Speaking of trauma: the race talk, the gun violence talk, and the racialization of gun trauma

Madison Armstrong, Jennifer Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper considers the intersection of race and gun violence through the lens of trauma. We focus on two high-profile cases of gun violence: the state-deemed justifiable homicide of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012 and the active shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. These cases illustrate not just how people in the US experience gun violence in racially divergent ways (as existing literature suggests) but also how people—particularly parents—manage the anticipation of gun violence and its trauma. To this end, we develop the concept of “anticipatory trauma” and illustrate it by analyzing a set of social practices that have emerged surrounding gun violence: parents’ conversations with their children aimed at explaining and addressing their children’s unique risk of gun violence. Building on existing literature on “the Talk” among African American parents, we analyze a racial bifurcation in how parents talk about gun violence. Specifically, we detail “the Race Talk” (in relation to the Trayvon Martin case) and “the Gun Violence Talk” (in relation to the Parkland case), which differentially construct children’s vulnerability, the social phenomena that render them vulnerable, and the appropriate solutions for addressing that vulnerability. Without understanding anticipatory trauma as a racialized phenomenon, we risk leveling the gun violence debate—and creating gun policy that is neither politically meaningful nor practically effective for addressing the broad but complex issue of gun violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112
JournalPalgrave Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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