It has been one year, and George Floyd’s heartbreaking final minutes on the paved city ground remain fresh on my mind. His gruesome and racist murder came as a global pandemic left us all already vulnerable and raw, and I was dealing with the sickness and stress it caused in my family and among my friends and community.

Many of us recall moments in our personal histories by their relation to the day Floyd was killed—or Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor and countless others. Long before Billie Holliday sang Strange Fruit, Black communities have been absorbing this pain and anguish.

“When a member of a minority group is killed, their whole community is forced to witness—not only through personal narratives of the victims, but through the imagery of the endless media (and social media) frenzy,” noted a December 2020 commentary produced by the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative in collaboration with Biological Psychiatry.

“This disproportionate display of minority victims in the news has been compared to lynchings, where slain African Americans are put on display for public consumption. These events convey the omnipresent threat of violence—that merely walking down the street or driving a car can be life-threatening.”

Race-Based Traumatic Stress (RBTS) is increasingly acknowledged by mental health practitioners as triggering symptoms including anxiety, depression or rage, as well as internalized racism.

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