Two days after Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man and father, was shot seven times at close range by police officers in front of his three kids, his family is speaking out about the attack, the racism that fueled it, and the extreme trauma Blake’s children experienced by witnessing it.
“If you can only imagine seeing your father, your loved one, shot by those who are supposed to protect your community, protect you, has to be a God-awful thing to live with,” Blake’s uncle Justin Blake told CNN Tuesday.
“Thank God he’s alive,” Justin continued. His nephew is currently in intensive care in Kenosha, WI, where the shooting took place as Jacob was walking back to his car after breaking up a fight. His three kids, ages 3, 5, and 8, were in his car and able to view their father getting shot — a trauma that will absolutely have long-term effects on their mental health, even the very youngest.
Psychologist Reena B. Patel previously told SheKnows that very young kids who witness violent acts — whether in real life or simply through the media — may not be able to directly process their fears or even pinpoint them. They could, she said, become “more fearful and talk about robbers or the police, and it may not make sense to you because it’s not directly linked to what’s going on, but it could be. It could be that they’re exposed to it but they just can’t articulate what it is that they’re fearing.”
She urges parents to talk with their kids of all ages about incidents of racial violence, whether they’re close to home or in the news. “If you don’t say anything, it speaks volumes,” Patel told SheKnows. “It’s important to be honest and tell children that some people do get treated unfairly based on their skin color, culture, gender, even religion. By identifying and acknowledging that, you’re letting them know that it is wrong.”
And the likelihood of your kids coming across the news of the police attack on Blake is high: The entire shooting was filmed by Raysean White, who was nearby and began recording on his phone once he saw the police officers deploy their taser on Blake. The two officers are now on administrative leave, pending further investigation.
“We want justice and we’re going to get justice,” Justin added. “We’re going to demand justice, but we’re going to do that without tearing up our own communities.”
Blake family attorney Ben Crump has a somewhat different attitude, telling CNN that without serious strides in police reform, violent protests are inevitable. “If we don’t have the systematic reform that this moment in America is crying out for, then we are going to continue to see hashtag after hashtag, protest after protest, and cities burning all across America,” he said. And indeed, several Kenosha businesses were burning on Monday evening.
As for Jacob’s family, uncle Justin told CNN that Jacob’s mother as well as his kids are suffering: “Anything like this will shock the hell out of anybody, to see your son in that situation… This, like all the Black parents talk about, is that phone call you don’t want to get. And we got it.”
Jacob’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times that his son is now paralyzed from the waist down.
“I want to put my hand on my son’s cheek and kiss him on his forehead, and then I’ll be OK,” added Jacob’s father, who is currently making the drive to Kenosha from his home in North Carolina. “I’ll kiss him with my mask. The first thing I want to do is touch my son.”