Problematizing Trauma as White Property:

Introducing the Critical Trauma, Anti-Black Racism, and Whiteness (CAW) Theoretical Framework


  • Christine Mayor Inner City Social Work Program, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba


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.

Author Biography

Christine Mayor, Inner City Social Work Program, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba

Christine Mayor, PhD, BCT/RDT, RP is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba. Working from a place of relational accountability as a white settler, Dr. Mayor utilizes a critical, anti-racist, and decolonial lens to research whiteness and anti-Black racism in trauma, education, and the arts.