Stopping Generational Trauma in Communities of Color


Joelena Despard (Illustrator)

Over the past decade, clinicians and scholars have intensely studied and treated the effects of intergenerational trauma suffered by communities of color (i.e. one generation to the next — be it individual or collective) that is passed onto future generations. Intergenerational trauma is defined as the transmission of historical oppression and its negative consequences across generations.

There is significant evidence of the impact of intergenerational trauma on the health and well-being for communities of color — specifically African American/Black people. For clinicians who attempt to provide cross-cultural clinical treatment to individuals who have a long history of generational trauma (e.g. African American/Black folk), the clinician needs to have a strong grasp of cultural awareness\; cultural humility, cultural relevance in addition to employing a critical lens when providing treatment to this population.

Clinicians who focus on treating solely the presenting symptoms such as anxiety and depression without giving consideration to the socio-political-historical components are destined to fail as services. Exploring intergenerational effects as being not only psychological, but also social, neurobiological, biological and cultural, is of the utmost importance.

According to Dr. DeGruy, “People do not have to directly experience an event to be traumatized by it” (2005). So much of what we are seeing today is a direct response to unaddressed historical intergenerational trauma experienced over the centuries.

Dr. Allen Lipscomb is a professor of ____ at CSUN. His areas of research are centered on the psychiatric epidemiology among racialized individuals who have experienced trauma, specifically African American/Black men. Lipscomb understands racialization trauma grief and loss experience and therefore should be recognized and treated as such.

In order to address what Lipscomb refers to as the “mistreatment of intergenerational trauma” among African American/Black communities in clinical spaces, there needs to be a push for an enhanced critical clinical training analysis among clinicians providing services to communities of color.

Lipscomb argues that intergenerational trauma rooted in racism is experienced as a loss — a traumatic loss at that. Access to clinical treatment will help promote the reconciliation, validation and recognition of the lived and living experiences of loss, both in past and current generations, as it relates to traumatic racialized loss.

Clinicians should seek to collaborate with the individual and the community in their healing process that addresses the long legacy of physical, sexual, mental, cultural, and spiritual exploitation across all systems of oppression in the United States.

Based on Lipscomb’s research with African American/Black men who experience traumatic losses in the United States, he suggest that they have been forced generationally to “move past it” or “get over it” or better yet — “ACCEPT IT”. This only exacerbates the mistreatment which in turn is the mis-bereavement of the racialized African American/Black man’s experience. His research focuses on effective ways to assist African American/Black men in their grieving process by first recognizing it as intergenerational and societal trauma.

To read more about Lipscomb’s work click here: