A Year After George Floyd's Murder, Coping With The Effects Of Racial Trauma : Life Kit Psychotherapist April Preston speaks with Tonya Mosley of NPR's Here and Now about what racial trauma is, how it can be passed down, and how to address it.

The Compounding Effects Of Racial Trauma, A Year After George Floyd's Murder

The Compounding Effects Of Racial Trauma, A Year After George Floyd's Murder

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Kristen Uroda for NPR
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Kristen Uroda for NPR

Do you remember where you were this time last year? The day you first heard about — or saw — George Floyd's murder?

Psychotherapist April Preston was in St. Paul, Minnesota — she had just come out of a therapy session, and pulled out her phone to see what she'd missed in the last hour.

Preston watched all nine and a half minutes of the video that captured Floyd's murder — and continued to watch the protests in the days and weeks that followed. She's now taking stock of the impact of Floyd's death and all that we've experienced over the last year.

We spoke about the impact of racial trauma and how to address it. "The more that we identify it and call it what it is, the easier it is for us to deal with it and to manage it," she says.

Highlights from our conversation are below, edited for brevity and clarity. Listen to the full conversation on Life Kit here.

Interview highlights

On the ways racial trauma builds

This is trauma that is not just one event. It's ... being pulled over by the police, or something very frightening and scary happening to you and...not ending there. It's followed up by something else: people not understanding what's happening to you, or [not] trusting what you are saying. It's that constant rolling of things that make you fear for your life. And that's what makes it complicated, because it's not just one thing.

On intergenerational trauma

So many times we are passing down stories, we are displaying behaviors, and we are giving information to the next generation unbeknownst to us. And so when we can become conscious of our own trauma experiences, then we can begin to control a bit of what we are sharing with the next generation. We want the next generation to be informed. We don't want them to live in fear. And I believe that when we are mindful of our own experiences, we can be intentional about what we are giving to the next generation.

On self-care

Usually when I say self care, my clients are like, 'really Miss April? Is deep breathing going to take away my fears at night?' And when we simply put it like that, no. But if we do enough of self care, it will absolutely help us manage some of the stress and some of the traumas that we experience.

So for me, self care looks like nurturing a positive cultural identity. Making sure that I'm engaging in cultural practices that reinforce my cultural identity: eating foods, wearing certain clothing, practicing certain customs, but then also connecting to my community. Making sure that I am texting and calling friends, inviting people into my space. But I also like to ... encourage my clients to go deeper and to really understand themselves, to spend time with themselves, to know their triggers, to know their capacity, to know their limits, and to really create space, to honor when they've had enough...so that they can take care of themselves.

The podcast version of this page was produced by Clare Marie Schneider with help from Here and Now's Sam Raphelson. Special thanks to Life Kit's Audrey Nguyen for editorial support.

We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.