"Race-Based Trauma and Social Injustice, Where Do We Go From Here?"

By Jessica Bullock | Apr 30, 2021

Joe Yates _Unsplash

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech, “Where Do We Go From Here”. It is sad to say that this speech is more relevant today than it should be. Hours after a verdict regarding the death of George Floyd, a young 16-year-old girl had her life taken outside of her home with 5 shots to the chest. A week before that a young man in Minnesota was ‘accidentally’ shot and killed because the trained officer believed she was using a gun instead of a taser. The week before, disturbing footage of a 13-year old boy from Chicago was killed by law enforcement. He was unarmed. Where do we go from here?


Anger, resentment, sadness, fear, and grief. These are all common emotions that can overcome you when you are enduring the social injustices of an America that you feel does not protect you. Race-based trauma (RBT) is the emotional injury you endure due to ethnic-based discrimination. Everyone’s response to racial discrimination looks different. It can impact someone emotionally, physiologically & mentally. According to Mental Health America, black Americans are the most vulnerable population to be impacted by living in a country inundated by white supremacy. 


Some people may wonder why they are emotionally responding so strongly to the events that are occurring. However, vicarious experiences can be just as triggering as if an individual is experiencing the event themselves. Although dealing with such intense emotions can be overwhelming and exhaustive, there are actionable steps you can take to reduce the symptoms you can feel:


  1. Talk about what you are feeling in a safe space. Collective trauma and collective grief is difficult to navigate alone. Many times, talking to a group of individuals who are willing to listen and not judge, or a trained therapist, can help to empower you and validate what you are feeling. 
  2. Survive the stop. If you are pulled over by the police and you feel that you are being racially profiled or are experiencing microaggressions of what is happening on a larger scale, survive the stop and file a report. Investigations will be triggered and put on record. Remember, this is a fight you can’t win if you are not alive. 
  3. Vote and participate in Writing letters to your local officials. Many times, people wonder what they can do because they feel angry and want to contribute to the cause. Participate in events that will cause local change; join task forces, write letters, vote, and speak to local officials. These are just a few things you can do to contribute to the change that needs to take place.


Lastly, in the words of Martin Luther King, “…we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.” We have work to do. We must do our part. Collectively, change happens. 


If you or someone you know needs a safe space to discuss how you are feeling regarding the impact that recent events have had on your life, feel free to visit www.cliniciansofcolor.org and find a therapist who can help you talk through what you are feeling. 


About The Author 

Jessica Bullock is a Licensed Therapist practicing in North Carolina and New Jersey and is currently working on her doctoral degree to impact change in Higher Education. Her private practice is now accepting new clients. Feel free to visit her website at www.lifeoptionscounseling.com or her clinicians of color profile at https://www.cliniciansofcolor.org/clinicians/life-options-counseling-services/


Jessica Bullock

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