Moving Toward Healing: Trauma and Violence and Boys and Young Men of Color


To protect boys and young men of color from the potential harm inflicted on them—and to mobilize the resilience and promise these young people hold—providers, leaders, and policymakers must understand the physical, emotional, and societal effects of trauma, violence, and adversity. They must also recognize the implicit and explicit racism faced by BYMOC.

“To fully understand the impact of trauma on BYMOC, it is important to stress that negative impacts of violence, trauma, childhood adversity, and social determinants of health are additive; perhaps, even synergistic, and must be considered together.”

“Of great concern is the lack of a healing response from the many systems—healthcare, mental health, public health, law enforcement, and social services— who are charged with protecting the lives and dignity of BYMOC.”

“The pathways that lead to repeat injury and death are often complex and involve traumatic stress,
self-medication to ease the symptoms of trauma, perceived pressure to retaliate, and involvement in other high-risk activities—either related to involvement in illicit activities or related to traumatic stress itself. Clearly trauma plays a powerful role in feeding the cycle of violence for all victims and, especially, for BYMOC.”


  • Create a culture of community policing based on emerging knowledge of trauma, violence, adversity, and unconscious bias to transform police interactions with BYMOC, so that law enforcement officers are regarded as advocates for public safety rather than threats to the well-being of BYMOC.
  • Address the trauma of young people who sometimes turn to weapons or gangs and other groups as a means of self-protection.
  • Stop holding BYMOC responsible for their victimization. Health providers may believe that young black males incite their own injury through provocation, illegal activity, or simply by being in a place they should not have been. This unconscious bias can lead to disparate healthcare services and outcomes for POC.
  • Humanize the systems that serve BYMOC by supporting and expanding efforts to create trauma-informed, socially just institutions.