After World War I, before language tamed it of its martial origins, the detrimental emotional and mental aftereffects felt by some survivors of warfare were called “shell shock,” the result of a relentless, ongoing barrage.
When Psychiatrist Dr. Mindy Fullilove came to Pittsburgh on a fellowship more than 20 years ago, she spent a lot of time in the Hill District with friend and activist Teri Baltimore, and saw something similar.
This barrage, however, was not caused by howitzers and the engines of war, but by backhoes and the engines of Urban Renewal which, in Pittsburgh, destroyed an entire Black community. It is no less relentless, said Fullilove, and it is ongoing, and its effects are just as harrowing—she calls it “Root Shock”
“I grew up in Newark, N.J. so I knew about urban renewal,” she said during an opening luncheon for the University of Pittsburgh’s three-day International Housing Summit.
“But the level of injury that went on in the Hill went far beyond what had been described, economically, socially, politically and on multiple levels of scale. These injuries are not delineated in space or time—they reverberate to this day.”