Racism inflicts severe trauma on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals. Emotionally, this trauma manifests as depression, anger, and sadness. Mentally, it manifests as anxiety, confusion, and stress. Physically, it manifests as fatigue, hypervigilance, and inflammation. Spiritually, it manifests as shame, low self-worth, and a loss of identity. However, because societal definitions of trauma often fail to encompass the experiences of people of color, racism is overlooked as a form of abuse that inflicts deep wounds.
When BIPOC individuals try to process the racism we experience, those around us often make us feel like we are imagining our experiences or exaggerating our pain. The truth is, society at large lacks a deep understanding about various forms of racism, such as racial gaslighting, racial othering, racial violence, racial fear, racial microaggressions, or racial apathy. This lack of understanding makes it all the more difficult for us to get the support we need.
Part of our work as educators, healers, caregivers, organizers, friends, and creatives – as community members – is to deepen our nuanced understanding of the ways in which racism manifests and harms us so that we may build individual, interpersonal, and institutional strategies to help us better support each other's racial wounds.
This is a deep form of community care. There is power in being able to identify different forms of racism, understand how these forms of racism impact our well-being, and have tools to dismantle them. It ensures that instead of BIPOC individuals feeling unseen, unheard, and upheld when seeking support for racial trauma – we feel safe.
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Communities of resistance should be places where people can return to themselves more easily, where the conditions are such that they can heal themselves and recover their wholeness.” We deserve to be in community with people who can help us restore. We deserve to be in community with people who can help us resist. We deserve to be in community with people who can help us rebuild.
Pre-order the book “Racial Wellness,” to learn more about how to heal from racial trauma.
Jacquelyn Ogorchukwu Iyamah is the founder of Making the Body a Home and author of Racial Wellness.