George Floyd’s Death One Year Later

How racialized and vicarious trauma impacts People of Color: a special report by Hurdle

Kevin Dedner, MPH
Hurdle.Health

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We are indebted to Floyd and owe him and his family deep gratitude. Through his death, America was asked to once again pull back the hood and expose the systemic racism and police violence run rampant in our country.

Moments before the start of Derek Chauvin’s trial — the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd on May 25, 2020 — members of Floyd’s family and legal team gathered outside the courthouse. They took a knee. Their gathering was a quiet call for accountability and renewal in a case described as “America on trial.”

“Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all,” said Ben Crump, Floyd’s family attorney.

A year ago, the world bore witness to Floyd’s murder under the knee of Chauvin. A year ago, we saw the legacy fight against racial inequity unfold with a new awakening. Polls estimated between 15 million and 26 million people participated in the United States, making these Black Lives Matter protests the largest movement in U.S. history.

One month after Floyd’s killing, and spurred on by pressure from employees and worldwide protests, thousands of U.S. companies announced that Juneteenth would be a paid holiday. Their acts of solidarity were accompanied by press releases announcing internal benchmarks to accelerate diversity, identity, and inclusion strategies across all levels of their organizations. Overnight, it seemed that the rise of American corporate ‘wokeness’ reached ubiquity.

We are indebted to Floyd and owe him and his family deep gratitude. Through his death, America was asked to once again pull back the hood and expose the systemic racism and police violence run rampant in our country. Accountability for this soul search came from America’s corporate kings — Nike, Facebook, Amazon, and thousands of other companies who committed to accelerating their diversity and inclusion strategies.

With the help of our team of leading clinical researchers, we released a personal and communal manifesto, a compass to help America’s employers and payers understand racialized and vicarious trauma and its impact on People of Color.

On July 14, 2013, I awoke with a stress headache. At that time, the source of the stress was out of my control. It wasn’t a work deadline that I could meet by burning the midnight oil. It wasn’t a family or financial matter that could be solved with consultation or creative thinking. That morning, my head was aching from a lack of inner peace. The night before, George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s killing. The haunting nostalgia of systemic racial injustice was forcefully positioned at the forefront of my mind, and millions of other people’s minds in the U.S.

In the years that followed, I dipped in and out of depression and almost lost everything that was dear to me — my family, my business, my identity. In that time, I’d committed myself to understand the ways in which systemic racism and the sociological pressures associated with being a Black person in this country take a toll on your mental and physical health. I learned through research and my own experience that the mind and body are inextricably linked.

In loving memory of George Floyd, I returned to the research I began in the years following Martin’s death. With the help of our team of leading clinical researchers, we released a personal and communal manifesto, a compass to help America’s employers and payers understand racialized and vicarious trauma and its impact on People of Color. The white paper is a tool to help leaders understand why America’s current mental healthcare system is not designed to honor People of Color’s culture and racial experience. It is my sincere hope that the document will be a guide to learn how culturally competent care can improve the wellbeing of People of Color and allow them to show up, live with power and operate with joy.

Kevin Dedner, MPH serves as Founder and CEO of Hurdle (formerly Henry Health). Hurdle is mental healthcare for invisible barriers. As the leading culturally intentional mental health provider, Hurdle provides a comprehensive suite of mental health services and self-mastery tools to employers and payers to meet the needs of their employees and members.

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