Floyd protests, riots highlight racial trauma, experts say

A pair of demonstrators holding a sign at the Philadelphia Museum or Art Saturday afternoon. The planned protests began peacefully, but erupted into violence after marchers left the Art Museum.
Photo credit Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The out-of-control protests that have transpired in Philadelphia and across the country highlight a lot of the hurt so many people are experiencing right now. So what's behind all that anger and pain?

According to licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. George James, the issue that needs to be addressed right now is racial trauma.

"It's something that is not often talked about. It's very similar to PTSD or other forms of trauma," he explained.

James said it can be triggering be seeing videos like those of George Floyd and others.

"And on top of that, people experience daily injustices, microagressions," he added, saying those negative feelings need to be acknowledged. 

"It's okay that you feel hurt, annoyed, anxious, worried, that you can't sleep, that you might be hypervigilant, These are all symptoms of trauma," James assured.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Jeanne Mayo acknowledges those life experiences can sometimes become overwhelming.

"Feeling that your life or the life of others has no value and not knowing what's coming next, tied into the fear of COVID-19," she said. "To wonder what your life matters and if it matters if your life is constantly in jeopardy by just doing normal activities."

James added the coronavirus highlighted a lot of the inequities and injustices that a lot of people feel in America.

"And then if they can't get unemployment or wherever services to help them, that does add to a level of frustration because unfortunately, they've been not seen, not heard, not taken care of, not protected," he detailed.

And while he doesn't advise negative actions, he can understand the feelings behind wanting to lash out.

"All of those things people carry with them day after day after day," he said, "it gets to a place where people feel this injustice and want to do something about it."