GREENSBORO, N.C. — As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands trial for the killing of George Floyd, it’s bringing back a flood of emotions for a lot of people across the country.
Here in the Piedmont Triad, seeing the video replay of Floyd taking his last breath during the opening day of the trial that started Monday is causing many to relive those emotions.
Mental health professionals, as well as students, at North Carolina A&T State University, are speaking out about it.
“Reliving that was and continues to be devastating. It’s breathtaking. It’s horrific to see all of those things. That it could’ve been me,” said Vivian Barnette, executive direactor of NC A&T Counseling Services.
The images, the testimony, the flashbacks to the day Floyd died are traumatic for those watching the Chauvin trial. People want to stay informed, but it’s difficult to watch.
“I would suggest looking at a trusted news channel just to get a little piece of the information, but you don’t have to sit there for hours and just listen to all of this,” Barnette said.
For students at this Historically Black College, seeing the video, hearing Floyd call out for his mother before he died, is just too much.
“We’re able to see ourselves just being murdered ruthlessly. The impact that that has on you, sometimes is immeasurable and it’s hard to bear,” graduate student Jaelon Talley said.
Talley admits he couldn’t bring himself to watch the more than nine-minute-long video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck in its entirety.
It’s one of the reasons many here have turned to mental health experts to cope with the ongoing consequences of not only this trial but the pandemic too.
“Some of their physical symptoms were showing up like headaches, body aches, or they just didn’t sleep well. A lot of them showed up to our student health center. They were really experiencing psychological stress and sometimes PTSD,” Barnette said.
For psychology student Mckenzie Chappell, she’s choosing not to watch the trial.
“I don’t want my head being so clouded with things that happened in the previous year and all the other murders that have happened. I’m at a point where I just want a peace of mind,” she said.
She said the matter hits close to home for her.
“I actually had a friend back home who was killed by a police officer,” Chapelle said. “It took everything in my power not to insert myself into certain conversations because it would work me up all over again.”
While conversations are needed to bring about change, Barnette wants allies to be mindful of forcing those conversations on people of color right now.
“On some level, I’m commending people, yes, reach out, text, do what you need to support that person. But also realize they are not the teachers of how things should be,” Barnette said.
Students and A&T community members said it’s hopeful that the former officer is standing trial, but the outcome will be telling of where we go from here as a country.
“It depends on the outcome of the trial that’s really going to mark our country, our students, in terms of how they move forward,” Bennette said.