"Make sure you keep your hands up and place your license and registration on the roof of the car if you get pulled over by the cops"
"Hang onto your receipt in case you get accused of stealing"
"No matter what happens - comply"
These are some of the many words of caution that Black parents communicate with their children - some call it "The Talk". It's a conversation that every Black child has experienced at some point, and is crucial for the safety and wellbeing of Black children everyday.
In recent years, conversations about transgenerational trauma have become more prevalent in the mainstream media following the influx of support for Black lives and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
As described by, Myrna Lashley, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, “Intergenerational trauma is trauma that is passed down. The pain and the angst and the hurt and the fear and…. the sense of inferiority that has been imposed on you.”
Based on the lived experiences of Black parents, it is their duty to equip their Black children with the realities of being Black in our society. This comes with a heavy toll on mental health, especially for young and vulnerable Black youth. Whether it's feelings of inferiority, or fear for judgment amongst one's non-Black peers, the passing of racial trauma is an inevitable aspect of the Black experience.
The need to constantly remind Black children about the realities of the way society treats them from both an interpersonal and institutional level is a "traumatizing experience for both the child and the parent," as described by Lashley.
Black parents have a responsibility to equip their children for a world in a which they're already 10 steps behind due to the colour of their skin, because if they don't, who will? Who is going to prepare a Black child for potential mistreatment and judgement?
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology interviewed "264 mostly white, female college students and found that they tended to perceive black children ages 10 and older as "significantly less innocent" than their white counterparts." If Black children at age 10 are perceived as less innocent than white children, what does this indicate about the realities Black children will face throughout their lives? Whether it's being falsely accused for something they didn't do, or receiving a false judgement of their character, Black youth have internalized decades of intergenerational trauma, and these biases can have adverse impacts on Black lives.
From vulnerable Black youth growing up and feeling ridiculed by non-Black peers for their unique hair texture, to visiting beauty stores that don't carry their shade, Black humans are constantly reminded of their mistreatment by society.
When one feels pain, we must look for healing. So how do we heal from intergenerational trauma?
Black Women in Motion is a Toronto-based, youth-led organization that empowers and supports the advancement of Black womxn and survivors of sexual violence, taking steps to heal intergenerational trauma experience by Black womxn. BWIM works within an anti-racist, intersectional feminist, trauma-informed and survivor-centred framework to create culturally-relevant content, educational tools, healing spaces and economic opportunities for Black womxn.
Organizations like BWIM play a crucial role in the healing process, which encourages Black communities to thrive.