Black Lives Matter founder’s cousin Keenan Anderson tasered to death by a police officer – Screen Shot
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Black Lives Matter founder’s cousin Keenan Anderson tasered to death by a police officer

Keenan Anderson, cousin of Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors, died on 3 January 2023 after being repeatedly tasered and restrained by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) following a traffic incident.

According to the BBC, the 31-year-old high school teacher and father died in a hospital in Santa Monica after going into cardiac arrest. The police who tasered Anderson had initially been called to the scene in regard to an ongoing traffic accident in the Venice neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

Police chief Michel Moore told a news conference on 11 January that Anderson had committed a felony hit-and-run in a traffic collision. He continued to state that the victim had attempted to flee the scene by trying to “get into another person’s car without their permission.”

The LAPD have only now released body camera footage of the day in question. In it, you can see Anderson in visible distress, fearful of the officers as they try to detain him. Shortly after, you can hear Anderson shout: “They’re trying to George Floyd me!”

This cry for help is clearly in reference to the horrific murder of Floyd—a black man who was killed in 2020 after white police officer Derek Chauvin aggressively restrained him by the neck for almost nine minutes. The death of Floyd subsequently ignited a global movement—spearheaded by the BLM organisation—aimed at addressing and combating police brutality and violence against black individuals.

In the case of Anderson, it’s been established by numerous news outlets that a stun gun was used on him for approximately 35 seconds altogether. Footage clearly shows officers holding Anderson down as they repeatedly taser him—all this culminating in the 31-year-old being transported to a nearby hospital where he died only four hours later.

A recent New York Times (NYT) investigation analysed the use of tasers in the line of duty. According to the publication, at least 500 people in the US have died by stun gun use since 2001. Moreover, a 2008 review of hundreds of deaths involving taser use by Amnesty International—featured in the NYT article—revealed that 90 per cent of those who’d died had been unarmed.

It should also be noted that official police executive research clearly states that when using a stun gun against an assailant, total exposure should not exceed 15 seconds. Anderson was tasered for 35 seconds.

BLM co-founder Cullors told The Guardian: “My cousin was asking for help, and he didn’t receive it. He was killed. Nobody deserves to die in fear, panicking and scared for their life. My cousin was scared for his life. He spent the last ten years witnessing a movement challenging the killing of black people. He knew what was at stake and he was trying to protect himself. Nobody was willing to protect him.”

The footage adds to mounting pressure on the LAPD, whose encounters with black and brown men have resulted in three deaths in under a week. Takar Smith, 45, and Oscar Sanchez, 35, were both shot dead by officers at the start of January 2023.

Cullors also went on to note how both herself and Anderson had moved to Los Angeles in hopes of escaping the rife racism they’d faced living in Louisiana. They’d sought out a “western haven” and this death makes it unbearably evident that even those US states considered proponents of inclusivity and equality are still overwhelmingly lethal.

Facing racial discrimination damages microstructures of the brain, scientists discover

A groundbreaking new study, made known by Medical News Today, has put forth research-led evidence that shows those who suffer racial discrimination face neurological changes in the brain that could negatively impact their overall health.

Knowing that racism can have serious physical, emotional and psychological repercussions, researchers from Emory University in Atlanta wanted to study how such discrimination has affected the biological microstructures of black women’s brains. Though this research aims to prove something new, the deep and wide impact of racism has been well-documented.

Racism and healthcare

In fact, the particular relationship between race and health has become an increasingly large part of medical discourse—mostly in a physical way. Disparities in healthcare equipment, like oxygen monitors, being significantly less effective on darker skin tones in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to negatively affect the health of minority populations.

Another 2020 report, as per Sky News, showed that black women in the UK are at a five times greater risk of dying during childbirth than their white counterparts. This, being just one of the many examples of racial disparities and structural discriminatory pillars in healthcare, former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid announced plans in 2021 to implement the use of AI to curb racial inequality throughout the National Health Service (NHS).

Not only does racism actually impact a person’s access to healthcare, which in turn literally affects their physical well being, racism itself harms your health. The impact of the infamous summer of 2020, in the wake of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, was a dire time for the mental health of black people and activists across the globe.

Knowing this, researchers from Emory University set about their mission by studying the brains of black women (who had prior experiences with racism) using MRI technology to assess any changes in their white matter, Medical News Today surmised.

Racism changes the white matter in your brain

The MRI scans of the black female participants showed a serious impact in both the corpus callosum and the cingulum bundle. The corpus callosum is an element that connects and communicates between the left and right sides of the brain while the cingulum bundle is a portion of white matter that links the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes.

“We observed potent associations between racial discrimination experiences and diminished white matter integrity in anterior aspects of the corpus callosum and cingulum bundle,” the authors cited.

Such damage to the corpus callosum could lead to “dysregulation in cognitive and emotional processes such as impulse control,” the researchers further explained. In layman terms, the ability to communicate effectively with both sides of the brain could be harmed and later develop into more severe health issues.

Another study also found abnormalities in the corpus callosum of children who had suffered ill treatment or early trauma and, similarly to the researchers at Emory University, drew links between traumatic experiences and a decrease in these white matter tracts.

The cingulum bundle—which was also cited as having been impacted by racial discrimination—is a segment of the brain that that can influence emotion, control and memory. “Racial discrimination can increase distress and impact emotional regulation, which is likely to affect self-regulatory behaviours that play a role in the development of mental and physical health disorders,” the researchers further elucidated. But what does this actually mean?

Racism could internally impact you for life

Professor Negar Fani, lead study author and assistant professor at the Emory University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, spoke with Medical News Today about what racial trauma could lead to.

“We found clear evidence that a type of racial trauma—racial discrimination—increases [the] risk for health problems through its effects on brain pathways that are important for self-regulation,” Fani explained to the publication. 

“These findings demonstrate how racial discrimination can shape regulatory behaviours such as eating and substance use by way of its deleterious effects on brain white matter pathways,” she continued.

Simply put, this could mean that those who have suffered from racism will have a harder time regulating ‘unhealthy’ behaviours and could go on to develop dependencies and an over-consumption of substances like alcohol or drugs. This, in turn, will only go on to impact their physical health too, researchers noted.

The study, and its results, can be found in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging and is purported by the researchers to the first of its nature in uncovering the relationship between white matter, discrimination and the medical impact in black women.