Racism and Discrimination
Individuals of color can experience significant stress caused by cultural, individual, and institutional experiences with racism. Experience of racial discrimination are overt displays of unfair treatment due to race. This is contrast to racial microaggressions, which are considered to be a subtle, covert, and chronic form of racial discrimination. All forms of racial discrimination can be perceived as a threat to one's integrity and safety. As such, some racial and ethnic minority individuals may experience racial discrimination as a psychological trauma, as it may elicit a response comparable to posttraumatic stress. This trauma is known as Race-Based Traumatic Stress.
Raced-based traumatic stress injury is an "emotional or physical pain or the threat of emotion or physical pain stemming from racism in the form of harassment, discrimination, or discriminatory harassment" (Carter, 2007). The events of danger can be associated with hate crimes, other overt forms of unfair treatment due to race, as well as threats of harm and injury or humiliation and shame. The severity may be the consequences of the cumulative effect of racism associated with personal, vicarious, collective, and historical racial injuries.
Coping with Race-Based Stress and Trauma
Common stress reactions to racial trauma include (but not limited to): anxiety, anger, rage, depression, hypervigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, somatic experiences, guilt/shame helplessness.
Coping may look different for each person and the type of coping needed can also change at different times. To determine how to best care for your needs, one can start by reflecting and exploring what your specific needs might in the here-and-now, and then attend to those needs in a self-compassionate manner.
- Connect and process your feelings with others who you've identified as your supports-trusted, open, empathic friends, family, community, faculty, staff, religious leaders, allies.
- Note if you need to disconnect from triggering situations or interactions. Reduce or limit time spend on social media or consuming news media if needed.
- Engage in activism such as protesting, calling, letting writing, etc.
- Find ways that feel safe and comfortable to express your emotional reactions and feelings. Journaling, artistic expression, exercise, talking to someone, etc. can allow space to express feelings of grief and loss, sadness, anger, rage, anxiety, hopelessness, and helplessness.
- Care for your physical self. Get good sleep and rest, eat nutritious food, breathe deeply, and avoid substances.
- Ask for help. If you are struggling to cope, you can reach out to professionals to help you.
For support and help with managing any race based stress or trauma consider contacting the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion or schedule an appointment at the Counseling Center. Please know that the counseling center staff of trained counselors and therapists are here to learn about your unique living experience on and off campus, and provide appropriate support for your concerns.
- Radical Self-Care in the Face of Mounting Racial Stress
- BIPOC Mental Health Resource Guide (PDF)
- Racism, bias, and discrimination resources (from the American Psychological Association)