Understanding Racial Trauma

"Stop Racism" written on hands.

Racism in America is on many minds. Minorities are often treated differently, which can lead to racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS).

Racial trauma is the mental and emotional injury caused by encountering racial bias and ethnic discrimination. Experiencing such an encounter can lead to this trauma. If you’re not part of a minority group, it can be easy to overlook or downplay this experience. But racial trauma can have long-term detrimental psychological impacts on individuals and communities.

What can I do? Say something. If you hear someone saying something harmful, speak up. Some examples of responses to racist jokes or comments are:

  • “That’s not funny.”
  • “Help me understand your thinking.”
  • “That’s not okay with me.”
  • “We don’t say things like that here.”
  • “What you just said is harmful.”
  • “I know you were just trying to make a joke, but here’s why it was offensive…”
  • “Is the person’s race relevant to this story?”
  • “As your friend, I feel obligated to let you know that remark was racist.”
  • “I didn’t want to single you out before, but that comment made me uncomfortable. Here’s why…”
  • “I disagree. You are stereotyping…”
  • “Do you have evidence to support that belief?”

It doesn’t have to be confrontational. Offer to chat about things further and share resources. Take comfort in knowing that calling people out is never easy or comfortable, but it’s the right thing to do. Standing up against racism and showing support can help individuals and groups of people. If you or someone you know is experiencing racial trauma, there are resources to help. And if you’ve ever mistakenly said something that could be seen as racist, normalize changing your opinion when presented with new information.

Boston College Racial Trauma Toolkit

Project LETS Race and Mental Health Resource

Asian Mental Health Project

Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with info from https://www.mhanational.org/racial-trauma, https://www.fingerprintforsuccess.com/blog/racism-in-the-workplace, and instagram.com/privtoprog