Joy DeGruy discusses healing racial trauma

On March 22, Joy Angela DeGruy, president and chief executive officer of DeGruy Publications, Inc., hosted a workshop organized for Washburn students and the Topeka community in the Memorial Union. DeGruy’s workshop focused on multi-generational trauma and violence where she presented her academic work.

DeGruy was an assistant professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work and has had over 30 years of practical experiences as a professional in the field. She offers training in–much like the workshop–mental health, social justice, intergenerational trauma and more.

Her research was focused on violence among African American adolescent males roughly between the age of 14 and 20 and finding the predictors of that violence. The boys in the research were observed for six years and half of them were incarcerated.

In her research, DeGruy found correlations between respect and likelihood of violence among those adolescent males. She discovered that perceived disrespect led to more violence than people realize. The more respected the boys felt, the less likely they were violent, and the more disrespected they felt, the more likely they were violent. When DeGruy asked why they felt disrespected, they replied with “because we’re Black.”

“The whole part of the workshop is understanding the nature of injury. The problem with being in a community is that so few people understand the extent of multi-generational trauma,” DeGruy said. “It really does not require that you lean into it and I think there is a level of naivete around what has happened which is largely because people have been mis-educated or not educated at all. You know, there’s so much in part of who you are.”

DeGruy believes that there is no rehabilitation as a correction and her research proves that by incarcerating young boys we are breeding and creating a more criminal person and more violent person. She discovered that establishing rehabilitation centers as a way of correcting people who committed crimes was basically disrespecting them even more. Her work has a whole process of beginning the trauma to healing.

Many students who attended the event shared their experience from that event.

“I’m really proud that Washburn hosted this event. She dropped a lot of nuggets. I wish I could hear more of it. I know there wasn’t enough time but there was so much wealth of information and experience in the things that she spoke about and were very timely. She touched on a lot of people of color, and kind of the intersectionality of it,” said Jaquita Clark, senior in social work.

“It was an amazing session. I think it was really great. I think it’s really important and especially for white people to attend because this is like it’s not only the work that we’re doing, of course, but it does rely on us and our ancestors on how they systematically placed everything in America to be racist. So I think it was really informative and just really great”, said Bridget King, freshman in social work.

To learn more about healing racial trauma, visit DeGruy’s website here.


Edited by Glorianna Noland and Simran Shrestha