The myth that it is “political” to support victims of racial trauma following incidents like the Chris Kaba shooting only gets in the way of helping those who need it
Sep 20, 2022 4:26 p.m(Updated 4:31 p.m.)
The impact of racism on mental health has been documented around the world for years. Anti-racist activists, myself included, have spoken out about it. Victims of racial trauma have lost their lives and livelihoods. Yet when those experiencing racial trauma need a supportive arm around them, tangible support is lacking. When it comes to national mental health charities in particular, the typical response has often been silence.
The case of Chris Kaba, who was shot dead by a Metropolitan Police officer in Streatham, south London, while chasing a car he had been driving – but registered to someone else – is a prime example of this sense of stillness. The news of Kaba’s death triggered trauma in black communities and reignited fears many of us already have about whether we are unfortunate enough to be victims of violent policing thanks to historical issues surrounding the use of disproportionate force against us.
Unfortunately, the myth that advocating for better mental health care for anyone experiencing racial trauma is a political decision rather than a public duty to receive support seems to us. However, last week it looked like Mind, the mental health charity working to “offer advice and support to empower anyone with mental health issues,” might buck that trend.
It received initial praise for posting a series of harmless and heartfelt tweets in a Black Solidarity See You thread last week. Write in a series of tweets: “We need to talk about Chris Kaba.
“The murder of an unarmed black man by a police officer is hard to take. Especially when young black men die disproportionately at the hands of the police.
“The death of the Queen is dominating the news at the moment, but Chris Kaba deserves our attention. Racial trauma is real. And events like the death of Chris Kaba can be incredibly triggering. If. You have problems with the messages, please contact us. We are here for you.”
It was unusual. Mind is a colossal leader in its field. Given the status quo of similar charities’ silence, her Twitter thread caused me to clench my fist and raise my arm above my head in agreement. Immediately after reading those words, I felt like this was an organization that understood me and how deeply the fears and anxieties of so many are connected to this story.
Unfortunately, since raising its head over the parapet, the charity would within days go back to that sentiment and set it straight the: “Supporting one group does not mean excluding another.” In adopting a softer, more general tone, it almost seemed like a retreat, dampening that initial show of solidarity. For many, Mind’s response highlighted the general reluctance of other major mental health charities to do more to address the impact of racial trauma on black and colored groups.
Kaba is said to be the third black person to die after an interaction with police in England and Wales this year. By realizing how his death might affect people, Mind inadvertently sounded the alarm. And nobody reacted faster than right-wing voices and former police officers.
What started as a show of support turned into a virtual water cooler moment for right-wing extremists, calling for the FBI to act. The predictable rush to intimidate Mind into backing down and taking the officers’ “side” came within minutes: officers waded into the comments, giving out their venomous views. things tweeted like, “I see you made a decision without facts. noted. I raised thousands for your charity. No longer. In addition, I will advise my friends, family and colleagues, many of whom are active fundraisers, against refraining from donating in the future,” he replied.
It is well documented that black people are disproportionately targeted by police, whether through discriminatory stop and search practices or strip searches of black children. This inevitably leads to generational trauma, distrust and tension that is causing major, irreparable damage to the black community.
The all-too-familiar Twitter personalities who started and joined this bunch were myopic, irritable, and spiteful, in my opinion. Others had more vitriolic responses. Since then, police racists and bullies with large Twitter followings have been hellbent on quashing any deviation from the police-savior narrative. This has led to a seemingly never-ending stream of abuse towards the charity.
The outrage of so many ex-police officers at the recognition of the impact of racism and violent policing on black mental health seems to speak to a culture of institutional racism within the police force. Online pile-ons underscore this. The trauma experienced by the black community only goes to show that support is needed more than ever.
Larger mental health charities seem squeamish about offering this form of help. After the killing of George Floyd, smaller, specialist charities like Black Minds Matter campaigned without fear or favor to ensure black people in the UK have better access to mental health care, as did Black Thrive. To my knowledge, Mind is the only one of the larger mental health charities leading similar efforts with things like their Young Black Men Initiative. It seems that black trauma is openly addressed and discussed, and its impact is not in the realm of others.
The circumstances of Kaba’s death are of course still under investigation, but what people – and organizations – who argue that this is a “political” issue fail to realize is that a prior offense is not a reason to be shot; The police are not judges, juries and executioners, but are there to protect the public.
Mind has taken an incredible step backwards to curb the bleeding of donations and police support. By rolling around like a puppy, it has turned off the very people in the black community it’s supposed to be helping. Ironically, this charity – and so many others who remain silent on these issues – inadvertently sent a clear signal that it is now up for debate whether black communities can trust it.
What was once a supportive arm around the black community’s shoulder is now bereft of its original sentiment. It’s a reminder that law enforcement has the power to silence charities on the crucial issue of black mental health.
Michael Morgan is a writer and podcast host, Managing Editor of WOW TV and co-host of the podcast Why I don’t speak to the institutionally racist police anymore