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How Protesting Negatively Impacts Black Individuals

Context

For my Individual Written Argument for my AP Seminar Class, I extensively looked into the negative mental and physical impact that protesting has on the Black community, and the results were shocking. Many of the hardships that they face are long-term and detrimental to their health. Furthermore, much of the research I compiled for my argument was recent, showing the fact that this issue is only now being regarded, and the regard is little. Therefore, I wanted to share my research in order to bring awareness to the topic. Change starts with being aware of the extent of an issue, so here’s how protesting negatively impacts a Black individual:


Physical Impacts

Surrounding the physical impacts that Black individuals face as a result of protesting, long-term injuries, chronic sleep issues, and obesity are the 3 most prominent issues that they experience. In regards to long-term injuries, the high rate of police brutality shown throughout the United States during protests, especially targeting Black individuals, is the producer of death, blindness, chemical burns, and even respiratory failure. This is due to the use of tear gas, the most common crowd-control agent used by police. In fact, since 2015, over 119,000 people have fallen victim to the use of tear gas. However, this is not the only side effect of police brutality, as chronic sleep issues are another result of the violence that law enforcement shows towards Black individuals. Chronic sleep issues are a direct result of Black individuals experiencing (or even being exposed to) police violence during a protest. Through a study conducted that involved over 180,000 Black individuals, it was found that a total of 73.2% of Black protesters are prevented from getting sufficient sleep each night due to the trauma they feel following protesting violence. Through long-term injuries and chronic sleep issues, it is clear that the matter of police brutality needs to be addressed (and reduced) in order to protect Black individuals. Additionally, the Black community has an increased chance of suffering from obesity, as a result of the backlash they face when fighting for justice and equality. In regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, research guided by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, it was found that, through analyzing 50,000 geo-coded tweets that took negative stances on the movement, that in areas where negative stances are the highest, the likelihood of Black individuals that reside in that area being obese is higher. More specifically, “After analyzing the data, the researchers found that for every 7.5% rise in negative stances toward Black Lives Matter, there was a 0.20 point rise in BMI and a 6% increase in the likelihood of being obese for Black people living in that area.” Through this research, it is evident that protesting negatively impacts the physical health of the Black community in various ways - some of which are quite surprising. 


Mental Impacts

Furthermore, protesting, which can often produce a racially hostile environment, can produce mental barriers for the Black community, such as depression, chronic stress, and hypervigilance. First, concerning depression, it was found in 2015 research that 71% of Black individuals, who are also racial activists, endure feelings of depression. This is due to, what is referred to as, “activist burnout.” For context, it generally requires a lot of emotional labor to advocate for a cause, especially one that directly affects you. Therefore, when Black activists face backlash surrounding their movement, it produces emotional exhaustion, which increases the likelihood for depression. Along with depression, chronic stress is also a mental struggle

that many Black individuals face as a consequence of protesting. Due to the fact that, for instance, Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement compared to a white man, the chance of enduring police encounters during protests creates a sense of fear within the Black community. This constant fear creates acute stress and is a direct factor into the hypervigilance that they feel. As Black individuals must have a heightened sense of alertness during protesting, as they may be the next victim to police brutality, their quality of life is significantly decreased. The constant feeling of fear and paranoia that they face also causes emotional distress for them. Therefore, it is apparent that police brutality and constant advocation produces harmful impacts towards the mental health of the Black community. 


Conclusion

History clearly shows that protesting is an effective and efficient way to produce social change within the United States. Therefore, it brings about a critical question. If the mental and physical harm towards the Black community’s health that protesting has is a prominent issue (and has been for decades), why have we seen no change, or even an acknowledgement of the issue? 




Breeley Moll, Rogers, 10th Grade, Instagram- @breeley0212

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