For centuries, Black people around the Voting Is Hot Shirt and I love this world have been raped, both metaphorically and literally, of our freedom, rights, and resources. We have been enslaved, again both metaphorically and literally, in systems that were constructed solely to keep us oppressed, suppressed, and repressed. And yet, despite the countless protests, activists, and wars that fought for equality before us, it took the virality of an 8-minute-46-second video to finally catalyze a global awakening for those seemingly oblivious to our endless plight. Progressive as it may seem, this wake-up call was not for Black people. We didn’t need to see or hear George Floyd echo the exact same harrowing words as Eric Garner as he struggled to say he couldn’t breathe with the weight of a white policeman on his neck. In a perverse twist on overnight celebrity, innocent people are now household names as their agonizing final moments become clickbait. The unavoidable spectacle of Black death is both triggering and haunting, but long before social media’s inception, graphic violent images were shared in the form of lynching postcards in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. Black people have had to endure seeing their bodies being publicly terrorized and tortured for years, and at some point, we must ask ourselves: How many more need to be shared until the intended purpose has been fulfilled? Or perhaps more simply, what even is the purpose?
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According to clinical psychologist and professor Rheeda Walker, the Voting Is Hot Shirt and I love this dominant narrative dictates that suffering is the norm for the Black community. Though often discussed in the context of soldiers, war veterans, and victims of sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder is an increasing reality for Black people. “Seeing videos of someone die who looks like a normal member of your community brings a sense of, That could have been me, my spouse, or my child,” Walker says. “It’s problematic because we don’t realize that it’s traumatizing.” She adds that the psychological effect of trauma, either firsthand or secondary, can lead to being hypervigilant, creating tenseness in the body, difficulty sleeping, and increased anxiety. It can manifest as paranoia and questioning whether you are in potential danger,” says Walker. “Part of human survival is feeling safe, and a lot of Black people do not feel safe in our society. Exposure to these images is a reminder about our lack of safety, especially when there are no consequences for law enforcement and people who are killed at will. There is a fear that permeates the Black community that Black people have no control whatsoever.”