Eric Garner Protests

Should We Watch When Police Shoot Us?

Did you watch the video of Alfred Olango's shooting? What about the shootings of Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, or Alton Sterling?

While the viral videos of police shooting and assaulting African-Americans may help build awareness and keep important conversations on the nation’s lips, studies show that these gut-wrenching clips have long-lasting negative effects on minds of Black people.

Whether viewed on Facebook, Instagram, or the nightly news, repeatedly watching footage of death and brutalization of African-Americans at the hand of law enforcement can add to the all too real symptoms of “racial trauma” or race-based traumatic stress that many Black people already feel. According an article published on the American Psychological Association blog, “racial trauma may result from racial harassment, witnessing racial violence, or experiencing institutional racism,” and “the trauma may result in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, or irritability."

The blog refers to 2014 study, the findings of which show that people of color who endure more intrusive police contact experience increased trauma and anxiety symptoms than those who say they have been treated fairly by police.

Experts say, the results of this trauma can show up as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, or irritability. Other side effects are increased vigilance and suspicion of social institutions, defensiveness and increased sensitivity to threat, usage of alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms and increased aggression.

So, with all the negative side effects, is it worth it to watch?

“We’re witnessing mentally and emotionally traumatizing videos and pictures,” April Reign, managing editor for Broadway Black, told PBS NewsHour. “It’s enough, it’s just enough. It’s just so overwhelming all the time. There are people who are having trouble sleeping, who are having trouble eating. There are people who are having those symptoms of PTSD in the truest sense.”

Although it can seem impossible to escape and tough to look away, you can find ways to stay “woke” without witnessing the carnage for yourself. If you’ve had enough of the videos, try reading your news instead of watching it and limit your time spend on social media networks. When you see a new video pop up, instead of pressing play, take the time to pause and strike up a conversation about the incident with friends.

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