The wounds of racial trauma have deeply impacted people of color both individually and collectively. The word “trauma” is literally derived from a root word that means “wound” or “injury”. Racial Trauma is the manifestation of harm and injury that people of color experience. The Racial Trauma infographic shared in this blog post provides a definition of racial trauma and then highlights 4 ways that racial trauma impacts people of color.
Eight officers of color filed a racial discrimination suit on February 9, 2021, stating that they were barred from guarding the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with the death of George Floyd. Officers state they were reassigned to work on other floors within the jail so that they would not come into contact with Chauvin. Court documents indicate the officers identifying as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and mixed-race were “segregated and prevented from doing their jobs by defendant solely because of the color of their skin”. Officers also stated that Chauvin received special treatment from a white lieutenant.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter after video footage recorded May 25, 2021, showed him placing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for approximately nine minutes, during which time Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. Attorney for the eight officers, Lucas Kaster said, “When Officer Chauvin arrived, they were prepared to do the jobs they had done every single day up to that point, until, that is, Superintendent Lydon’s order prevented them from doing so.”
Attorney Kaster also stated, “The impact on our clients has been immense. They’re deeply humiliated and distressed, and the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been broken,” The lawsuit asserts that Superintendent Lydon gave orders that all officers of color were not allowed to guard Chauvin or have any interaction with him, or even to be on the same floor where he was being held. Attorney Kaster describes the officers as being “extremely upset and offended.” Devin Sullivan, one of the plaintiffs states in court documents that he was in the midst of patting down Chauvin when he was told to stop by Superintendent Lydon and then was replaced by a white officer.
Journalist Charles Blow’s 6/7/20 New York Times article, Allies Don’t Fail Us Againshares a thought provoking quote. With recent protests, nationally and internationally calling for reform following the death of George Floyd, “This is not the social justice Coachella. This is not systemic racism Woodstock. This has to be a forever commitment, even after protest eventually subsides.” Power to his pen!
On February 6, 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed. Today is the 7th anniversary of his death.
African American commentator Joy Reid shared powerful commentary that we previously posted. It is worth sharing again. “People assume that black young men are only scary, never scared” -Joy Reid
Known mainly as an civil rights activist, journalist, and anti-lynching advocate, Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931) also founded several organizations that were instrumental in addressing issues faced by the African American community. The Negro Fellowship League was one such organization. In 1908 Ida B Wells Barnett and her husband, Ferdinand Barnett (1852-1936) established the Negro Fellowship League along with some of their bible study group members. The Negro Fellowship League served as a reading room, library, and activity center. It also provided also served as a shelter for young black men in the local community. Beds could be rented for fifty cents per night.
With funding from several donors Wells-Barnett moved the Negro Fellowship League into rented space in 1910. The organization started in part because the local YMCA did not allow black men to be members. It also assisted young men with job leads and entrepreneurial endeavors who were new arrivals to the city of Chicago from southern states that came in droves during the great migration. During this time, Wells-Barnett also worked as a probation officer. She used her role as a probation officer to help many young African American men from entering the criminal justice system. Ferdinand Barnett, her husband provided legal representation to many black men falsely accused of crimes, or who had been unjustly incarcerated. Wells-Barnett also used her probation officer salary to help fund The Negro Fellowship League.
The Negro Fellowship League folded around the time that the National Urban League launched a chapter in the Chicago Area. Many previous supporters began to lend their support to the Urban League and other organizations. Wells-Barnett had also lost her job as a probation officer, which impacted funding for the organization. With declining participation, funding, and support, Well-Barnett closed the Negro Fellowship League in 1920.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett and her husband were true trailblazers!
Estelle Massey Osborne (1901 – 1981) was the eighth of eleven children. She was born in Palestine, Texas. Her parents were determined that all of their children would pursue higher education. All of her older sisters pursued careers in teaching. Osborne’s mother had two requirements for her daughters. They were required to complete high school. The other requirement was that they would never (as children) be employed by white people. She wanted her children to grow up confident in their identities; before they experienced ill treatment from whites.
After graduating from high school, Osborne followed her sisters in pursuing a career in teaching. Teaching was not a profession that suited her. She eventually went to live with her brother; hoping to pursue a career in dentistry. Already a dentist, her brother did not think the field suited her and encouraged her to pursue employment in nursing. Desperate for students, she was accepted on the spot when she applied. Osborne was particularly interested in obstetrics. In 1923, After completing the nursing program she achieved the highest score in the state on the nursing exam.
Osborne persevered in her new profession despite working in an environment where she was overlooked for positions for which she was more qualified than her white co-workers. Other staff also refused to consult with her even in her areas of expertise; preferring instead to speak with white nurses. Osborne would eventually go on to become president of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. One of her goals as a leader of this organization was to eliminate the need for separate organizations. She achieved her goal in 1946 when the American Nursing Association began to integrate its membership.
Osborne played a key role through her leadership in advocating to address the racism and discrimination faced by black nurses.
Osborne felt compelled to seek additional education and applied for a Rosenwald Fund Scholarship. At the time no African American nurse had ever received a nursing fellowship. Osborne chose to resign from her job even before hearing that she had received the fellowship. With funding from the fellowship, she was the first African American nurse to earn a Master’s Degree in nursing 1931.
After completing a nursing assignment for the Rosenwald Fellowship, she accepted the position of Director of Education for Freedman’s Hospital in Washington DC. She was the first African American woman to hold this position. Osborne would also take a leadership role with the National Nursing Council for War Service. In this role, she would be tasked with exploring how black nurses could be integrated into the armed services in anticipation of World War II.
Osborne worked diligently to get the armed forces to change their practices while also working with nursing schools to admit more students of color. Two years later the number of training schools went from 14 to 38 while the number of nurses of color in the Army doubled and the Navy finally began to admit black nurses as well, though at nowhere near the rate of the Army. Following World War II, Osborne joined the Board of Directors of the American Nursing Association from 1948-1952 (another first for an African American woman). She then served as the Assistant Director and then Director of the National League For Nursing (1954-1959).
Not much is known about the remaining years of this trailblazers life. She died in 1981.
On April 3, 2018, Dr. Bernice King and her siblings took part in a service at Mason Temple Church in Memphis, TN to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination which occurred on April 4, 1968. The last public speech given by King was at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968. Bernice King comments on the trauma and grief she and her siblings still experience even as adults. …..50 years later. Not only was Dr.
King assassinated, but so was King’s mother, Alberta King who was shot and killed while playing the organ at a church in 1974. King’s brother Rev. Alfred Williams died from drowning in 1969. Many felt the “accidental drowning” may not have been an accident. Alfred King was also very active in the civil rights movement and worked closely with his brother.
Bernice King’s words in commemorating the 50th anniversary of her father’s assassination, are both poignant and moving as she reflects on experiencing the grief and trauma of the father that they “have yet bury“. The grief and trauma of these experiences is still present with them……… 50 years later.
Click on the link below to view an excerpt of Bernice King’s comments: