Cultural heritage and history observance periods last for 28 to 31 days.
These celebratory tributes become somber occasions when descendants consider the oppressive forces that incessantly wreak havoc on their wellness—from racial profiling to public lynching and brutality disguised as ‘protecting and serving’.
Trauma scraps—cut from a thick cloth of racial, ethnic, and cultural identity experiences—tend to last a lifetime and beyond, altering DNA, inflicting generational bloodlines, and lingering for centuries.
Racial trauma is the byproduct of being racially minoritized, marginalized, criminalized, and even stigmatized by a society that’s warped by white supremacy; it follows hate crime victimization and discrimination—as well as other prejudice-packed, spewed ideals and behaviors. Although this type of trauma is unique to racial identity and respective lived experiences, its extensive impact on mental wellness and functioning is undeniable. Symptoms also uniformly align with posttraumatic stress disorder criteria—such as intrusion via nightmares and flashbacks. Racial trauma or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) alters neuroception, our ability to differentiate safety from danger upon encountering people, places, and things in our environment; it also poses adverse physical health risks once the trauma almost literally becomes trapped in the body, which, in turn, leaves folks at risk for battling additional oppressive forces that present in the form of health care disparities and inequities.
Folks frequently focus on overt racism, as well as systemic oppression and infuriating injustice. However, it’s crucial to also confront the silent but deadly, covert attempts to subjugate, terrorize, and even obliterate entire racial and ethnic communities; it’s important to interrogate the microaggression. Racial microaggressions are subtle, verbal or behavioral jabs—insults— that may not initially pack a punch but are powerful enough to degrade entire groups of racially minoritized folks. Microaggressions are also often unspoken and nearly undetectable, yet we see them when others attempt to avoid racially minoritized folks. We feel their impact when others look the other way or look through us—such as when we’re in physical or emotional pain, missing or found, speaking or silent. Ultimately, all it takes is for one person to treat you as if your existence is trivial for your brain’s smoke detector to sense threat and activate stress response alarms.
Social invisibility—being chronically overlooked and abandoned by society—often goes hand in hand with racial trauma; being ignored and invalidated in general or in the aftermath of trauma can be traumatizing in itself. We see social invisibility ticking away time after time in the workplace and while watching missing person news segments, for instance. One of many main issues regarding social invisibility is that human beings form secure attachment bonds with others and discern safety via reciprocity by decoding metacommunication cues—such as facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. One could argue that racial trauma in the form of social invisibility poses a survival threat among folks who have been racially minoritized; it also stunts human safety and sense of belonging needs fulfillment, for example—both of which are essential prerequisites for becoming self-actualized, living life to the fullest and at one’s full potential.
This social invisibility concept also gives new meaning to color blindness. It’s no secret that this risky ideology is far from antiracist. Turning a blind eye to others, their racial identity, and race-based traumatic stress experiences doesn’t convey acceptance; it conveys avoidance, avoiding the fact that racism continues to be a reality, the trauma is real, and that you may have perpetuated the suffering somehow—even by a failure to act or see. Waving a color blind magic wand doesn’t bring about a ‘postracial society’, a well-known myth; it only leads to more folks walking past burning buildings packed with people who are suffering because of the flaming oppression that seeks to smolder them based on their race alone. Ultimately, if you don’t see color, then you don’t see racially and/or ethnically minoritized folks. You don’t see our mental anguish. You don’t see our trauma.
If you’ve been dealing with racial trauma that has been running rampant in your life and nearly destroying your overall well-being, consider working with a licensed therapist today in order to pursue safety, stabilization, and healing.