Black Grief Matters: Disenfranchisement, Social Support, and Coping Among Black College Students Grieving the Deaths of Black Americans by Police Brutality

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Today, Black Americans are nearly three times more likely than their white American counterparts to be killed by police, accounting for more than 40% of the victims of police killings nationwide (Bor et al., 2018). These murders are receiving considerable media attention as some have been captured on video and shared widely via social media and news platforms. Moreover, the Black Lives Matter movement, which aims to emphasize the precarious state of Black lives, focuses needed attention on these horrific murders by police brutality (Rankine, 2015). The ubiquity of social media and news platforms facilitates widespread viewing and sharing of police brutality against Black Americans, with the viewing of such events potentially more pronounced among college students, as over 84% of 18 to 29 year-olds use at least one social media site (Pew Research Center, 2021). Exposure to this violence is associated with negative mental health outcomes among Black Americans including heightened stress, depression, and grief and loss reactions (Allen & Solomon, 2016; Bor et al., 2018; Tynes et al., 2019). Factors which may contribute to these negative mental health outcomes include disenfranchisement of grief (i.e., the grief not being recognized or acknowledged; Piazza-Bonin et al., 2015), the absence of social support during grieving (Burke et al., 2010; Stroebe et al., 2005), and the ways in which college students cope with these killings and their grief (Andersen et al., 2013; Fox, 2019). The purpose of this study was to examine how grief disenfranchisement, social support and coping style predict stress, depressive symptoms, and prolonged grief among Black college students as they respond to the deaths of Black Americans by police brutality.