It’s easy to think of racism as a virus that lives in your head. But my guest today makes a compelling case that it also lives, in very profound and often unseen ways, in your body. Resmaa Menakem is a therapist and trauma specialist based in Minneapolis. He’s also the author of an excellent book called My Grandmother’s Hands, which people in my life have been recommending to me for years. Resmaa’s work is all about healing our bodies -- and, by extension, our nation -- from racialized trauma. And in Resmaa’s philosophy, racial trauma lives on in bodies of all colors, including white bodies such as mine. Resmaa gives voice to a new lexicon -- terms like “white body supremacy” and “somatic abolitionism” -- and don’t worry, he’ll explain it all as the interview progresses. He will also share practices that bring you into your body. And he has very provocative thoughts about how white people can do their part way beyond the current news cycle.
Many of us are waking up to the fact that we need to roll up our sleeves and do the necessary work of learning and unlearning. While some progress has been made in these last few weeks, I hope it’s just the beginning of our personal growth journey and the dismantling of an unjust and abominable system founded hundreds of years ago.
I believe we also need to consciously put ourselves in other people’s shoes as we walk this path. I love this art and message by Morgan Harper Nichols and also found Spring Washam’s words in reflection of Juneteenth to be exceedingly powerful and thought provoking:
“I am discovering the great power in this simple statement of truth. Black lives matter. Every time I say these words, I am breaking open something deep within my own heart. The program of white supremacy depends upon my belief in my own inferiority that somehow, I don’t matter. It depends on me hating myself and devaluing myself because of my brown skin. It depends on you hating me too. This is deep stuff… if you haven’t said these three words, I really encourage you to say them and then sit in the great mystery of what it reveals. Try to listen with the heart. It’s deep medicine because we are breaking a powerful program that has been operating for 400 years.”
I’ll be meditating on Spring’s words for many days and reading my new library book ‘Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation’ by Jasmine Syedullah, Lama Rod Owens, and angel Kyodo Williams.
A friend of mine shared this enlightening and powerful Ezra Klein and Ta-Nehisi Coates interview a few days ago. It's chock full of compelling assessments, information and history, so I thought I would share it. The show notes are below and I hope you take 90 minutes to listen to it...
The first question I asked Ta-Nehisi Coates, in this episode, was broad: What does he see right now, as he looks out at the country? “I can't believe I'm gonna say this,” he replied, “but I see hope. I see progress right now.”
Coates is the author of the National Book Award-winner 'Between the World and Me' and 'The Water Dancer,' among others. We discuss how this moment differs from 1968, the tension between “law” and “order,” the contested legacy of MLK, Trump's view of the presidency, police abolition, why we need to renegotiate the idea of “the public,” how the consensus on criminal justice has shifted, what Joe Biden represents, the proper role of the state, the poetry Coates recommends, and much more.
But there’s one thread of this conversation, in particular, that I haven’t been able to put down: There is now, as there always is amidst protests, a loud call for the protesters to follow the principles of nonviolence. And that call, as Coates says, comes from people who neither practice nor heed nonviolence in their own lives. But what if we turned that conversation around: What would it mean to build the state around principles of nonviolence, rather than reserving that exacting standard for those harmed by the state?
'Punishment and Inequality in America' by Bruce Western
'Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration' by Devah Pager
'The Country Between Us' by Carolyn Forche
The events of the last several days are painful reminders that great injustice remains in our world. Here are some resources that have assisted me navigate this significant week and will continue to be helpful in the future. Today and everyday, Black Lives Matter. Let's support and listen in every way we can with donations, productive action, reflection, and self education.
As we enter what is sure to be a difficult summer with Covid-19 continuing to wreak havoc, I hope we can prioritize taking legitimate steps to edify ourselves, committing to an inclusive notion of community, and being a voice for fairness and equality.