Generational Trauma and the Perpetual Victimhood Mindset

Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith
6 min readSep 9, 2023

It is challenging to discuss the subject of generational trauma experienced by Black people without turning it into a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation since there is so much scholarly information available, including Dr. Joy DeGruy’s seminal book entitled, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.” In addition, recent studies discussing a growing consensus that transgenerational health disparities affecting Black people persist due to continued interpersonal and structurally institutional discrimination in the United States,[1] and studies of epigenetics on the effects of Racism on Black people, show how Black people may biologically inherit harmful generational trauma from Racism and white supremacism.

Generational Trauma is described as:

“…the transference of traumatic experiences or stressors from one generation to the next. One of many types of traumas, it can happen through direct experience, witnessing violence, or living in an environment where violence is a constant threat.[2]

Dr. Reshawna Chapple, writing for Talk Space, explained Generational Trauma this way:

“This form of psychological trauma can lead to physical and mental health problems as well as social and emotional difficulties. For example, children who grow up in homes with domestic violence and experience childhood trauma may develop anxiety or depression as adults. They may also have trouble trusting people or forming intimate relationships — this cycle of unresolved trauma can affect generations to come.

Chapple also wrote:

“Generational trauma can be passed down through DNA to family members. Some people may be predisposed to it, but it’s important to remember that not everyone who experiences intergenerational trauma has symptoms related to their experience. Many factors are at play regarding inherited trauma, including resilience, support systems, and resource access.”[2]

Racialized generational trauma has been linked back to The Enslavement through the present day. In the face of such mounting evidence, it appears many Black people have difficulty acknowledging generational trauma associated with history. While it is easy enough to grasp why white people…

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Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith

Anti-Racism Essayist & Educator offering discussions about Race, Racism, White Supremacy and the language used, from perspectives not ordinarily considered.