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Racial Trauma Guide

Racial Trauma during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Racial stressors are verbal, behavioral, or environmental stressors that individuals experience because of their race. Racial stressors may include being ignored or insulted by White coworkers, not being considered for jobs or positions, being told that they are overreacting to racial issues, behaviors or features being deemed as (e.g., hair, lifestyle) unprofessional, or being unwillingly exposed to racist material. Racial stressors have been amplified during the COronaVIrus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, when Black Americans were shown to be dying at a disproportionately higher rate than their White counterparts. Across most states, the number of COVID-19 deaths for Black people for every 100,000 deaths was 54.9, compared with Latinx (24.9), Asian (24.3), and White (22.7) people. As the country was forced into a life of social distancing and searched the internet daily for breaking news relating to the virus, the effects of COVID-19 on Black Americans were further compounded by social media and news sources calling attention to the longstanding problem of anti-Black racism and injustice in the United States.

BLMThe effects of COVID-19 have been layered with the painful murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among many others. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Black individuals may find themselves coping in isolation and without the social networks they would typically have. Structural barriers add to the disease burden of COVID-19, with many Black Americans unable to isolate due to a high number of minority workers occupying the “essential” workforce. Moreover, many marginalized individuals have been forced to risk their health and safety so that they may protest. As horrific as these murders and the ensuing responses by the government have been, these experiences represent only a fraction of the stressors that Black Americans face everyday. It remains crucial to have discussions about race and inequality and to provide Black Americans with the resources to engage in cognitive, behavioral, and collective coping strategies both now and as needed in the future.


These guides were developed by the Racism Pandemic Task Force (Violeta Rodriguez, Dominique La Barrie, Miriam Zegarac, Lisa Bartolomeo, Tosin Adesogan, Kharine Jean, and Kelly Rea), with substantial support from Dr. Isha Metzger, Latisha Swygert, and Briana Spivey at the EMPOWER Lab. 

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