Traumatic stress is an emotional wounding that results from experiencing or witnessing a traumagenic event or events. A traumagenic event is a highly stressful, horrifying event, or series of events, where one feels a lack of control, powerlessness, and threat of injury or death. As Dr. Peter Levine says, “Traumatic stress occurs when our ability to respond to threat is overwhelmed.”
When Black brothers and sisters are killed at the hands of the police, no matter the situation surrounding it, it carries with it the potential of a trauma-producing event for any of our Black brothers and sisters. The event is never isolated, but is associated with the ongoing legacy and aftermath tied to the historical harms and narrative of devaluing, dehumanizing, and disposing Black and Brown neighbors, which is tied to the larger narrative White superiority. Therefore, my dear White brother or sister, our “But if he…” and “What about…” doesn’t matter because the reality of the trauma is much larger than the hypothetical.
So consider choosing empathy and listening, rather than a commentary based upon the hypothetical. Consider facilitating presence rather than a comeback-opinion. Consider taking the most human approach and understand the trauma. And if we follow Jesus, just be like him for God’s sake, and let’s choose to love our neighbor like we love ourselves and treating others as we would be treated if we were suffering trauma.
The reality of the trauma will always be bigger than the hypothetical.