Our increased understanding of racial trauma has led to a focus on its transmission across generations. This focus has enhanced our awareness of the racially traumatic narratives that maintain the negative effects of race-related stress and trauma. However, a discussion concerning the generational transmission of healing has been absent from this exploration. Without a balance of both an awareness of the impact of racial trauma and healing, Black individuals will lose sight of their capacity to dismantle systemic racism and create therapeutic spaces for racial healing. To achieve this balance, we must (1) engage in a reinterpretation of healing, (2) find strength within while also seeking external support, and (3) utilize an intentional and authentic approach for the healing of racial trauma.
Western approaches to healing measure success by the absence of pain and suffering. However, this is a challenging expectation given that trials and tribulations are a common part of the human experience. Additionally, these trials often contribute to a better version of ourselves. As the proverb states, “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” To reinterpret healing, we must reimage a connection/meaning healing process rather than a compartmentalization/control healing process. From a Western perspective, healing involves the compartmentalization of the illness and the returning of control of one’s body from sickness. However, racial trauma does not lend itself well to healing through compartmentalization and control because of its chronic and ambiguous nature (as well as the sociohistorical influence of intentional racism). Instead, racial trauma healing must be reinterpreted as a process where we strengthen our relational connections with ourselves and the Black community as well as engage in thoughtful meaning making about the expression and source of our Blackness.
Find strength within while also seeking external support
Given the collective nature of Black culture, the generational transmission of healing requires the sharing of racial trauma experiences. This collaborative approach ensures that no one Black person is holding the impact of race-related stress by themselves. While our African roots encourage us to “conquer the enemy within” in the form of internalized racism, we are also reminded that “in crisis the wise build bridges while the foolish build dams.” As part of the generational transmission of healing narrative we must seek out (and offer) opportunities for external support. If we want to experience healing from racial trauma, we can engage in the process alone and remain vulnerable to the deleterious effects of systemic racism. However, if we go together, we can experience a healing that will last generations.
Utilize an intentional and authentic approach for the healing of racial trauma
Healing from race-related stress and trauma must be purposeful and not reactionary. The generational transmission of healing involves a collective exploration of our identity as Black people and the ways in which society has attempted to limit our Blackness. Additionally, we must foster spaces for the collective processing of our shared experiences of race-related stress and trauma and seek to offer a counter narrative of reconciliation, solidarity, and self-determination. Lastly, due to the insidious and chronic nature of systemic racism, we must communicate meaningful skills to address instances of racism as well as pass on narratives of our capacity to disrupt and dismantle systems of racial oppression.