Intergenerational Resilience in Response to the Stress and Trauma of Enslavement and Chronic Exposure to Institutionalized Racism

There is evidence of a link between intergenerational epigenetic trauma, environmental adversity, and resilience. Resiliency is an adaptive response associated with lower psychopathology and a suite of specific physiological changes including alterations in cortisol levels regulating the inflammatory immune response and resistance to telomere shortening in response to stress. The feedback loops linking environment and human genomes are modified by resilient behaviors. In Legacy African Americans, resilience has emerged as a continuum of responses within the context of family, community, and religious beliefs as a consequence of Intergenerational exposures to 250 years of chattel slavery followed by 150 years of systemic discrimination. This resilience has ameliorated but not eliminated the impact of this trauma over approximately 16 generations of exposure. We suggest that resilience can exhibit a range of sustainability with protracted resilience involving deep behavioral modifications and concomitant physiochemical changes whereas superficial resilience may also show surface behavioral adjustments but is skin-deep and lacks the consistent physiochemical alterations of successful long term adaptation.


Latifa Jackson, Zainab Jackson and Fatimah Jackson

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