Problematizing Trauma as White Property:
Introducing the Critical Trauma, Anti-Black Racism, and Whiteness (CAW) Theoretical Framework
Keywords:anti-Black racism, whiteness, trauma, critical trauma theory, racial trauma
Given the growing use of trauma-informed and trauma-specific approaches in social work in North America, it is important to examine how trauma is being defined and who is considered a “legitimate” trauma victim/survivor. This article, part literature review and part theoretical analysis, integrates tenets from critical whiteness studies, anti-Black racism theory, and critical trauma theory to develop a critical theoretical framework for understanding how white supremacy and anti-Black racism are embedded in and perpetuated by many dominant trauma definitions, diagnoses, research, and practices. Using this Critical trauma, Anti-Black racism, and Whiteness (CAW) theoretical framework, the article problematizes the absence of racism in popular definitions of trauma, arguing this absence reproduces whiteness and anti-Blackness. This theoretical framework offers social workers and others a lens for understanding how trauma functions as a form of white property or entitlement that has cultural, political, and clinical value for white people, while erasing, pathologizing, and punishing Black victims/survivors. The article provides a redefinition of trauma that intentionally focuses on the colonial, racist, and state-produced root causes and concludes with possible research, practice, and policy implications for social work.
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