Breath, Eyes & Memory: How We Find Healing After Race-Related Trauma

woman serious stressed

The recent massacre of nine worshipers at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC was enough to bring any one of us to our knees. It is unfathomable that this tragedy occurred just as we were trying to catch our collective breath following what now seem to be routine acts of unprovoked violence against Black men and women.

When the news of the Charleston shooting broke, so many of us kept our eyes glued to our televisions, Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds. In this digitally connected world, we have instant access to images of assailants, videotapes of race-related assaults, and the raw anguish experienced by loved ones. We can even virtually attend victims’ homegoing services and memorials. This unprecedented access means that we are all bearing witness — in real time– to unspeakable acts of violence and expressed grief.

It is hard to ignore how reminiscent these shootings are of incidents embedded in our historical memory. The wounds opened by the Charleston shooting are deep and festering. As a result, we may all find ourselves grappling with unresolved grief related to enduring racial assaults. President Obama’s powerful eulogy at Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s homegoing service was emblematic of our shared grief. He urged us to move from blindness to opening our darker past. He also reminded us that difficult conversations about race are essential to our nation’s healing.

But, to fully heal our broken hearts, there is another difficult conversation that we need to be having. And that conversation is about trauma.