Understanding Racial Trauma

Being an African American and constantly experiencing racism under a system controlled by the majority population that literally hates you because of the color of your skin is hard.

“In a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S., perceived racial discrimination was associated with a lifetime history of major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder independent of SES, age and gender” (Chou, Asnaani & Hofmann, 2012).

To be black and born in the United States of America is to feel, from the moment you take your first breath after leaving your mothers womb, that you are inherently wrong. Can you imagine what that does to the psyche of people of color, what that does to our soul, and our sense of self. We have inherited soul wounds from generations before us. We were ripped from our homeland where we lived as royalty and emperors. Despite what the media would like you to believe, the continent of Africa is a beautiful place with beautiful people and beautiful practices. To transition from being kings and queens to being property is demoralizing, dehumanizing, traumatic, and destructive to our souls, and our self-concept. We do not know who we are as a people because our culture and customs were taken away from us. Then add insult to injury, in addition to being unaware of who we are culturally and spiritually, what we do have left of ourselves is considered a threat.

“Racial trauma is one term used to describe the physical and psychological symptoms that people of Color often experience after exposure to particularly stressful experiences of racism” (Carter, 2007).

The black experience in America is an experience of trauma. Race based stress is when racism is the source of stress. A component of trauma is feeling like you have no control of what is happening to you. So, it is no surprise that racism is something that people of color experience as uncontrollable because we often feel powerless living under a system that is set up for our demise. Can you imagine living in a world that hates you, fears you, and expects nothing of you? Can you image living in a world that treats you as subhuman simply because you were born with a pigment in your body called melanin.

You know what guys, I am being completely transparent here, as an African American woman and mother of two black sons I am having an awfully hard time writing and finishing this piece. My heart is so heavy that I can barely string my thoughts together. The emotions I feel range from anger, to sadness, to confusion, and they all are palpable and visceral. Then I get numb, and I realize that I have been suppressing my anger as a defense mechanism because I do not know what to do with this anger. I know I have to allow myself to feel my feelings, but this pain and anger is to intense that I feel like I will be crushed under the weight of it. This is probably what it is like for most African Americans right now and this is true suffering.

Ways to cope:

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling without judging it. Your feelings are normal, natural, and valid.

Disconnect from the media, social and otherwise. The constant reporting is causing us to be inundated with information and its sensory overload. Either limit your time with media or unplug all together.

Stay in contact with your support system, be around people that love and support you.

Talk about how you are feeling, express yourself to release your emotions.

If you are tired of the injustices and want to make a difference, take some type of action that will bring about change. Sign a petition, join a peaceful protest, organize a peaceful protest, call your local politician, vote in elections, join causes, and lastly, speak up and use your voice.

Engage in activities that you enjoy that can serve as a healthy distraction.

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