Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC: How Racism Ties into Trauma and PTSD

Race and how individuals experience race in a negative context can be traumatic; it also needs to be acknowledged as an historical and generational traumatic event, an ongoing, lived experience.

Identifying racial trauma and getting specific help to heal, especially taking into account the historical and generational context, is crucial as society takes much needed strides toward racial justice.

Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CNE is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Her research and clinical work focus primarily on improving PTSD diagnosis and treatment.

For information about treatments for PTSD please visit The Treatment Hub.

Race and how individuals experience race in a negative context can be traumatic, and we have to acknowledge this as a historical event, which we have made multiple strides to reduce the impact of that, but we’re nowhere close to us being on equal grounds when it comes to race. And so even today, there are what I would call historical traumatic events that continue to plague individuals simply because of their race, and that’s something that should be acknowledged, and it’s also passed on in a generational context.

So, how your grandparents experienced trauma related to their race is taught, is coped with, and this is their coping mechanism simply because it’s related to their race, and it’s lived. And so it’s difficult sometimes to even recognize that it’s trauma because it’s the only way an individual knows to deal with it, but it doesn’t make it any less traumatic.

Identifying it as a traumatic event is part of the first process. Identifying that it’s racially motivated, inspired, continued is also a secondary piece. But getting the help we need specific to race and then trying to see how is it that we react to things simply because of our historical experience and how we deal with things, and by things I mean traumatic events, because of our historical and generational context are also important considerations.

And so, while it does not traditionally fit posttraumatic stress disorder or trauma because it’s usually not identified, it still remains very real because it’s lived.

BrainLine is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Posted on BrainLine November 23, 2021. Reviewed November 23, 2021.