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Day 11: Historical Trauma

Thank you for taking this challenge! If this is your first day of joining us for the 14-Day Equity Challenge, welcome. If you are returning after previous engagement with the challenge, nice work! We are glad you are here.

This challenge is designed to push you out of your comfort zone, think critically about difficult topics, and grow in your understanding of the ways people and systems perpetuate (and have the power to eliminate) racism. We’re excited to invite you to this opportunity to dive deeper into racial equity and social justice.

View other challenges: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13Day 14

Day 11: Historical Trauma

Trauma is a long-term emotional and psychological response to an extremely stressful or disturbing event. This might include anything from an accident to the death of a loved one or experiencing assault. But what about trauma that isn’t an individual experience? Can trauma be experienced by an entire group of people or passed on through generations? Historical trauma refers to a major traumatic experience that affects a particular group of people and continues to impact that group throughout multiple generations.

So, who experiences historical trauma? Black Americans might experience it due to a long history of slavery and segregation. Indigenous peoples might face it because of colonization and the forced removal from their land. Jewish people might endure lasting historical trauma from the Holocaust and Japanese Americans from forced internment during WWII. There are endless reasons why a group of people might suffer from historical trauma, which is enduring, repeated, and very real.

Today’s challenge will ask you to look at history as something that’s not just in the past but continues to impact people today in the form of historical trauma.

If you have…

Watch this short video
on the story of Japanese internment camps

Watch this video
on how trauma can be passed on generation after generation

Learn more about
 the history of Native American boarding schools told by the survivors themselves

Want to learn more about historical trauma? Visit the RACE Exhibit at YWCA Cass Clay Administrative Offices to find out more about how the history of racism affects people of color in the present.


Once you have completed today’s challenge, we encourage you to take a moment to reflect.

  • How did the challenge make you feel?
  • What is something you learned?
  • Did you notice anything about yourself after taking the challenge?
  • Consider sharing this new awareness with a friend or group to help deepen your understanding of the information.

Share your thoughts on the challenge online using #YWCAEquityChallenge