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Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma (Reclaiming Healing Journal)


This article, originally published in 2013, has tremendous relevance. It was recently shared with me by community partner Laurie Elbow of the Suncoast Center for Community Mental Health. 

Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma

By Kenneth V. Hardy, PhD

A disproportionate number of children and youth of color fail in school and become trapped in the pipelines of treatment, social service, and justice systems. This article examines racial trauma and highlights strategies for healing and transformation.

All service systems for youth encounter young people of color who can be challenging to treat, reach, and teach. Our difficulty in meeting their needs is not just because of greater “pathology” or “resistance” as some assert. Rather, we fail to appreciate the ways in which race is entangled with their suffering.

Race-Related Trauma Wounds Racial oppression is a traumatic form of interpersonal violence which can lacerate the spirit, scar the soul, and puncture the psyche. Without a clear and descriptive language to describe this experience, those who suffer cannot coherently convey their pain, let alone heal. The source of their hurt is often confused with distracting secondary symptoms ranging from hopelessness to acting out behavior. Racial oppression is seldom seen as contributing to these difficulties, and discussions of race are dismissed as manufacturing excuses, justifying bad behavior. As with other forms of trauma, we ask the wrong question about struggling youth of color. Instead of asking “What is wrong with them?” we need to ask the trauma-informed question, “What has happened to them?”

To read the rest of this article by Dr. Kenneth V. Hardy, please click here or visit

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