By Michelle Hollinger
America’s traumatization of Black people continues with the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who nonchalantly bore his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes, killing the handcuffed man as bystanders pleaded for his life. Watching the proceedings can evoke a litany of unpleasant feelings in Black people, including sadness, anger and a frustrating sense of powerlessness.
The trial is likely to trigger Black people whose trust of the justice system is shaky, at best, but realistically closer to non-existent. Based on the horrendous chain of dehumanizing treatment that culminated in Floyd’s death, Chauvin should be convicted of murder at the highest level the law allows; however, Black people know that when it comes to killing Black people, video evidence is not enough to convince fellow Americans charged with rendering a fair verdict that what they saw was murder.
And the trauma continues.
While most of Black America is collectively holding its breath as the Chauvin defense predictably blames George Floyd for placing his neck beneath Chauvin’s knee, another barrage of Blacks being terrorized by the police has surfaced. Twenty-year old Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by the police just a few miles from where Floyd was murdered. Add to that, shocking, but not surprising, footage of police officers repeatedly pepper spraying a uniformed military officer pours pounds of salt into Black people’s collective wounds exasperated each time they witness police eagerly and cavalierly assaulting Black bodies.
Most Black people are bone tired of seeing people who look like them killed by police officers, period. The very real fear that the officers might escape accountability compounds the anguish and amplifies the longstanding dread resting so consistently in Black folks’ bellies that it feels normal. As normal as it might feel, normalized trauma is not normal and it’s important for Black people to protect their mental and emotional well-being. To that end, here are five vital self-care steps that could help Black people lessen the feeling of helplessness the trial arouses:
- EXPRESS your outrage, preferably in writing. It’s helpful to get the feelings out instead of holding them in. After you write down your feelings, toss them into the trash. If you express them verbally to someone else, do it once without constantly rehashing throughout the length of the trial. From a spiritual perspective, what you focus on most expands, so constantly talking about how the trial is aggravating you keeps you aggravated and feeling the angst that comes along with that. Don’t ignore how you feel but try not to remain stuck in it. Explore how you’re feeling and express the emotions productively.
- LIMIT your viewing of the trial. Determine a good system that keeps you informed without spending hours each day watching the hearing. Either read about the day’s or week’s hearings or find a reputable online source to watch a single recap. Viewing the trial for hours at a time can significantly impact your emotional well-being and add to your sense of helplessness.
- PRAY for the family: One of the most distressing aspects of the proceedings is knowing George Floyd’s family has to re-live the loss of their loved one by hearing excruciating details and watching the defense blame him for his own death. Praying for them allows you to express your empathy while sending positive energy and thoughts their way. Additionally, research has shown that the collective power of prayer can positively impact a situation. It won’t bring Mr. Floyd back, but it could help his family feel more peace and help you feel supportive. The positive energy you send them also remains with you, alleviating some of your dread. Create a short, easy to recall prayer for George Floyd’s family that you recite frequently throughout the duration of the trial.
- SUPPORT an organization doing effective work to achieve justice by making a monetary donation. Feeling like nothing’s being done to eradicate the situation that led to Mr. Floyd’s death contributes to feeling helpless. A part of the helplessness many feel is the belief that something like it could continue to occur. Find an organization doing work you believe in and support their efforts. Whether you give a one time donation or set up recurring payments, contributing to worthwhile work to eradicate racism and police brutality feels good and is a tangible way to be a part of the solution.
- AFFIRM your personal safety: Some of the stress you experience from watching the trial is based on concern that something similar could happen to you or a loved one. Pouring your thoughts and energy into a scenario that might not happen might feel productive, like you’re preparing yourself to deal with an inevitable; but your thoughts are far more powerful than you might realize. Instead, use your thoughts and words to align with a here and now reality, the energy of which expands with your thoughts and words. Reassure yourself that you’re safe by affirming “I am safe now,” whenever your thoughts go to “what if” circumstances. Your mental and emotional well being are under your control and you can remind yourself that in this present moment, you are indeed safe.
Michelle Hollinger is the CWO (Chief Worthiness Officer) of The Institute for Worthy Living and the author of “Sis, You’re Worth It: Seven Ideas for Manifesting Your Best Life.” Learn more at www.theinstituteforworthyliving.com.