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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Racial Trauma

Last tended on Sep 11, 2021


Williams, PhD, M. T., Haeny, PhD, A. M., & Holmes, PhD, S. C. (2021). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Racial Trauma. PTSD Research Quarterly, 32(1), 1–9. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/rq_docs/V32N1.pdf


In recent times, the discourse on what we have come to call racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress, has expanded, with Butts (2002) being the first to call attention to the term.

Collected quotes:

  • "Racial trauma can be defined as the cumulative traumatizing impact of racism on a racialized individual, which can include individual acts of racial discrimination combined with systemic racism, and typically includes historical, cultural, and community trauma as well."
  • "trauma reactions
  • "Racial trauma appears to be relatively common among treatment-seeking people of color."
  • "Acculturation"
  • "Through chronic exposure to racism, people of color learn their positionality and how to become racially innocuous as part of acculturating to White culture."
  • "Racism has been linked to a host of negative mental health conditions, but the connection between racial discrimination and PTSD symptoms appears to be the most robust."
  • "The focus on empowerment and increasing self-control is consistent with other race-related stress and trauma interventions"
  • "Further, the potential social costs associated with discussing racist events may contribute to avoidance in discussing these experiences with others"
  • "In addition to lowering self-esteem, the experience of shame and avoidance after a race-related stressor may also contribute to the development of PTSD symptoms and maladaptive coping."
  • "When working with victims of oppression, Kira (2010) suggests that helping victims to forgive collaborators in an oppressive system is associated with positive mental and physical health outcomes and contributes to reconciliation, whereas supporting anger against the oppressor and helping the victim seek retributive justice is associated with healing and positive mental health outcomes related to regaining self-control and executive functions."
  • "Psychoeducation on the sociohistorical context of racism, cognitive restructuring to reshape beliefs that people of color are not to blame for racist incidents, and hearing experiences of racism from others may help reduce shame and alleviate internalization of racism."