The Trauma Lens of Police Violence against Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Journal of Social Issues, 2017

Police violence against racial and ethnic minorities has been researched through the lens of multiple social science disciplines including psychology. Within psychology, the study of trauma lends itself to understanding the dynamics of unjustified violence perpetrated by some law enforcement agents. These acts of aggression are not only examples of interpersonal trauma but also the trauma of racism, which is examined through the lens of intergenerational trauma, racistincident–based trauma, and complex trauma. There is a history of violence against racial and ethnic minorities that contextualizes the traumatic experience of police violence. Additionally, the framework of trauma illuminates the causes and consequences of police brutality as a racist-incident trauma. Finally, survivors of police violence targeting racial and ethnic minorities are often persons who have been exposed to multiple traumas resulting in a cumulative effect. Filling a current gap in the literature, we discuss the clinical implications of applying trauma theories to police violence, as well as diverse ways racially and ethnically marginalized persons have coped with and resisted these acts. There is attention given to the need to attend to the intersecting identities of persons who are targeted such as ethnic minority women. Finally, we describe the need for further study of this complex and devastating phenomenon.

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