Racialized Trauma and Healing By Soo Moon, MA LMFT

This article is intended for folks who are wanting to know how they might be able to unpack historical, collective, and personal trauma that stems from racism. This article is not a history lesson of how people of color have been oppressed in our society. I will not be able to encapsulatein this article the magnitude of the impact that trauma has had on people of color. What I hope for readers to get out of this article is recognition, validation, and hopefully put into words what some of us might be feeling as we have witnessed continued violence against people of color this past year. Violence against Asian Americans has always been there. We were invisible and erased in media, so there was less notice of our stories in the past. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have finally garnered attention of the public,and yet we still face push back from some folks who want to deny that these crimes are race based. Hate crimes against African Americans have existed for centuries.Police brutality against African Americans continue to occur, creating additional layers of collective trauma for families and community members.The pandemic has allowed the public to slow down to finally take notice of it.At Parker Collins, we stand with #BLM. We stand with #StopAsianHate. We stand against unethical deportation of immigrants, against oppression and erasure of our Native and Indigenous members of our community.

When working with our clients, we inquire about each of their cultural identity and ethnicities. We want to honor seeing our clients in their wholeness and that includes recognizing their history and experiences. Unpacking racialized trauma includes understanding the impact of microaggressions and White Supremacy. Racism not a unique phenomenon that’s isolated to United States. It’s global. Asian Americans have “model minority” status which provides some protection because we’re viewed as the “good minority”: educated, respectful, cooperative, and hard working. The impact of having model minority status also harms us, because it erases and minimizes racialized aggressions against us. No matter how intelligent or educated an Asian American might be, their performance in work settings is questioned if they have an accent. That type of racialized bias is often experienced in corporate settings where White European employees do not face the same discrimination. The racism Asian Americans often face is being invisible and being viewed as perpetual foreigners regardless of how many generations their families have lived in this country. Asian American males are emasculated in our culture and asexualized. Asian American females are exoticized, fetishized, and devalued as sexual objects. This is how Asian Americans are dehumanized in our society. Since Trump made xenophobic rants labeling Corona virus as “Chinese virus,” crimes against Asian Americans have skyrocketed. Many of our Asian American community members are scared. They are scared for their elderly parents. They are scared for themselves and their kids. Some Asian American refugees escaped persecution in their native countries by immigrating to United States only to face continued persecution by racists in their adopted country. Some refugees fled their native land in the middle of the night with their young children while facing the possibility of death if caught. Stories of resiliency are often focused on survivors and we give space for vulnerable parts of ourselves to be present in sessions to process the fears that often stay in our bodies.

In therapy, we want to offer a safe space for you to be able to unpack the weight of how racism has impacted you. The impact of historical trauma is often explored. How our parents parented us was impacted by how their parents parented them. And so forth. The impact of slavery, redlining, political oppression, police brutality and criminalization against African Americans have had a long lasting impact that stretches generations. That takes time to heal and unpack.Part of the healing journey in therapy is to acknowledge the pain, understand it, have compassion for ourselves, and deconstruct the programmed beliefs that’s imbedded in our cellular level of being, that prevents us from living our lives out more authentically. We give space for the deep pain that has every right to cry out against all the injustice our African American brothers and sisters have experienced. We validate that no matter the character of the person of color and no matter howaccomplished a person of color may be, they can be dehumanized based on color of their skin. I’ve worked with people of color in high exec positions in corporate settings to professors in academia who are viewed as aggressive, lazy, underqualified, uncooperative, too quiet, or too loud while White males in the same position are heralded as assertive, creative, bold leaders. There are intersectionalities of privilege based on sexual orientation, gender, body image, being able bodied, socioeconomic status, etc. that also impacts the embodiment of trauma. We explore those intersectionalities in therapy to give depth to compassion for our lived experiences. By doing so, we learn to recognize our worth, our competencies, our gifts, and our skills. We deconstruct programmed beliefs that we were conditioned to believe by others. When we’re activated, we often feel the feelings or sensations while having difficulty putting words to express them. By putting words to how we might be feeling, we are increasing connection from the amygdala in our lower part of our brain (where we feel fight/flight/freeze/fawn activations) to the prefrontal cortex (where we can problem solve, define meaning to experiences). We encourage you to notice where you feel the sensations in your bodies so you can give space for feelings to be present and have compassion for yourselves.We support clients in exploring healing practices of their ancestors to support healing. Colonization, slavery, and western influences have led to a loss of connection to wisdom from our ancestors which we explore in therapy to reclaim.

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