Identifying and Facing Racial Trauma

In recent weeks, our nation has once again witnessed evidence of racial bias in its institutions. Between shootings of African-American men by police in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, contentious social media debates, and scenes in television shows such as Orange Is The New Black, we see examples of the ways that African-American people in particular experience racism through devaluation and often violence.


Dr. Erlganger Turner and Jasmine Richardson recently wrote about how the experiences of systemic racism lead to racial trauma in communities of color. They highlight the psychological distress that institutional racism places on its victims, noting:

"In addition to the mental health symptoms of individuals who have encounters with law enforcement, those who witness these events directly or indirectly may also be impacted negatively...The trauma may result in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, or irritability."

People who face racial trauma may also have experiences of hypervigilience, a decreased sense of the future, changes in worldview, and self-defeating means of coping with their pain.

Turner and RIchardson's post also shares eight strategies for coping with racial trauma, ranging from validations of experience, community building, and rechanneling rage. Their strategies also hint at ways that white allies can listen, support, and acknowledge the impact of racial trauma.