Loyola University Maryland

Counseling Center

Trauma and Support Related to the Derek Chauvin Trial

Community Response Education

It is incredibly important to recognize and normalize that the Baltimore community, and in communities across our country are likely to experience strong and deep emotional reactions to the verdict brought down by the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd. No matter the outcome, there will be a wide range of emotional reactions. All of these reactions from the Baltimore community are valid and no one emotional experience is right or wrong when it comes to the verdict in this trial.

With the recognition that significant emotional reactions will be present for many in the Baltimore community, one way in which individuals and communities express those emotional reactions is through exercising their right to freely protest the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial and, more broadly, the police brutality that continues to victimize and murder Black individuals in our communities. Those individuals and communities that go out into the street to express their anger and frustration are not only protesting the immediate past experiences of injustice at the hands of the police but are also giving voice to the compounding trauma that Black individuals have experienced for hundreds of years living in a white supremacist society through persistent disparities in economic, social, and political power.

A form of protest that might occur in the aftermath of the Derek Chauvin trial might include destroying, taking, damaging or looting property from stores in our surrounding communities, although this is not the norm. This form of protest, described by Vicky Osterweil in her book In Defense of Looting, is one that attacks the idea of the distribution of property and food, which is derived through whiteness and through Black suppression. Looting highlights the notion that our communities can have things for free without police and systems of oppression. The media will focus their attention on these acts of protest, however, this is done to create viewership for their news channels and to create a narrative that takes away from the actual reasons and plights that such communities are bringing to the fore. This is not the norm and the majority of protests are peaceful. These communities engaging in protest are working towards creating collective action in dismantling systems of racism through calling out those systems for how they engage with communities of color and holding them accountable for their actions. It is important to recognize that these demonstrations are a valid response to the pervasive nature of systemic racism. Black voices must be heard.

Faculty Guide for Supporting Students Through Derek Chauvin Trial Decision and Ongoing Racial Trauma

Racial trauma is defined as mental and emotional distress caused by encounters with racism, discrimination, and hate crimes. In our society, racism is pervasive, and it can feel like we are continually exposed to hate crimes and acts of violence against BIPOC individuals. These events are ongoing and compounding. The Counseling Center recognizes the impact that ongoing racial trauma has on our students, and in particular wants to consider the impact of the Derek Chauvin trial and upcoming jury decision. The verdict in this trial will have implications to the mental health and well being of Loyola’s students, faculty, and staff, particularly those in the BIPOC community. The Counseling Center has created this guide for faculty to be aware of what students of color may be experiencing, and how to support these students with their experiences of ongoing racial trauma.

Impact of Racial Trauma and Normal Reactions

  • Psychologically, the impact of racial trauma can cause symptoms that mirror PTSD
  • It is valid for students to be experiencing depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping, and social withdrawal
  • Students may be feeling a range of emotions throughout the trial – numbness, sadness, fear for safety, anger – all of these are valid reactions to witnessing racial trauma
  • BIPOC students may choose to avoid news or discussions related to the trial. It is reasonable for students of color to set boundaries around media consumption that may cause vicarious trauma.
  • A guilty verdict will also cause a range of emotions. Even with a guilty verdict, many people are likely to feel like justice has not been fully served. This one outcome is not enough to counterbalance the many incidents of injustice that have occurred.

Signs of Racial Distress in the Classroom

  • Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks/assignments
  • Withdrawing from discussion or engagement in class
  • Need for flexibility in turning in assignments, keeping their camera on in class, taking exams, etc.
  • Expressions of anger, frustration, etc. are signs of the cumulative impact of racism

General Tips for Supporting Students

  • Acknowledge and validate what students may be experiencing - “I recognize the impact that this trial verdict has on this community, it’s okay to be feeling a variety of feelings”
  • Let students know about Counseling Center resources
    • Individual Counseling: Brief Individual Counseling and one-time Let’s Talk conversations
    • Affinity Spaces: Let’s Connect Now for BIPOC Students, Let’s Connect Now for Coping with Jury Decision, Empower Support Group
  • Recognize that different students may have different needs and emphasize a willingness to meet students where they are. Whenever possible, be flexible with your expectations.
  • Promote and practice self-care
  • When students of color discuss or disclose experiences of racism, believe them. Do not minimize what happened. Listen and respond with validation. You can respond by using a phrase like:
    • “I appreciate you trusting me with that. You have every right to be hurt by that behavior.”
    • “I’m here to support you. If you want additionally support, we can talk about resources together.”