• Amber ANN LISW-CP, MPH, CHES

Racism and Racial Trauma are Public Health Emergencies




Racial Trauma is a form of race-based stress that is similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).This term refers to persons' of color (POCs) reaction to dangerous events such as unjust murders of black people by cops or white supremacists. #GeorgeFloyd #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor 


It also includes real and perceived experiences of race based discrimination. These events include threats of violence or harm such as Amy Cooper’s false police call in an attempt to incriminate #ChristianCooper. Witnessing the recent racial murders and acts of violence referenced in this post is also a racial trauma.


Racial Trauma is different from PTSD as it involves “ongoing individual and collective injuries due to exposure and reexposure to race-based stress” (Diaz et al., 2019). As a POC, I understand that my fellow POCs are feeling the mental and physical effects of racial trauma given the recent events. 

Healing from racial trauma is complex. Practicing self-care can help on the individual level. Activities such as meditation, exercise, rest, healthy eating and therapy can certainly be beneficial. However, racial trauma also includes political and systemic level elements. Advocating for public policy interventions can promote healing from racial trauma and may ultimately lead to a reduction in events that trigger racial based trauma. Also, recognizing racial trauma as a public health issue is important. Racial trauma should be addressed in the same manner as other public health issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are you coping with racial trauma? Share your thoughts!

Source: Racial Trauma: Theory, Research, and Healing: Introduction to the Special Issue Diaz et. al. American Psychologist (2019)

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