Exploring cross-cultural trauma


January launches a new year and a new opportunity to look at old issues.

The impact of bias when it comes to both race and religious faith provides fertile ground.

And since this month also marks the birthday of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems doubly fitting to dig into the cause and effect of deliberate bigotry.

We have heard of racial profiling when it comes to a person of color, but have we done in-depth profiling of those spouting racial remarks? Or what about those who rail against religions that are not their own?

I have often wondered whether future bigots start out as schoolyard bullies. Or maybe it comes from those who taunt and torture animals for fun. Is that their training ground?

Our mini-abusers of yesterday can easily turn into today’s mega-bigots. Does the form of racism differ by gender? It’s worthy to ferret out these questions and find answers.

On the other hand, we cannot assume that discrimination is always the same against all ethnic groups and faiths. Their cultural roots vary widely.

Blacks were once slaves and it was illegal for them to live in Oregon. Hispanics were often migrant farm hands and were threatened with deportation if they spoke up about the issues that plagued them. Muslims were often viewed as closet terrorists in the days after the tragedy of 9/11.

Some of us blindly still accept these stereotypes. We should know better.

Being verbally assaulted by the majority can induce a trauma that runs deep in an individual. It can affect their marriage and even their parenting.

Even the counseling required to help a victim of racial or religious intolerance varies widely, due to the culture, age and gender of the person. That’s just one more challenge facing society.

But it doesn’t need to be. Certain cultural biases will always exist when we do not reach out to one another, seek for compassion and understanding, and heal our differences.

Let us move forward in this age of chronic crisis. Let us each be the one to make a change for the better.

(B. Lee Coyne worked as a professional therapist until his retirement in 2008.)

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