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Derrick Chauvin Trial Retraumatizing For Many

Speaker 1: 00:00 It was shown over and over again. And the Derek Shovan trial this week, Chauvin's knee and George Floyd's net while he was on the ground handcuffed and pleading for his life. Even for several minutes after he went limp, witness testimony was emotional with a deep sense of trauma. And that trauma is being felt by many people who have seen the video and are watching the trial. Starla Lewis is a professor of black studies at Mesa college and SDSU. She teaches a class on transcending racism and the psychological history of racism and sexism. Starla. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:35 Thank you. Good to be here Speaker 1: 00:37 First. How are you doing this week? Speaker 2: 00:40 Well, you know, the reality is it comes and goes. It was a traumatic experience to witness it, but because of what I teach, I've studied it, you know, from the beginning, uh, when we were being lynched every two and a half days for 50, some odd years. And so I have a, I think I have developed a defense mechanism that allows me to view it, but I don't do it over and over again. In other words, when it comes on, I don't continue to watch it. Speaker 1: 01:12 You've been talking to your students this week about the trial. What are you hearing from them? Speaker 2: 01:17 Well, the students have been traumatized because they went through a period. We'll call it the Obama period where they could, they were being taught that the post racism and that we've made all these great strides. And so for them to witness a murder and then to have to deal with the fact that it doesn't jive, that there's all these great strides. That's been very traumatizing for them, and they're not prepared for it because see, if you don't acknowledge what he is and prepare your children to deal with what is then they're defenseless. And so it makes it more traumatic. You see the conversations around transcending racism, the conversations around systemic biases, et cetera, are so necessary for our healing because you can't address something that you don't know exist. And as I'm doing my trainings, what I'm hearing people say, especially white people is that they didn't think racism still existed. So how can you get rid of something if you don't even acknowledge that it's real. Speaker 1: 02:25 Wow. You know, it's not just the video and the testimony that, uh, can be traumatizing. Uh, in what ways do you think the defense is effort to put George Floyd on the stand impacts us? Speaker 2: 02:39 Well, I think that that those of us who live in the black communities and have experienced being black in America, understand that that's, that's always one of the reasons I believe that the officer acted so violently toward him was because we teach officers that black people are criminals. And so there is an, our psyche that fear of black men that has been perpetuated since black people released from slavery. Yeah. Speaker 1: 03:10 How do you think those experiences, the criminalization of black skin, um, changes the way that communities of color in particular move in society? Speaker 2: 03:20 Well, I think, um, when they go outside of their community, they become very cautious. I even think some become very anxious. And I also think that the trauma is generational. You know, it's not just happening right now. It's happened over time generation after generation. And I think that, uh, in fact, I've read and I've, I've, uh, documented that the medical profession, the mental health profession has said that black, young, black men walk around with post-traumatic stress at a level that's higher than young men coming back from the war. Speaker 1: 03:59 Hm. How do these events, you know, um, we're talking from George Floyd to Brianna Taylor, uh, mod Auberry, uh, the list goes on and on how do these, uh, examples impact us in society? Yeah, Speaker 2: 04:16 Well, it goes from everything from shame and guilt to rage, but I would say that the greatest challenge is it's crazy. Crazy-making first, it makes you distrustful of law enforcement, which we shouldn't be because they're there to protect us. But when you see young black man after young black man handled the way they're handled in videos, because this isn't the only bit of media we've seen and this isn't the last man to die at the hands of, um, excessive force. And so I think, uh, from Trayvon Martin, I S I'm still recovering from CEG around heart and it was that about 10 years ago. And so I think it's important that we understand that it's not just the police, that that gets a pass on killing, uh, black people. But it's also civilians who are in fear of black people that get a pass. And we saw that with the Trayvon Martin case. Speaker 1: 05:15 So what ways can people protect their mental and emotional wellbeing in light of this trial happening this year? Speaker 2: 05:22 Well, I think when you learn history, you understand that this isn't anything new. And so you understand what did we do that kept us sane and what got us to this point where we are today. And I think it's about acknowledging our own value and worth. I think it's about loving ourselves in a deep and profound way. I think it's about being able to look at truth and accept that it is what it is, and then developing all kinds of personal strategies. One of the ways I kept myself sane, um, and, and I've used it with George. Floyd's a murderer as well, is that I would go up to young black men and women, but mostly men. And I would say to them mean, I share with you. And then I would say to them, you're beautiful. You're brilliant. You're powerful. You're valuable. And your life matters. I remember one group of young black men said to me, thank you, nobody validates us. We need validation. So I I'd seen the beauty in everybody and especially taking time to let young black men and women know that I care. I see. I know. And that you can transcend this. Speaker 1: 06:39 I've been speaking with Starla Lewis, a professor of black studies at Mesa college and SDSU Starla. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me.

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Professor Starla Lewis teaches classes on transcending racism and the psychological history of racism and sexism. Lewis joined Midday Edition on Friday to discuss the impact of this trial on people's mental and emotional well being.
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