Being a woman of color (WOC) is a privilege but in today’s society there are a number of things that breed racial trauma. It is something that builds inside WOC – everyday we are met with different situations that add to our past painful experiences of racism. Many of us, including me have been oblivious to what we are suffering from. Wounds from generational, physical and personal racism as well as microaggressions and gaslighting have added to the suffering WOC must face in a daily basis.
Racist incidents and gross injustice build up over time and result in racial trauma. Racial trauma is a form of race-based stress that occurs as a result of the racial discrimination people of color experience. Despite its similarity to post-traumatic stress disorder, racial trauma differs in that it involves constant exposure to race-based stress. Although racial trauma is a very real condition that a number of POC suffer from, its often overlooked or disregarded. But the invisibility of racial trauma only adds to the scars of those most affected.
Racial trauma manifests itself in the form of fear, aggression, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, nightmares, substance abuse, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance and so much more. These symptoms infiltrate every aspect of our lives since we experience microaggression and acts of racism almost every day. WOC are operating like they are on a battlefield – we have to be aware of everything we do and how it will be perceived by others. There’s no question why this can lead to mental and physical stress as well as feeling of rage and sadness. As WOC, how can we deal with these issues?
The most essential part of healing from racial trauma is recognizing the personal impact of these experiences. They can impact you on a mental, emotional and physical level and understanding this will help you to overcome the overarching effects of racial trauma. After you have acknowledged how you’ve been affected, you can actively begin to challenge those feelings with coping mechanisms. Meditation is a great tool for those with a variety of symptoms. Mindfulness and affirmation is powerful and practicing meditation for a few minutes daily can drastically change how you deal with racial trauma.
During a time when so many of your friends and family may be checking in on you, it’s important to be transparent about your feelings regardless of how difficult it may be. Being honest about your feelings can provide so much emotional relief and this is especially important when dealing with such impactful experiences. We are constantly surrounded by social media post and news headlines talking about racism, police brutality and death – this can be overwhelming for most people. It’s important to remember that taking a break is okay and sometimes even necessary. Take time for yourself by unplugging from social media and take a mental health day from work that’s free from deadlines, emails and conference calls.
As WOC, we are taught to be strong in the face of adversity. But it’s okay to be vulnerable when it comes to addressing certain issues. Many of us don’t even realize we’re in pain because we have become so accustomed to it. Change that narrative by making a vow to start healing your racial trauma.