The difficulty over the years to measure or predict trauma has been extremely challenging due to its unique presence among individuals. We are forced to look for patterns. We are more apt to take a look when we know a group of people experienced a like event. What is especially difficult is to understand the effects of systemic oppression if we personally don’t believe we engage in systemic oppression.
The authors of “Making the C-ACE for a Culturally-Informed Adverse Childhood Experiences Framework to Understand the Pervasive Mental Health Impact of Racism on Black Youth take a deep dive into the impact of racism among black youth. Thank you, Bernard, Calhoun, Banks, Halliday, Halbert and Danielson for coming together with this fantastic research broadening our cultural focus on ACEs. They acknowledge racism as a major life stressor for Black youth and the
potential mental health outcomes.
It’s time to take some additional steps in our communities and our programming to look at our demographics closely. Who are we serving? Who is our target audience and purpose? Our intent may be to serve everyone equally, but are we being equitable? Let’s take a look at Black and White demographics specifically and think about our programming for a bit.
According to the U.S. Census there are 75.8% White Alone persons and 13.6% Black Alone persons. Is that what your community looks like?
The overall population is not equally dispersed by these numbers. If a particular community is made up of predominantly people who are black, the neighboring community’s population most likely has significantly less people who are significantly black. What if that results in a community with 1-2% people who are black and 98-99% people who are white? These communities exist throughout the United States and are prevalent in Indiana, whose White Alone population is 85%.
Let’s take a closer look.
This is a snippet of Indiana counties whose population make-up is 97% White Alone population. Please refer to the full chart to better understand how your community stands with regard to race.
So, when your community or program touts how it is being inclusive, are you making universal statements? Something like “Our programs are open to everyone.” Or are you asking the 2-3% what their needs are? Do you assume you are not racist or stimulating systemic oppression because you do not discriminate about who can receive your services?
You may unintentionally be ignoring this important group of people who need your services. More importantly, this group of people needs to feel that they belong to your community. Do you suppose this could be traumatic for a member of your community to always feel like an outsider, never feel a sense of belonging? You may have inadvertently created systemic oppression by overlooking this group of people. Ignoring is not including.
Racism, defined, is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized. Is it possible that by not recognizing these groups of people in your community you are actually being antagonistic against them? Have you inspired reverse racism against you because of your perceived indifference?
What are ways you can stop ignoring and, instead, inspire belonging? These efforts aren’t to create awkwardness.
Let’s apply A Trauma-Informed Approach to this conversation. We can’t know about trauma if we aren’t listening. The first step to listening is asking the right questions that stimulate conversation.
What can your community do to start the conversation? Remember this conversation isn’t just with one member of your community (unless there is only one member of that group in your community). It’s a conversation with that community. Everyone may not feel as welcomed and included as you think. Consider the times you were the young person of the group while everyone else was older, you were the support staff among a group of directors, you were the man in the
group of women, you were the “only”. When it came time for lunch or dinner, did you know you were included in the group if someone from the majority group didn’t invite you specifically? When you are part of the majority group, no matter the group, the responsibility falls on you to insure the “only’s” feel welcome.
What does everyone want in a trauma-informed approach? Everyone wants to feel safe, be able to trust, feel support from peers, engage in meaningful collaboration, feel empowered, have choices and feel respect for their cultural, historical and gender issues. It’s mutual. Conversation does not mean one group talks and the other listens. Conversation is shared.
Your discoveries will be endless. You will have inspired that sense of belonging. You will be taking great strides to healing the historic and generational trauma of your community.