Can Racial Trauma/Racism Be Inherited?

7 min readOct 28, 2018

A Child’s Story

Around 6 years old, I was in a new school in Florida. We had moved from New York to “start over”. The only thing that stood out about my first day, was loneliness. I was a new student who looked different. During recess I tried to play with the other kids, but it was clear none of them wanted to play with me. I was told to sit on the bench and wait for them to call me over. And no one did. I sat on a bench the entire recess and cried as children played around me. The teacher never approached nor did my classmates. I, for this group, essentially did not exist.

The majority of students in this school, as well as the teacher, were white with a few black and Hispanic students. Could some of these students have been mixed? Yes. However, I was the only student who “looked mixed”. I had lightly tanned skin and very thick, frizzy hair and students were unsure which group I belonged in so I was not allowed in any. Over time I was dubbed a “mutt” by all the students in my class.

That day, while crying on the bench I realized they didn’t care. It didn’t matter to them that I was crying and alone. I knew it was because of how I looked. I also decided that would be the last time that I cried in front of them. I’d cry when I got home, but not in front of them again. I didn’t know the word for what I was experiencing, but I knew what it was.

Inherited Trauma

There is increasing studies to determine whether trauma from previous generations can be inherited. This has been called intergenerational trauma, transgenerational trauma, historic trauma or collective trauma. Whatever you choose to call it, it refers to either a particular trauma a person or group of people experience that alters them; thereby ensuring that future generations will also feel the effects of this trauma on a genetic level. Examples of this would be survivors of the Holocaust and their offspring, survivors of slavery, Jim Crow and their children as well as Indigenous survivors and their future generations, not to mention current generations who are still suffering injustices.

It considers the possibility that certain physical or mental predispositions are caused through trauma sustained by a previous generation. Conditions such as hypertension, depression…




Black/Puerto Rican creative non-binary. Spouts nonsense that occasionally makes sense. they/them