Race and trauma

There is no such thing as race. None… Scientifically, anthropologically, racism is a construct — a social construct. And it has benefits. Money can be made off of it, and people who don’t like themselves can feel better because of it. It can describe certain kinds of behavior that are wrong or misleading. — Toni Morrison

Trauma isn’t just “white on black.” It is in the history that comes with all of us. In his book, My Grandmother’s Hands, Resmaa Menakem looks back on American history, then stretches back to Medieval Europe. One of the key reasons people came to colonize the Atlantic seaboard was to flee persecution. It wasn’t “persecution” like we hear about today. “They won’t let me say Merry Christmas!”

No. Torture. Just for being a different brand of Christianity than the state church.

Then, there was the Great Plague running through England, killing around 100,000 people in London alone in 1665 and 1666.

The Puritans and Pilgrims were refugees, fleeing horrendous torture and treatment.

Here is the hard lesson of life: We too often act out toward others what we have received. To break that cycle is incredibly difficult!

Alcoholism and violence in one generation often visits the following generations. It is not easy breaking out of that cycle. We carry that trauma in our bodies.

Menakem’s premise in his book is we all carry trauma in our bodies. Racism and white supremacy has a lot to do with this action and response. But it isn’t limited to black bodies alone.

We need to reach some pretty amazing conclusions in our lives for healing to truly happen:

For America to outgrow the bondage of white-body supremacy, white Americans need to imagine themselves in Black bodies and experience what those bodies had to endure. They also need to do the same with the bodies of their own white ancestors. And they need to ask themselves this question: “If we don’t address our ancient historical trauma, what will we pass down to our children, and to their children and grandchildren?” (p. 61)

This is a harsh reality needed to wake us up. Yet, if we will do so, healing can actually begin to flow in our culture.

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