As tensions have bubbled over, some have taken it into their own hands to rectify the situation, and just a month ago, we witnessed an attack on police in Dallas, where a black army veteran took down 5 cops and injured 7 others in the midst of a peaceful protest. The rebuke was swift from the public and our government, with President Obama and the protesters themselves (one of which was injured during the shooting) condemning the actions which many felt would only lead to more violence, mistrust and animosity; because, in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” In the end, the perpetrator was killed after failing to negotiate with police, and justice was served.
Yet, just this week, a year old case from Baltimore reawakened feelings of bias and injustice, when charges were dropped against all of the remaining officers involved in an incident that left a young man (then 25 years old) dead after being arrested for making eye contact with police then running. Once again, people are angry. This anger is a natural response to the trauma and fear felt by people who’ve endured centuries of mistreatment and violence. It can be debilitating as much as it is infuriating, and while we look to empathize with those in the streets, shutting down highways, and in the political arena, we often forget the effect these actions and our own reactions have on our children.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, trauma affects learning in children from preschool age to high school. The organization defines traumatic event as: “a sudden and unexpected occurrence that causes intense fear and may involve a threat of physical harm or actual physical harm.” Though responses vary, symptoms from depression to physical illness occur, and therefore impede the normal process of education and school learning.
This trauma is not limited to the children directly affected by these events, such as Tamir Rice’s sister who saw her brother shot dead in the park while playing, or the children who lamented the death of Philando Castile who worked at a school in Minnesota, after he was shot. Those children obviously have a more personal connection to these issues that we have to assuage, but there are others, bystanders, watching the news or seeing videos of a young girl body slammed in a classroom, or a child pinned to the ground following an argument at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. These children live in a world where children and barely grown figures like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are household names. Their feelings about this and their mental wellbeing cannot be overlooked.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg threatening to completely shatter their safety and peace of mind. Terrorist attacks from Paris to Istanbul, from Brussels to Orlando, have all made headlines. People are in mourning everywhere as we try hard to deal with personal concerns and matters in our backyard. While we work toward bettering our world as much as we possibly can, let’s take a moment to ensure that our children understand what’s happening, that they’re ok, that we’re assisting them with the resources necessary to deal with the issues they may be feeling. Our future depends on it.