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Anxiety and hope: Black Lives Matter protests bring myriad emotions

Anxiety and hope: Black Lives Matter protests bring myriad emotions


Protest organizer Anthony Morgan II leads a chant of the names of black men killed by police in the intersection of Gate City Boulevard and Eugene Street in Greensboro in May.

First COVID-19 arrived, its ghostly spikes shredding into all aspects of our lives.

Then came the killing of George Floyd — and the constant replaying of that video — tearing into wounds that have festered for centuries.

And finally the Black Lives Matter protests, a vivid display of anger, despair and hope, in cities across the country.

While all Americans have ridden this emotional tidal wave, few have felt its impact as deeply as African Americans.

clean up (copy) (copy)

A protester stands in the street in front of riot police in Greensboro, N.C., on Monday, June 1, 2020.

“I’m definitely feeling the pressure right now,” said Anthony Morgan II, the leader of The 3, a group that’s held several nonviolent protests in Greensboro recently. “When (George Floyd was killed), I cried for two weeks straight.”

And COVID-19, which has taken a heavy toll on the minority community, weighs heavily on him as well.

“My little brother right now is in the hospital with this (coronavirus),” Morgan, 27, said in an interview June 25. “He just called me; his fever is 104.

“It’s a fine line I feel like that I’m walking right now,” Morgan said. “It definitely wears on you.”

Dr. Nzinga A. Harrison

Dr. Nzinga A. Harrison

Dr. Nzinga A. Harrison, co-founder and chief medical officer for Eleanor Health, said she’s hearing similar thoughts from the company’s clients.

“The stress is just incredibly high,” said Harrison, whose company has just launched a free virtual support group specifically for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color).

“We live with racism every day. But when you watch somebody on camera that looks like your husband, your father, your son, get killed,” Harrison said, it brings up a lot of emotion.

“You’re hurting, and you’re grieving, and you’re outraged, and you’re angry,” she said, “and you have to go to work and just carry on as if everything is normal, and that adds an additional amount of stress.”

Statistics from the Census Bureau bear that out.

Within a week of Floyd’s death, anxiety and depression among African-Americans climbed to higher rates than experienced by any other racial or ethnic group, with 41% screening positive for at least one of those symptoms, data from the Census Bureau shows.

And other groups who have been marginalized, such as people who identify as LGBTQI+ (the “I” stands for intersex), also may be struggling because they can identify with the trauma experienced by African Americans, Harris said.

“Even if they’re not black and haven’t had that experience themselves, it still triggers the marginalization, discrimination and mistreatment experiences that they’ve had,” Harris said. Eleanor Health, which has offices in High Point, also is offering a virtual support group for LGBTQI+ people.

The act of protesting itself also can take a toll, said Dr. David Gutterman, clinical director of LeBauer Behavioral Medicine, part of the Cone Health Medical Group.

Dr. David Gutterman (copy)

Dr. David Gutterman

“It’s physically demanding, it’s not comfortable and in some cities they are also facing a lot of opposition,” Gutterman said. “It’s not only physically taxing; it can be very emotionally taxing as well.”

That’s something Morgan has seen during the nonviolent Greensboro protests he’s organized. At the Battleground Avenue protest, where protesters blocked the street, Morgan said there were three incidents “where white people were trying to run us over.”

Still, Morgan, Gutterman and Harris all said they see positive things coming out the protests — especially people gathering from different backgrounds.

“What’s been so encouraging, when you look into the crowds of people, you literally can see everybody,” Harris said.

Gutterman said: “At a time when people’s emotional reserves were at a pretty low level, after months of being quarantined and the fears and anxieties around the virus … (the protests have) created … what psychologists call a ‘moral elevation.’

protest (copy)

Protesters help a business clean up damage during a second night of protests in Greensboro on May 31. In the wake of unrest, “We also saw a remarkable amount of good deeds happening,” said Dr. David Gutterman, clinical director of LeBauer Behavioral Medicine.

“What we saw in response to that video, beyond some of the initial protests with things that got out of hand with violence, we also saw a remarkable amount of good deeds happening,” he said. Among those good deeds, Gutterman said, were people of all races coming together to clean up after the initial destruction, attending marches together and donating to causes with a common goal.

“It triggers physiologically a sense of warmth and feeling good physically, psychologically about being more optimistic about humanity and hopeful about change,” Gutterman said.

Morgan has experienced that.

“Seeing the community come together, seeing the officers treating us differently, that brings me a little peace of mind,” he said.

And events like the Juneteenth celebration at Douglas Park on June 19 also give him respite from the daily struggle.

“I feel like that made people feel really, really free and lightness in their heart,” he said. He especially loved watching the children enjoying the bounce house, fireworks, water balloons, vendors and music.

“That twinkle (in their eyes),” he said. “I love doing for the kids. Everything I’m doing is for the youth. The Black youth.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure these kids don’t have to go through what we had to,” Morgan said.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Contact Kenwyn Caranna at 336-373-7082.

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