๐Ÿ’ญ Ethereal Epiphanies

Short-form lightly edited, lightly structured essays, written in 30 minutes.
Published on:
February 11, 2024

๐Ÿง  The Invisible Wounds: How Racial Trauma Shapes Our Minds and Bodies

The more I delve into the impact of racism on mental health, the more I am struck by its deep, long-lasting effects. Recent studies shed light on how racial discrimination doesn't just cause emotional distress but leads to significant changes in the brain, much like those seen in PTSD.

One such study found that women who experienced more racial discrimination had more severe structural disruptions in their white matter tracts, associated with emotional regulation and cognitive processing. This suggests that racial stress, trauma, and discrimination affect the brain's white matter through the stress regulatory system.

These changes in the brain, resulting from the cumulative effects of racism, impact the stress regulatory system, leading to behavioral choices that can be damaging. It's a sheer reminder that the repercussions of racism are not just surface-level but deeply embedded in our neurological makeup.

Emory University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences released a study likening the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of racial trauma to those of PTSD. This comparison is critical because it places racial discrimination alongside other severe traumas such as sexual assault, bullying, and life-altering events. The ongoing practice of racial discrimination has far-reaching effects, necessitating the development of appropriate assessment tools and treatment specifically geared toward the trauma of experienced racism.

A notable study, the Black Womenโ€™s Health Study by Boston University, has been following the health histories of 59,000 African American women over 25 years. As these women approached their mid-60s, researchers revealed that experiences of racism are linked to diminished memory and cognition later in life. Senior epidemiologist Lynn Rosenberg notes an association between experiencing racism and lower cognitive function. Stressors, specifically racism, are known to impact cognitive function, with chronic stress increasing cortisol levels, causing the hippocampus tissue to shrink over time.

This emerging scientific evidence is both alarming and illuminating. It underscores the importance of understanding the full spectrum of racism's impact โ€“ not just as a social or emotional issue, but as a profound health and neurological concern.

For those of us wrestling with the consequences of racial trauma, these studies validate our experiences. They highlight the necessity of seeking support and advocating for systemic changes that address not just the overt acts of racism but also the subtle, pervasive forms that leave lasting marks on our minds and bodies.

As we continue to navigate these challenges, itโ€™s vital to remember the importance of community, self-care, and resilience. Letโ€™s keep pushing for a world that recognizes and actively works to actively understand and heal the wounds of racial trauma.


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