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What is Trauma? What are the Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Trauma?

Decades of research have proven that Black Americans’ physical and mental health is negatively impacted by experiences of discrimination and oppression. Essentially, Black folks are traumatized by racism and this has a very detrimental effect on almost every aspect of our lives.  Sometimes this trauma is called race-based trauma, or race-based traumatic stress injury.

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. A situation can be seen as traumatic even if it doesnt happen to you directly - it could be traumatic if you witness an event that  destroys your sense of safety, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Witnessing the murder of innocent Black men, women and children can certainly be a traumatic event. According to one definition, an event will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if:

  • It happened unexpectedly.

  • You were unprepared for it.

  • You felt powerless to prevent it.

  • It happened repeatedly.


Each extra judicial killing at the hands of a member of law enforcement often happens unexpectedly, we are woefully emotionally unprepared to deal with it, we feel powerless to prevent it and despite appeals for reform and accountability, it continues to happen.

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