• The Aftermath: Dealing With Racial Trauma Following the Shooting In Buffalo

    You don’t have to explain racial trauma to a person of color (POC). But this doesn’t mean it’s not important to keep the topic fresh and out in the open. Racial problems include micro-aggressions. Such “smaller” events are often used to downplay the situation. POC may find their stories being dismissed as “overreactions” or being “too sensitive.” Then, along comes the shooting in Buffalo.

    This is the other side of the racial trauma coin. There is nothing (allegedly) vague about an outright white supremacist filming himself as he commits mass murder. The immediate impact is lethal. The long-term effect is traumatic.

    The Events of May 14, 2022

    Warning: The following description may be triggering.

    Payton S. Gendron — an 18-year-old white male and self-described “Ethno-nationalist” — authored a 180-page manifesto in support of white supremacy. To put his words into action, he researched until he found a Black community to target.

    Heavily armed, Gendron entered a Tops Friendly Markets supermarket in Buffalo, New York. While live-streaming his assault, Gendron killed ten Black people and injured three others. He was taken into custody and pled “not guilty” five days later.

    What is Racial Trauma?

    In a technical sense, racial trauma is a version of what causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Enduring or witnessing a horrific creates unresolved trauma. As a result, you are left struggling with all that unprocessed pain — feeling as if the threat is constant and ongoing.

    Trauma causes nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Racial trauma identifies the cause of all this as something related to ethnic bias or racial discrimination. It can accumulate through the aforementioned micro-aggressions or systemic attacks. For example, being passed over for promotions or getting stereotyped even by your own friends can add up to the point of trauma.

    Of course, racial trauma far too often takes the form of outright violence. After a brutal, targeted attack like the Buffalo supermarket shooting, racial trauma looks like POC:

    • Carefully gauging people in their vicinity for white supremacist tattoos or imagery
    • Worrying if a grocery shopping trip is worth the risk
    • Saying a prayer each time they drop their kids off at school
    • Wondering if they or someone they know will be next

    Racial trauma is much more than a textbook definition. It’s a real-life scenario based on real-life events and it can become overwhelming when a high-profile event happens.

    The Aftermath of the Shooting In Buffalo

    For POC, they are left wondering how many more assaults will it take before something changes. They lose trust in institutions and leaders. Many people of color become cynical and detached. But the path toward change, healing, and recovery must be paved with hope, hard work, and deep community connections. Even if you don’t trust those in power — especially if you don’t trust those in power — your strength lies in your bonds. Steps to take together:

    • Expressing Your Pain and Anger: It’s normal to feel many emotions in the face of such injustice. Share them. Release them. Process them. Your collective experiences can contribute to your collective healing.
    • Practicing Self-Care: Be the best version of yourself you can be. A daily self-care plan builds the strength you’ll need for all the struggles ahead.
    • Taking Tech Breaks: No one needs to be online 24/7. Step away from your devices on a regular basis. Instead of having a fear of missing out (FOMO) about your phone, have it about the everyday joys you miss when staring at screens

    Ask For Help

    Self-care steps cannot fully manage and ease your racial trauma. As a Black Therapist, I understand firsthand the affects that racial trauma can have. Reach out me so you can get the help you need and deserve with trauma therapy.