When the community experiences racial violence, just like other types of traumatic events, it can cause PTSD symptoms and other forms of emotional pain. Violence perpetrated on the basis of one’s membership in a minority group exposes the threats to safety for all members of that same group. We know feeling unsafe can easily negatively impact emotional well-being.
Racial trauma is defined as “emotional or physical pain or the threat of
emotional or physical pain stemming from racism in the form or harassment, discrimination, or discriminatory harassment”. (source: https://www.wm.edu/offices/wellness/counselingcenter/racebasedtraumaresources/racialtraumaandcopingbrochure2020.pdf)
While not everyone who is a member of a racial minority group will experience trauma symptoms or experience symptoms in the same way, being aware of the common symptoms of racial trauma at each age level, may be helpful for parents. The below resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network outlines these common symptoms to watch for by age group as well as offers several ideas for helping children cope:
William and Mary College also offers a handout defining racial trauma and provides the following suggestions for coping:
- Connect/talk/debrief/process events with other POC, your community, friends, family, or allies.
- Embrace communal support.
- Talk to a therapist.
- Limit social media or the news cycle for some time.
- Engage in activism (e.g. letter writing, peaceful protests, etc.)
- Express your feelings of sadness, anger, rage, hopelessness, helplessness, grief, loss, in a safe manner (e.g. talking to others, journaling, through artistic expression, writing on social media, exercising, etc.)
- Rest, sleep.