Opinion: Black Mental Health

On Police Brutality and Black Mental Health

Saturday, 6 June 2020, I saw a gripping photo of a young, black woman, on Twitter, wearing a T-shirt that simply said: “Black Mental Health Matters”. I was moved.

I had been working on a response to an article I read in the Guardian by an American poet and writer named Jericho Brown. The article is titled  "To win justice for George Floyd, we need the rage that abolished slavery | Jericho Brown." Here’s the link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/05/george-floyd-rage-slavery-killing-us-police-state-protest

In his article Mr Brown writes about the killing of George Floyd, police brutality and riots that took place in the US, over the years.
Contrary to the title, Mr. Brown, in his article, doesn’t once discuss what rage abolished slavery.
He also writes that “Peaceful protest alone has never brought progress, fairness or justice to black people in the United States.” The BLM movement does not support riots. George Floyd’s family and the families of all those Black men killed by police, do not support riots.
Rage can be channeled through peaceful protests, and rightly so. This is why the US government had to first label the protestors as “Antifa”, “antagonisers”, and “looters”, to try and justify the police brutality, the gassing, beating, and using unidentifiable police troops against peaceful protestors. This has been heavily criticised in the US, and around the world.


Mr Brown ends with two concluding statements, that if the reader doesn’t agree with, then the reader is a racist.
I don’t agree with either statement, and I will explain below. I also want to make clear why it is important to focus on Black people’s mental health, as we fight against racism.

Mr Brown concludes:
    “If you don’t think police are the problem, then you think black people are.”

No. I don’t think that. I think police brutality is the problem, and I don’t think black people are the problem. Being black is not a problem.
I believe institutional racism within police forces in the US (and the UK), leads to police brutality, disproportionally against black people, because, I believe police are taught that black people are lesser citizens. We are not regarded as rightful citizens. Black citizens have the same rights: The right to be treated fairly, and equally. The right to the same freedoms, and pursue Happiness.
So, I disagree with the writer’s first statement.

Next, Mr Brown concludes:
    “If, after everything you’ve seen, you think that over the last 100 years the problem of police brutality is black people, then you’re a racist.”

This statement is confusing to me. To "think that […] the problem of police brutality is black people.” What is meant by "the problem" of police brutality? A problem is something that needs to be dealt with and overcome. Police brutality against black citizens needs addressing, and needs to be overcome. Mr Brown didn't elaborate or explain why, so I will. It's important.


The problem of police brutality lies in its consequence. It creates and increases mental health issues within black families and communities, who have experienced police brutality. Also within black families, who have not experienced police brutality, but do experience racism.
What also contributes to their mental health issues of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, even anger, and a wrong and damaged self-image, is the fact that, time and time again, the offending officers get away with it. They can get away with it, because of the institutionalised racism. The cycle is complete.
The only way to solve this problem, is what protestors have been demonstrating in the US, and here in the UK: Build bridges. Also, change policing laws, so the culture of “protecting our own”, and “them against us”, is outlawed, and the “Serve and Protect” becomes the norm for black citizens as well.

Diversifying workplaces, without accompanying training on race, race relations, will not help. Amy Cooper, who said she isn’t a racist, did a racist thing. She called the police on a black man, and lied about being harassed by him. Some one said: “In the old days, he would’ve been lynched over that. Today, he could’ve been killed.”

Amy Cooper didn’t stop to think of the consequences of her actions. The police don’t need to think of the consequences of their brutality towards black citizens, because they know they are protected by their bosses and the system. They get away with it.
The white ex-police officer and his son, who killed Ahmaud Arbery, counted on getting away with his murder, too, and they did. For two months.

Jane Elliott once told a white audience: “If you want to be treated the same way black people are treated today in America, stand up.” No one stood up. She repeated herself. Again, no one stood up. Elliot then said: “This means two things. 1. You are aware of how black people are treated in this country. 2. You don’t want that treatment for yourself."

This is powerful. To know, and yet only think of yourself, and not the other…the human being with a mere different skin tone, and the consequences of your actions and inactions on their mental, as well as their socio-economic wellbeing.

It seems as, people, together, we want real change now.

Even now, George Floyd is being dehumanised, by Candace Owens*, who tweeted, that Floyd was a bad man, with jail convictions, so, why is he being treated as a martyr. Trump retweeted this, without comment. It’s a distraction. They both know. They, and some others, just can’t find it within themselves, to care.
© 7 June 2020 Jacquelene Martina.