What Is Racial Trauma And How To Cope With It

Racial trauma is a serious challenge still and well that affects millions of people and their lives every day. Read ahead to know how to cope from it.

Tanya Srivastava
Written by: Tanya SrivastavaPublished at: May 24, 2022Updated at: May 30, 2022
What Is Racial Trauma And How To Cope With It

Racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress or RBTS refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias, ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes in and around a person's vicinity. Anyone who has experienced an emotionally painful, or sudden, and uncontrollable racist encounter is at risk of suffering from a race-based traumatic stress.

Experiences of race-based discrimination can have several psychological impacts on individuals and their respective communities. Some who go through prolonged incidents of racism can lead to symptoms as same as those who experienced with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This can have severe symptoms like depression, anger, recurring thoughts of that particular event, physical reactions such as headaches, chest pains, insomnia. Other than that racial trauma also lowers the self-esteem, and mentally distances the person from life in general. In simpler terms racial trauma is a mental injury that can occur as the result of living within a racist system.

Also Read: India Syndrome: A Country’s Culture That Deranges The Visitor

Causes Of Racial Trauma

Any type of stress and disorder that is called out in form of racial discrimination can be a cause of racial trauma. Some causes that trigger racial trauma in people are as following

  • Exposure to racial or ethnic stereotypes
  • Racist abuse of loved ones or oneself
  • Fears about personal safety
  • Other people not taking racism seriously

The list of racial trauma goes on and on since it is unlimited. A few other examples of racial trauma may include historical fear, or experiences of living with inequalities, such as access to schools and basic medical treatments based on a person's race.

Symptoms Of Racial Trauma

Racial trauma can vividly shiver all the aspects in a person and their well-being. After direct experiences of discrimination or racist violence a person may go through the symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms may include:

  • Distress 
  • Avoiding places or people
  • Intense anxiety
  • Depression relating to the trauma
  • Negative thoughts about oneself, other people, and even the world
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Poor mental health

Coping Methods And Treatment Of Racial Trauma

Some people with a history of racial trauma may struggle so much so that they do the most basic thing of shutting the world. If you feel that you are someone who is going to racial trauma, you may also want to visit the doctor and get a proper diagnosis done. Once you are diagnosed with this kind trauma, it gets easier to cope with it. A few ways how you can cope with racial trauma are:

  • Identify your emotions, process those experiences and then in turn indulge in a trauma-informed psychotherapy
  • Try and receive support from people who underwent a same or similar  experience
  • Talk to your family, know your roots and share your thoughts with them
  • Try to have a quality night's sleep and of at least 7 to 8 hours.
  • Make lifestyle changes, cut down on alcohol and cigarettes
  • Encourage yourself to exercise regularly and start meditation or yoga.
  • Find a supportive community that understands racial trauma and builds confidence.

Racial trauma is a serious challenge still and well that affects millions of people and their lives every day. Prolonged racial trauma can even affect mental health of the person. This make it difficult to concentrate and in turn also disrupt lives. While individual action will not cure the systemic problem of racialized violence and trauma, the right support sure can make this ongoing trauma feel more manageable. If you encounter someone who bullies someone on the basis of their race, you should stand up because if not you then who. Take a stand because unity is the only solution to the problem of racism.