Healing From Racial Trauma

A White South African was asked to comment on what they thought about FW De Klerk’s hollow apology for apartheid. De Klerk was an apartheid president whose complex reign included never taking personal responsibility for his role in the death and maiming of millions of South Africans. Even on his deathbed, he refused to admit that apartheid was a crime against humanity. The White South African responded to the question by stating: “I have no comment because I was not affected by apartheid’s racism.” 

I hear this refrain often from White folks all over the world who believe that fighting racism is someone else’s problem. But is this true? If racism permeates our lives, how are we all not affected by it?

Through a trauma-informed lens, it is clear that the system of racism dehumanizes all of us in different ways. In the conversation with the White person who had no comment, I could have shared a story about how my White parents are still traumatized by their experiences of being conscripted into the apartheid army and bureaucracy which was designed to fight and kill to protect the racist system. The war is over, but the scars remain and echo into my life. Unless I heal, the trauma will be passed into the lives of my children.

Understanding how racism, and its violence inflicts trauma on our bodies in the present, helps us heal before it is passed intergenerationally into the future. 

The work of Resmaa Manekem and Bessel Van Der Kolk has been immensely helpful in practicing anti-racism from the perspective of the body, the heart and the soul. Learn more about their work below.


Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology.

The book stresses an understanding of the HIPP theory of racialized trauma (historical, inter-generational, persistent institutional, personal) for Black, White and Police Officer bodies.

Each chapter has a set of activities that help the reader to connect their present experiences with their past traumas.


Bessel Van Der Kolk’s work and research centers on the idea that unhealed trauma lives in the body.

Exposure to abuse and violence fosters the development of a hyperactive alarm system and molds a body that gets stuck in fight/flight, and freeze. 

Trauma interferes with the brain circuits that involve focusing, flexibility, and being able to stay in emotional control. A constant sense of danger and helplessness promotes the continuous secretion of stress hormones, which wreaks havoc with the immune system and the functioning of the body’s organs.


Pan African Library: Black Books, Videos, Podcasts, Articles and More

Thank you to Charles Preston for compiling a comprehensive online archive of Black books, videos, podcasts, articles, and more.

You can read works by bell hooks, Angela Davis, Patrice Lumumba, Audre Lorde and many others.

Other exciting features include films, documentaries, and music that celebrates the life, love, resistance and victories of African people.

In this spirit, we celebrate the University of al-Qarawiyyin, an African institution which is recognized by UNESCO as the worlds oldest library and university.

Click here or the button below to learn more.

In solidarity and gratitude,


What is Institutional Racism?

Kwame Ture burst open the world’s understanding of oppression when he coined the phrase ‘institutional racism.’ His work and life challenges us to examine how spaces, policies, and rules can embody racism even in the absence of explicit racists. By only focusing on relationships or internalized thoughts, we lose the opportunity to enable sustained change. In this email we unpack institutional racism from a variety of perspectives. 

How does institutional racism connect with internalized and interpersonal racism?

  • Internalized racism affects interpersonal relationships
  • Interpersonal relationships are governed by institutional rules
  • Institutions overlap to produce systems such that racism in healthcare mirrors racism in schools and other areas

Internalized thoughts 
shape behaviors
which are guided by rules
rules distribute resources
which are controlled by institutions
institutions overlap to form structures


The video Institutional Racism Explained Through A Michael Jackson Song below is both illuminating but also open to critique. I invite you to engage the video through a critical lens. What follows is the powerful work of Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, as well as additional resources to think deeper about the interlocking nature of racism and anti-racism in our everyday lives.

Institutional Racism Explained Through A Michael Jackson Song

Michelle Alexander Explains The New Jim Crow

Helpful Resources

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Video Transcriptions and Image Descriptions for the Anti-Racist Teaching Practices and Learning Strategies Workbook

This page contains the Video Transcriptions and image Descriptions of all the videos and images used within the “Anti-Racist Teaching Practices and Learning Strategies Workbook: Building anti-racist, anti-oppressive and decolonized teaching and learning practices through transforming knowledge, lesson preparation, classroom management, teaching strategies and assessment.” By Warren Chalklen, PhD and Gcobani Qambela, PhD. 

This page is provided to assist those who encounter difficulties in using the media used within the workbook. The transcriptions and descriptions appear in the same order that they appear within the workbook.

Click the links below to access the visual descriptions:

Develop And Apply Your Own Equity Values

Defining and applying our own equity values is a critical part of an anti-racist practice. Use the Name, Define, Apply and Reflect model below to advance equity.

Step 1: Name your equity values

Equity describes practices of fairness and justice. Without thinking, write down your top three equity values and principles:

Example Value: Listening

Value #1:

Value #2

Value #3

Step 2: Define each value

Define each value in one or two sentences.  Ask yourself, would a young child or stranger understand your definition?

Example definition for listening: I am seeking understanding not listening to respond.

Step 3: Apply

Imagine that you are reading with your scholar or watching TV with a friend and you come across the image below from a Dr. Seuss children’s book. How might you apply your principles of equity to engage your scholar in a conversation?

Apply each value to your conversation and take notes.

Step 4: reflect

Reflect on your conversation The following questions might be helpful:

Reflect in action: How is my conversation going? What am I learning about my scholar and myself?

Reflect on action: How did the conversation go? How did my approach to the conversation shape it?

Reflect for action: What actions might we take as a result of our conversation?