If you are Black in America and have lived in any predominately White spaces… school, work, community… you suffer from racial trauma. What is racial trauma? Racism based stress responses “refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes. Any individual that has experienced an emotionally painful, sudden, and uncontrollable racist encounter is at risk of suffering from a race-based traumatic stress injury. In the U.S., Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) are most vulnerable due to living under a system of white supremacy.” (Mental Health America) It manifests in PTSD, physical reactions and mental shut-down. Racial trauma can be transmitted through ancestral generation, vicarious as a result of just witnessing racism, and direct acts of race based violence, discrimination, exclusion, punishment, negativity towards you. It’s pervasive and haunting. It is the direct effect of white supremacy and chattel slavery that has existed in this country since 1690. Give us us free!
Racial trauma is often minimized as discrimination, some natural unfortunate byproduct of race based distinction. It is posed as a simple legal phenomenon that if excessive you can bring lawsuit against certain people or entities for. Yet it’s impact on our physical and mental well-being is often overlooked. In fact, our mental well-being seen as something we control and are in control to heal via therapy, but racists aren’t seen as responsible for educating themselves on the realities of race-based distinction and the real reason for our skin color differences. It’s the quintessential victim blaming. We are asked to build resilience but the powers that be are never asked to stop the behaviors, policies, procedures that make that resilience necessary… ones built upon racist thought.
If you are Black living in America (or Latino, Native American, etc) and particularly if you are indigenous, you likely suffer from transmitted (generational), vicarious (witnessed), and direct (experienced) racial trauma. You carry the oppressed yet beautiful spirit of ancestral slaves; you are a child of generations of people who faced financial, social, housing, educational, medical, and professional inequality and discrimination; and you are the result of people who have been displaced, used, killed, maimed, hung, and disproportionately subjected to the lowest living conditions in the name of power and supremacy. You have watched videos of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, George Floyd, and Philando Castile murdered by state actors, seen Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown’s bodies lying in the street, and heard of the murders of Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor…the list goes on and on. And you have likely been looked over, passed up, paid less, assumed you were not educated or stable, mistreated, or told what you’d never be or what the highest level you could aspire to was by some teacher ill-equipped for the culture.
We must start to look at methods to stop availing ourselves to white supremacy. Those of us in the thick of it have to promote attending Black colleges; training in a variety of skills and not just one; gaining skills in corporate America to then use in entrepreneurship and consulting; social leadership when we are pushed out of professional leadership roles; and taking on training and training development to be the subject matter expert on corporate knowledge to make ourselves more professionally valuable. We all need to educate ourselves on investing; home ownership; Black indigenous history; capitalism; life insurance; entrepreneurship; advocating for ourselves medically; marriage and long term commitments; saving and spending money; and being physically & mentally well.
The truth of the matter is that while we can help make the change through voting, we can start to feel more successful in and therefore more invested in America through life and financial success that we define. More importantly, we can embrace our natural communal nature to help one another, instead of abiding by the individualism we see. We are truly stronger together. So much of our existence has been this fine line between maintaining ancestral ties, to participating and integrating in America, and to living in and being proud of Black culture. We must live as authentically Black as possible moving forward. Our competition doesn’t consist of working twice as hard to accomplish what White people do. Instead, perhaps, we can do our best and live inside, outside, and all around Black culture. Time to get Plymouth Rock up off of us!
Stress is not just an emotional responses, it results in physical deficiencies, ailments, and can kill you. PTSD, anxiety, depression and mother mood disorders and some affective disorders perpetrated by stress. Eating high glycemic “comfort foods” regulates lower stress hormones, as do alcohol, nicotine, and stimulant drugs. Racism can increase adverse birth outcomes and maternal stress. Housing discrimination and white flight can lead to living in environmentally polluted areas. Increase in hormonal load can result in high blood pressure and diabetes. All of these responses are unhealthy and will lead physical health decline. Racial trauma can literally kill you. So we need to work hard to divert that trauma, and lessen these results, both behavioral and natural, to stress. Just say Nope to racism, stress, and trauma!
We need those 40 acres (the mule was actually just going to be loaned to each family) for pain and suffering.