The Intersectionality of Race and Trauma in Children and Teens Who Are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

The Intersectionality of Race and Trauma in Children and Teens Who Are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

Nena Hisle
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7473-7.ch003
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Children in America are suffering from an abundance of trauma that many bring to school with them daily. Children, teens, and their families, who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), may have experienced historical racial trauma which is unique to students of color. Professionals working with students of color (SOC) must develop cultural competency around racial trauma in their understanding of trauma informed pedagogy to meet the needs of student populations that are becoming increasingly diverse. The overall purpose of this chapter is to provide professionals working with BIPOC children and teens the necessary skills to meet their needs.
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Traumatic stress can impact individuals as early as infancy and until adulthood (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, n.d.). Although racial trauma’s impact on children and teens who are BIPOC may not be as well known, an abundance of research exists on how racial trauma adversely affects children and teens socially, emotionally, and academically (Assari, S., Moazen-Zadeh, Caldwell, & Zimmerman, 2017; Berger & Sarnyai, 2015; Douglass, Mirpuri, English, & Yip, 2016; Saleem, Anderson, & Williams, 2020).

According to the most recent Census data available, America’s K-12 classrooms were compromised of 50% White students, 25% Latinx, 14% Black, 5% Asian, and 5% other in 2017 (Census, n.d.). Although U.S. classrooms are becoming more and more diverse, that increase in diversity is not occurring among the teachers and other professional staff in schools. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that in 2017-2018 approximately 79% of public-school teachers in U.S. schools were White, 9% Latinx, 7% Black, 2% Asian, 1% American Indian/Alaska Native, and less than 1% were Pacific Islander (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021). As professionals working with children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, educators must develop a comprehensive understanding of racial trauma. Racial trauma refers to the stressful social interactions that some racial and ethnic minorities may experience.

Racial trauma can further be defined as the result of a person experiencing psychological distress and fear after experiencing or witnessing racism, racial violence, racial intimidation, immigration issues, or other forms of systematic racism (Chavez-Duenas et al., 2019; Williams et al., 2018). However, this list is not exhaustive. For example, racially and ethnically motivated traumatic events are often linked to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Additionally, PTSD has been connected to an increased risk for adolescent suicide (Williams et al., 2018).

The racial strife that communities of color experience— and have historically experienced over the years— is very real. The severity of these racialized encounters has led the American Public Health Association to declare racism “a public health crisis” (American Public Health Association, 2017). Even children and teens’ exposure to racially charged incidents can lead to racial trauma or race-based trauma. Racial trauma can impact youth mentally, physically, and psychiatrically, ultimately causing them to feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and helpless (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2005; Carter, 2007; Daniel, 2000; Harrell, 2000; Hemmings & Evans, 2018). Research indicates that this racialized stress may lead to low academic motivation, low graduation rates, poor grades, less self-confidence, and even PTSD for students of color (SOC) (Neblett et al., 2006; Wei et al., 2011).

The purpose of this chapter is to provide educators and educational leaders, those who work with BIPOC children and families, with greater insight into the possible experiences of historical and current racial trauma that these students may bring into a school setting or organization. Moreover, this chapter can equip these professionals with the necessary knowledge about trauma-informed pedagogy in relation to racial trauma.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Marginalized Groups: Any group that does not receive the same privileges as the dominant group socially, culturally, and economically. Typically based on race, gender, ability, sexual-orientation, class, and mental health.

Institutional Racism: Racial attitudes, traditions, beliefs, myths, and opinions held by a group that have been practiced and sustained for a long period of time. They are accepted as truths and can stereotype and perpetrate negative biases towards marginalized groups.

Racial Socialization: How children develop racial attitudes, behaviors, perceptions, and values about themselves as a member of a racial or ethnic group.

Racial Profiling: Individuals are targeted for suspicion of a crime due to their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin by law enforcement officials.

White Identity Development: An ethnic identity model for people who identify as White designed to develop an awareness of their role in creating and maintaining racism in society.

White Fragility: When White people as members of the dominant White cultural group develop hurt feelings, become angry, or dismiss the realities of racism and their complicity with White privilege.

Systemic Racism: Rules, policies, and laws that privilege one racial or ethnic group certain rights and privileges and deny other marginalized groups those same rights and privileges.

White Privilege: Unearned benefits given to White people over non-White people based on their race rather than merit.

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