“You don’t understand what sharing that does to us –– how desensitizing that is, how it traumatizes us, that we see people like us, that it happens every day,” Lisa Amanor, a junior at Champlin Park High School in Minnesota, told BuzzFeed News.
Lisa, like many Black youth, wants people to stop sharing videos of police-involved killings of Black people online.
“You don’t even think for a second, ‘How does this make them feel? Who do they see when they look at that person getting killed?’” Amanor added. The high schooler told the outlet that she was in fourth grade when she first saw the video of Eric Garner saying “I can’t breathe” which circulated social media feeds in 2014, and ignited national protests. For young people like Lisa, seeing that type of violence began at a young age, and its impact is wearing on young people in her generation.
Youth activists in Minneapolis shared with the outlet that the repeated imagery of fatal encounters with police is overwhelming, continuous, and perpetuates trauma among Black youth in Generation Z.
“It’s like a foreshadow of your own death,” Nicole Bosire, a sophomore told BuzzFeed News. “And we are still so young.” News of Ma’Khia Bryant’s shooting death prompted many Gen Z’ers to send warning text messages to not watch or share the video of yet another Black person, and young Black person, being killed by law enforcement.
“We saw this stuff when we were young, but when we got to be 15, 16, it felt a lot more real,” 15-year-old Aaliyah Murray told the outlet. Two days before George Floyd’s murder, Aaliyah founded the Minnesota Teen Activists after experiencing racism at the predominately white high school she attended. The group mobilized in the days after Floyd’s killing, though growing up in Minnesota had made them familiar with videos of police killings.
In the year since their founding, the young activists have chronicled incidents of racism in their neighborhoods and organized sit-in demonstrations to protest police killings of Black residents. The group also raised over $100,000 to help repair businesses that had been destroyed in Minneapolis, and conducted a survey among students in Minneapolis as well as organized dialogue on anxiety and depression among young people in today’s times. The activist group provides protest education and through Murray’s leadership, organized the state’s largest student walkout.
Though Murray told BuzzFeed News she feels an obligation to watch videos of police killings of Black people, it’s complicated and doesn’t lessen the sting of how fast those videos spread online.
“I think it’s something people need to watch, but I don’t think it’s something people should share,” Murray said. “I don’t think people should open their phone and see another murder of their ally without warning. I don’t think young kids and teens should have to watch that,” she added.
Other youth activists, like 19-year-old Isis Atallah, founder of Minnesota Youth for Justice, echo the sentiments for not watching the footage. “It does something to your mind, not just me, all my friends too,” she said. “I think you have to be Black to understand.” Atallah told the outlet that while she’s committed to organizing and doing the work, watching the footage of Ma’Khia Bryant’s shooting death is not something she’s ready to do.
“I know I would never be able to unsee it,” Atallah said.
To hear more stories from young Black activists, click here.
Photos: Getty Images