The role of critical race theory in healing BIPOC generational trauma

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22nd Jun 2022 Life

The role of critical race theory in healing BIPOC generational trauma

The BIPOC community has suffered from generational trauma for years resulting from the massive violence committed against the community.

But this violence doesn't only come in the form of killing and death — we can see several forms of violence committed against BIPOC throughout history.

"Why do we only see white supremacy when it manifests in the form of mass murder?" asks Matthew Kincaid, CEO of Overcoming Racism. "Do we not see the targeting of women's rights as a white supremacy issue? What about voter suppression? The banning of teaching and talking about racism? Do we not see the mainstreaming of white supremacist ideologies as a white supremacy issue?"

The solution to healing this trauma is to look at society through a more critical lens regarding race, a concept known as critical race theory (CRT). However, even questioning the role that race has played in violence and trauma is somehow considered a "controversial" issue. Why is that? The answer is simple: the people who are committing this violence and creating this trauma are in denial of their role in the matter.

What is Critical Race Theory?

At its core, CRT examines how racial identities and racism are fundamentally embedded in American laws and institutions. This approach has gained widespread attention in the media since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. At that point, people began to ruminate more deeply on how racism is reflected in the policing and criminal justice systems. And given that the system in power is predominantly and overwhelmingly white, they see this level of awareness as a threat.

What recent laws banning the teaching of CRT in K-12 classrooms have gotten wrong is that CRT is not something typically taught in a primary school environment — it is a university-level concept. Critical race theory was introduced as a law school concept to discuss institutional racism. These concepts are simply too complex for children in younger age ranges to comprehend, so it stands to reason that lawmakers are actually trying to ban the discussion of racism and white supremacy altogether.

"If Black kids have to endure racism, then white kids can learn about it," asserts entertainment reporter and podcast host Tanika Ray, "but in my house, I tell the truth of the ugly world sans the horror movie as much as I can so that my baby can live free and happy, too." We live in a world with a double standard where Black children are expected to learn about racism to stay safe, but white children are being shielded from it to "protect" them. How is this fair?

The impacts that banning discussion of these topics might have on the American education system could be devastating. Lawmakers are effectively attempting to erase the true history of American society and change the narrative into one where BIPOC were not oppressed, all so that the white majority can continue to exert their power over racial minorities. The result that we have begun to see will be the repetition of the violence these communities have experienced throughout past centuries.

How black trauma can be solved by CRT

One of the first indicators that something was awry was when people began to counter the phrase “Black Lives Matter” with "All Lives Matter." The fundamental tenet of Black Lives Matter is that Black lives historically do not matter in American society. Saying "All Lives Matter" is cognizantly choosing to belittle and ignore this Black trauma passed down through generations since the first African slaves were brought to the United States.

Indeed, much of this comes down to the fact that the white majority wants to ignore, or even entirely erase, Black trauma from the history books. While discussions of historically racially-motivated violence in this country have taken place for years, people have only recently begun to highlight that systemic racism is the cause of this repeated violence. As a result, people have come out of the woodwork trying to deny the existence of Black trauma because it would serve them not to be perceived as perpetrators of institutional racism and continued violence.

"I think about how to guide my daughter through traumatic landmines all the time in this country," explains Ray. "Just when you feel like you can calm down from one horrific news story where a Black person was murdered senselessly on the streets of America, along comes another tragedy. Just when your nervous system is adjusting to another threat to your overall sense of safety, here comes another atrocity reiterating, 'I'm not safe.'"

Why ignoring race in discussions of violence is dangerous

The recent shooting in Buffalo is a tragic example of what happens when we refuse to acknowledge the role that institutional racism plays in our society. This was a blatantly racially-motivated crime, yet the media largely chose to ignore this fact. It is bad enough that BIPOC communities have to suffer from this sort of violence daily, but that we as a society can't even acknowledge that people are actually targeting BIPOC lives as disposable is disheartening and downright frightening.

"Until we can address the history of only responding to white supremacy when Black people lose their lives violently, there will always be violence directed at people and communities of color," says Kincaid. "Our hearts are broken for those who lost their lives and their families. It is exceedingly difficult to heal from the generational trauma of racialized terrorism when we are constantly steeped in it."

Another concern relates to the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas this past May. While this tragedy may not be as openly racially-motivated as that in Buffalo, it is still clear that BIPOC communities are the ones who suffered most from this incident — and BIPOC children, at that. Robb Elementary is located in a part of Uvalde that primarily serves a lower-income Hispanic/Latino population. This begs the question: would the police have been as slow to respond had it been a school predominantly comprised of white children?

Many refuse to see the signs (or worse yet, see them and actively deny) that so much of this violence committed is connected to the institutional racism that has plagued American society since its foundation. This is what has allowed the generational trauma to form and perpetuate in BIPOC communities. Children are suffering now, too, and we must stop this before it affects more future generations. 

"I don't want the narrative of the news landing on my child's psyche," adds Ray. "When something is nonsensical, it tends to haunt us in our desire to understand it. So when America shows its true self in such a horrifying demonic way, I choose not to tell my child. That’s traumatizing, especially when the murderers are treated with such respect and often go on to live their lives as if nothing happened."

It is a sad truth that we live in a world where BIPOC are subjected to violence and trauma, and yet are expected to ignore the fact that this violence is being committed against them for racially-motivated reasons. It's hard to have the conversation that would be necessary to heal this trauma when people are actively trying to prevent it from being talked about. Still, if BIPOC continue to insist that their voices be heard, we can work towards correcting this trauma for future generations.

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