| Health professionals have acknowledged
for many years that people who are subjugated to particular
types of physical, psychological, and emotional assaults experience
- trauma or traumatic stress.
Racial Trauma - is the physiological, psychological
and emotional damage that results from harassment and/or discrimination.
It is based in the established evidence that demonstrates
that racial discrimination and/or harassment in the context
of racism are stressors for its targets.
Racial Discrimination – is a form
of “Aversive” or avoidant racism
Racial Harassment - is a form of “Domination
of Dominative Racism” and is characterized by active
Psychological and psychiatric diagnostic criteria for traumatic
stress often do not include the nuances inherent in race-based
Yet in spite of the laws against racial discrimination and
harassment there is little recognition of the effects of racial
harassment in diagnostic manuals and there are few explicit
policies in organizations and institutions that outline policies
and procedures for complaints of racial harassment.
People are exposed to life events, which are experienced
by some as traumatic. Not all who are exposed develop psychological
The general rates of developing PTSD after exposure are
People who had previous exposure to assualtive violence
are at greater risk for developing PTSD.
Black people, and Black men in particular, experienced fewer
traumatic events but their reactions were more severe. Black
men were found to be more vulnerable to higher rates of PTSD
Veterans of Color have higher rates of PTSD and other psychological
symptom of distress not explained by the specific exposure
Researchers suggested that People of Color are confronted
with hostility, neglect and racism that may heighten the effects
of a life event crisis.
Whites have greater exposure to traumatic life events and
their social status seems to buffer the impact of the life
events that might produce stress for them.
Racial Harassment is a Traumatic Stressor.
Racism is a Chronic and/or an Acute Stressor that Causes
Racism qualifies as a stressor and has been found in studies
to be related to psychological symptoms.
People of Color and in particular, Black people, experience
harassment and report negative physiological outcomes such
as high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems
from encounters and on-going experiences of racial discrimination
For instance, n one study, 96% of the Black respondents reported
an experience of racial discrimination or harassment in the
past year that left them feeling stressed. People were called
names, were harassed at work, and felt stressed because they
had to hold onto their experience even when they
wanted to tell someone.
People of Color perceive race-related events as
Many when confronted with race-based assaults and attacks
find the event to be sudden and often unexpected. Even though
there is knowledge that racism exists individual People of
Color may not have had personal experience with racists attacks.
Race-related assaults or attacks are uncontrollable.
Thus, using the Carlson model racial trauma does exist. Moreover,
there is evidence that People of color experience high rates
of traumatic stress that more than likely is brought about
by racial discrimination and harassment.
Researchers Findings Have Found Acts and Behaviors
of Racial Harassment to Include Some of the Following:
1. Interpersonal assaults that occur suddenly and without
warning, e.g. racial slurs and symbols (noose or confederate
2. Consistent communication about your poor performance or
being told that you are less competent regardless of your
qualifications (e.g., assumptions that you need help with
a task or you are overlooked when people are asked to do certain
3. Dismissal or denigration of personal (or group) achievement,
(e.g., no recognition for outstanding work and disparaging
of one’s group’s achievements or one’s personal
ability. For instance, few Black coaches in college or professional
football or few educational or corporate leaders).
4. Being put in a position where you are forced to accept
hostility from superiors and co-workers because it is presented
under the guise of humor or unbiased criticism and if you
speak out you might lose your job (e.g., being told that you
are mean or angry or you are the target of racial jokes and
Features of Racial Trauma a summary:
Racial harassment involves a negative, sudden and uncontrollable
experience or it may be a form of on-going physical and/or
psychological threat that produces feelings of fear, anxiety,
depression, helplessness and/or PTSD related symptoms.
The threat and stress associated with racial harassment and/or
discrimination may be communicated through the use of racially
meaningful signs, coded language, and/or symbols.
Thus, actions or words that may not appear threatening to
“a reasonable person” may appear so to members
of the threatened group.
Racial trauma is real and may be affecting people without
their or your awareness.
What is need are procedures to file complaints in organizations,
diagnostic criteria, and treatment strategies for racial trauma.