At Peace of Time Wellness, we recognize the long history of social injustices of the Black community in the United States. We stand against racial injustices and will continue to push this conversation forward by advocating for, educating and serving all people, despite race, skin color, sex, religion, or national origin within the Pittsburgh community. This month, we would like to talk about Racial Trauma in ethnic and racial communities.
Racial Trauma is a widely shared experience by many members of racial and ethnic communities. Also known as race-based traumatic stress (RBTS), racial trauma is “the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes,” (Mental Health America.) RBTS can be experienced directly, such as hate crimes or workplace discrimination, or indirectly, such as through the media.
Racial trauma can have severe long-term effects on mental and physical health. For many, prolonged incidents of racism may lead to physical symptoms like insomnia, chest pains or headaches. Mentally and emotionally, the effects can be much greater. Numerous incidents of racism may lead to PTSD- like symptoms. These could include anger, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and hypervigilance. Long-term, continual racial trauma can be congruent with symptoms of complex trauma, which entails-exposure to multiple traumatic events over long periods of time.
RBTS has different stressors. There are direct traumatic, vicarious traumatic and transmitted traumatic stressors.
According to Mental Health America, “Direct traumatic stressors include all direct traumatic impacts of living within a society of structural racism or being on the receiving end of individual racist attacks.” An example of this stressor would be racial profiling.
Vicarious traumatic stressors are- “the indirect traumatic impacts of living with systemic racism and individual racist actions.” (Mental Health America.) An example of this would be viewing a video of hate crimes. While not as direct, these stressors are just as detrimental to a person’s mental health as direct traumatic stressors.
Lastly, we have transmitted traumatic stressors. These are, “the traumatic stressors that are transferred from one generation to the next,” (Mental Health America.) It is something you do not necessarily live through, but it is a part of your history. For example, slavery in the United States is a transmitted traumatic stressor.
Racial trauma can be detrimental to someone’s mental and physical health. If you or someone you know is experiencing racial trauma, please use the resources below to find more information or to connect with a professional: