By Joshua Turner
Special to the AFRO

“Hey call your son, call your daughter just to wish them more prime
Oh God, don’t let them streets get a hold of ’em” – Trauma; Meek Mill

“…the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:7 KJV

Inherited trauma is a phenomenon that is often ignored and serves as a barrier to the progress of the Black condition, it why it is said that we operate out of “broken identity,” due in part to the history of pain and abuse of our past that was never appropriately addressed prohibiting forward progression, making our only identity one that was forged out of brokenness. Some of the trauma that we carry was not incurred directly, but rather inherited and then imparted by our predecessors. Inherited trauma is incurred when trauma is not appropriately addressed or healed by the original receiver of said trauma. This further perpetuates a cycle of brokeness because people operate out of a brokenness they were unaware existed, passing down both the unaddressed inherited trauma and new trauma.


This occurs in conjunction with the other forms of mass traumatization we incur from our institutions as mentioned in parts one through five of this series. The further we move away from it, the harder it becomes to address the roots of inherited trauma, but in a society that undervalues your healing, resilience is trophitized and asking for help is seen as a weakness. This inherited trauma facilitates a state of perpetual trauma, where your existence and identity remain in a state of ever burgeoning brokenness. The increasing growth of this baggage is a function of our system, that is slated to suppress and oppress those that are disvalued. The denial of relief and healing is deliberate in order to further extol what is valued through the suppression and elimination of what is disvalued. The weight of this cumbersome reality is crushing, yet we continue to carry this load that increases in weight as the years continue. This only makes our norm one that is void of happiness, but full of turmoil that we unknowingly carry which we in turn inflict onto others.

This perpetual state restricts the autonomy of those subjected to this reality. If one operates out of a broken identity, they are incapable of operating outside of the actions of brokenness. In other words, brokenness restricts the actions that can be taken by an individual. Conversely meaning a whole or healed identity expands autonomy because one is operating out of a place of completeness that is not restricted and blurred by pain and trauma. This acts as systematic tool of oppression toward the “disvalued”; meaning that the denial of healing is a form of systemic abuse that operates as chains to prohibit progression and liberation. This state has been normalized creating a false dogma and the feeling of freedom; the only thing worse than oppression is the illusion of freedom; one cannot fight against what they do not recognize or see as being unjust. This is the plight of invisible chains. 

In order to address this issue head on, we must demand the restructuring of our institutions, and ensure that both the manifest and latent functions of these institutions do not further batter the disvalued, but rather operate in a way that makes the “crooked roads straight.” We cannot heal or stop the bleeding without first stopping what cuts us. Stopping the cutting agent is the first step to healing. Without stopping that first we will continue to attempt to patch up deep wounds that are being recut as we attempt to stitch up close to coding Black body. When we stop what is cutting us (systemic abuse) then we can then heal forward and address inherited trauma and the trauma we have incurred directly.

Joshua Isaiah Turner is a community organizer, a developer, and a civil rights activist. He is the co-founder of Students Demand Action Baltimore, an organization against gun violence.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to