As videos and images of police shootings flood the Internet and social media, for some blacks, “the barrage has become a form of trauma, a mental and emotional drain that underscores a persistent lack of empathy for people of color,” says the Christian Science Monitor. Others say such videos are necessary to raise broader awareness of the struggle black Americans continue to face. Still others see the communal reliving of violence as a means of fostering solidarity within their communities. “I’ve gotten to the point where I won’t watch anything,” says Brooklyne Gipson, an African-American doctoral student in communications in Los Angeles. “That sounds very callous, but I can’t be sitting here thinking about this all day and be scared.”
Woven through these narratives is a shared experience of fearing and being feared, passed down through generations, that shapes the relationship African-Americans have with law enforcement. “It’s not usually the one video that traumatizes. It’s a lifetime of experiences,” says Monnica Williams, a clinical psychologist and University of Connecticut professor who specializes in the intersection of race, culture, and mental illness. “African-Americans have been dealing with historical trauma and community trauma and individual trauma in the form of racism and discrimination” for centuries, she says. “These videos are the icing on the cake.” Research has tied symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the experience of racism.