Racial trauma happens when individuals witness or experience racial discrimination, threats to safety or societal shaming due to the color of their skin or ethnic group affiliation. This trauma can also be felt when witnessing the harm experienced by other racial or ethnic groups.
Racial trauma is something that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) experience on a daily basis, and their experiences can range from painful to overwhelming. In many cases this trauma can show up in subtle ways, making it difficult to identify emotions and address it in the moment.
Here are 5 ways to begin addressing racial trauma.
1: Acknowledging trauma
Information for allies:
If you are not a member of the BIPOC community, but would like to explore ways to be an effective ally, please check out this CU Boulder Today article:
How to be an ally to the Black community and communities of color
One way to begin coping with racial trauma is to acknowledge the impact of it: see it when it happens and validate the emotions that may arise in the moment. Journaling can be a useful tool to help you explore how you have been personally impacted by racial trauma.
If you’re not sure where to begin, consider writing about a specific experience. What happened? How did it make you feel in the moment, both emotionally and physically? How does the experience affect you now?
When journaling don't worry about proper spelling or grammar. Instead, focus on getting all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper. It can also be helpful to set a timer for 2, 5 or 10 minutes to allow you to journal free from distractions.
2: Creating community
Finding and being able to hold space with others who have similar experiences can be healing. Creating community can be difficult at times, especially in the era of physical distancing. However, there are resources that can help you find connection:
No matter the community, holding these experiences with others is easier than doing so alone.
3: Taking action
Social action can take many forms, whether it be voting or volunteering in your community. No matter the form of social action, being involved in change can be helpful in processing experiences. Here are some things you can do now to get involved:
4: Working through therapy
Therapy can be a great space to process racial trauma with a therapist who is able to help you navigate your emotions and reactions. Therapy isn’t the answer for everyone, but can be a healing experience. Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers brief individual counseling for undergrad and graduate students, as well as referrals to therapists in the community.
CAPS also provides a free Students of Color process therapy group. Being a BIPOC in a predominately white environment is a complex and often stressful experience. The Student of Color (SoC) group serves as a way to openly engage in dialogues around what it means to be a student of color on this campus. The SoC group ultimately serves as a resource for students of color to unapologetically show up and let themselves be fully seen and known, where they can speak from the heart rather than worrying about what is socially acceptable. In a supportive and therapeutic environment, students will have the opportunity to deepen self-understanding and explore ways of relating to others. Advance sign-up and a pre-group screening are required for this group. You can schedule a screening appointment online to get started.
5: Remaining hopeful
Many BIPOC experience racial trauma on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge this fact as we move toward change and healing. Holding onto hope is an important aspect of moving forward. This is not to discount what is being felt in the moment, but to hold onto the idea that healing is a possibility, which is so important in finding our way forward.
Additional campus resources
There are a number of resources available to BIPOC students and allies on campus.