CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

How Black People Are Deprived of Fight or Flight Response

When it comes to confrontations with the police, Black people are asked to do something strange

Allison Wiltz
Published in
4 min readDec 15, 2022

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Man and woman with white butterflies on their faces | Photo by cottonbro studio via Pexels

Fight or flight is an “automatic physiological reaction” to a stressful or fearful situation. You will start to breathe faster, and your blood pressure and heart rate will rise, preparing your body for a possible fight. According to Professor Karin Roelofs, people and animals have various defensive modes that trigger “freezing and active-fight-or-flight reactions.” So, a natural response to danger could be to freeze, like a deer caught in the headlights, escape, or confront the threat by fighting defensively. Isn’t it odd that, despite the prevalence of anti-Black racism in policing, society expects Black people to obey any and all commands from the police without delay?

Dalvin Gadson, a Black homeless veteran who served in the “Army National Guard as a helicopter mechanic,” said he felt “terrified” after officers brutally assaulted him. Colorado Springs police officers stopped Gadson because his vehicle was missing tags, and after allegedly smelling marijuana, an officer decided to administer a sobriety test. When Gadson refused to leave the vehicle, asking “why” they were placing him in handcuffs, officers responded with violence. The police treated Gadson like chattel, as if he had no right to ask about their decision to place him under arrest.

According to Gadson, officers kicked him in the head, kneed, and elbowed him in the face, causing him to lose consciousness: “I regained awareness, lying on the asphalt. I was covered in blood, with two black eyes, one eye swelled shut with blood in my cornea, my whole body badly bruised, abrasions all over, lips busted, ribs and spine hurting, and my eyesight was halfway gone.” While there were at least 13 officers on the scene, none of them tried to intervene, to stop the senseless violence that left Gadson’s “eyes head, spine, and back” damaged. So much for the “few bad apples defense.” A photo of Matthew Anderson, one of the officers who beat Gadson, smiling after the attack, is making the rounds on the internet, a photo that should be entitled — white joy at the expense of black pain.

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Allison Wiltz
Momentum

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder allisonthedailywriter.com https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola