Healing the Wounds of Racial Trauma

Updated: Mar 23

"The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.” - Psalm 34:18


Healing the Wounds of Racial Trauma


Being a victim of racism can cause heart wounds that are like a physical wound. This kind of heart wound is called trauma. Like a physical wound, it must be cared for and cannot be ignored. Also like a physical wound, it can leave a scar. As with all forms of trauma, the human tendency is to avoid or split off awareness and emotions related to a traumatic past. A critical part of addressing the heart wound is overcoming such discomfort and making the unspeakable, speakable.(1)


How can racism be considered trauma and why is it serious? From Healing the Wounds of Trauma, comes the following list of characteristics.(2)


What makes some wounds of the heart more serious?

· Something very personal.

· Something that goes on for a long time.

· Something that happens many times over a period of time.

· Something connected with death.

· Something done intentionally to cause pain rather than something accidental.


Within the book, Healing the Wounds of Trauma, the following comparison is made between physical wounds and heart wounds (trauma). (2)


Physical Wound

  • It is visible.

  • It is painful and must be treated with care.

  • If ignored, it is likely to get worse.

  • It must be cleaned to remove any foreign objects of dirt.

  • If a wound heals on the surface with infection still inside, it will cause the person to become very sick.

  • God can bring healing, but he often uses people and medicine to do so.

  • If not treated, it attracts germs.

  • It takes time to heal.

  • A healed wound may leave a scar.

Heart Wound (trauma)

  • It is invisible but may show up in the person’s behavior.

  • It is painful and must be treated with care.

  • If ignored, it is likely to get worse.

  • The pain must come out into the light where it can be acknowledged and released.

  • If people pretend their emotional wounds are healed when they are not, it will cause the person greater problems.

  • God can bring healing, but he often uses people and an understanding of how our emotions heal to do so.

  • If not treated, it can attract more pain and suffering.

  • It takes time to heal.

  • A healed heart also may leave a scar. People can be healed, but they may not be exactly the same as before the wound.

The long-term effects of racial inequality and injustice are both communal and very personal. The injustices have gone on for a long period of time, being repeated over and over. This is called historical trauma by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Providing care for these wounds takes time and the pain must be acknowledged so that there can be healing.


How can the Church help to heal these penetrating heart wounds? A good place to begin is to acknowledge that these wounds are real. Ignoring them can cause greater injury and pain. As the body of Christ we represent Christ in our work, teaching, how we live and who we choose to defend, protect, and encourage. God champions the oppressed and vulnerable and has commanded us to do likewise in Micah 6:8. How we approach these trauma wounds can be either a balm of healing or a stinging reminder of the pain.


Resources:

2.https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources//addressing_race_and_trauma_in_the_classroom_educators.pdf

3.Hill, H., Hill, M., Bagge, R., Miersma, P. (2016). Healing the Wounds of Trauma: How the Church can Help. Philadelphia, PA: American Bible Society

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