spoke to 110 Black people of “varying generations and socioeconomic groups in 20 American cities…and teamed with Morning Consult, a polling company, to survey more than 1,500 Black Americans about whether exposure to police brutality had affected their lives or their mental state.”

Among the 100 plus snapshots of response obtained by the NY Times, is Karsonya Wise Whitehead, who watches a video of a Black person killed by the police, “even though it causes her physical pain.”

“Derrick Benson reviews the details of new cases to try to understand what might have happened to his brother, who was killed in police custody. Marisa Renee Lee describes learning about an instance of police violence as being akin to getting ‘punched in the face in a place where you’ve already been hit,’” wrote the Times.

“Three years have passed since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. But while the widespread protests against police violence in the United States have quieted, the pain Black people experience when a police officer injures or kills a Black person persists,” noted the NY Times.

“Black people in America are killed by the police at three times the rate of their white counterparts. And the number of deaths has remained consistent from year to year,” the Times added.

“Victims and their families, as well as bystanders, are often psychologically scarred by these events. But there is evidence that the millions of Black people indirectly exposed to police violence are affected, too,” wrote the Times.

The NY Times said, “While more than half of respondents reported feeling ongoing sadness, anger and fear about police violence, the survey also found that Black people feel more safe than unsafe when they see a police officer.”

“Many people The Times interviewed shared personal experiences of excessive force and harassment by the police; others talked about well-known cases — like those of Rodney King and Eric Garner — from years ago,” said the Times in their story summary, adding the “stories are not exhaustive. But they illustrate the myriad ways Black people in America grapple, often quietly, with continuing threats of police violence.“ 

“There’s always one case that kind of sticks with you,” said KT Kennedy, 28, a youth and community organizer from Brooklyn, N.Y to the Times, adding, “I feel like we’re all specifically haunted by one murder at least.”

The Times notes 44 percent of “Black adults say it’s harder to get through daily tasks after learning that officers have harmed a Black person,” according to a Morning Consult survey of Black adults, April 2023

The NY Times quotes Jamal Jones, 23, restaurant server, Alton, Ill., who admits, If I get pulled over now, I know exactly what’s going to happen. I’m going to have an anxiety attack,” remembering about two years ago, as he was driving out of a parking lot, a police officer arrived and Jones had trouble breathing. The woman he was with grabbed his hand to help calm him, he said,” wrote the Times.

The Times coverage included Keisha Edwards, 45, career coach and consultant. Metro Atlanta told the Times, “I clicked the link and viewed it,” talking about watching footage of the killing of George Floyd, adding, “It was right before I had a work meeting, and I had to pretend that I hadn’t just witnessed what I had just watched.”

The NY Times quotes a Morning Consult survey of Black adults, showing “38 percent of Black people said they feel anxious when they see an officer,” and quotes Lakayana Drury, 34, founder and executive director, Word is Bond, Portland, OR:

“We’re in a constant trauma combustion chamber, and you have to build systems and practices to deal with it. And how I do that is building networks with my friends — groups of friends that are Black men — we can go do things and hang out, physical things like walking, weight lifting, exercise and talking through things.”

And then there’s another NY Times interview subject, Devine Camara, 42, hip hop artist and director, One Lexington, Lexington, Ky., who explains, “When I’m driving and my 6-year-old daughter sees a police officer and says, ‘Oh, Daddy, the police is going to get us. They going to arrest us.’”

And, Devine Camara told the Times, “That’s how embedded that fear is into our community. Somehow I passed it on and I don’t even realize (it).”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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