010: Mending Racialized Trauma: A Body Centered Approach with Resmaa Menakem

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“Healing from white-body supremacy begins with the body — your body. But it does not end there. In order to heal the collective body that is America, we also need social activism that is body centered. We cannot individualize our way out of white-body supremacy. Nor can we merely strategize our way out. We need collective action — action that heals.”
— Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands

Rebecca is joined by healer, author, and trauma specialist, Resmaa Menakem. Resmaa helps people, communities, and organizations find strength and healing that’s both holistic and resilient. He’s authored 3 books and today’s discussion is centered around his most recent: My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.

Resmaa shares that in order to mend racialized trauma we need to move the conversation from race to culture and cultivate a somatic abolitionist mindset and community. And a big part of that work lies in doing our own reps to learn what to pay attention to and then doing the reps with each other’s nervous systems so we can create a culture that knows what to pay attention to. Otherwise it’s just strategy.

As you’ll discover, the wisdom within the book is ancestral, it has always existed and was both nurtured and drawn out of Resmaa by his elders over a long period of time, through repetition, through admonishment, through being held, and loved, and corrected. 

This interview was recorded in July 2019, before the shootings in Gilroy, CA; El Paso, TX; and Dayton, OH.

In this episode ...

  • “There were times in my mother’s and my grandmother’s lives that they were engulfed in darkness, and I watched them navigate that darkness and keep moving forward, taking one step and moving forward, not towards perfection, but moving forward towards something else. Even with no one to tell them “you can do this’’ there was that internal spark that kept them moving through the hurt and the pain.”  Resmaa

  • “One thing I learned was that there was no failure, only practice.” Resmaa

  • Resmaa encourages us to do something that we suck at everyday, because that’s how we get better. We find out very quickly what our limitations are, and we learn something about our self in the process.

  • How Resmaa learned that self-discipline IS self love.

  • The spark that Resmaa uses to continue doing what he’s doing is the remembrance of a society that’s been cultivated by taking advantage of women’s bodies as modes of production.

  • “That spark feels like resiliency, the other side of what we talk about when we talk about post traumatic stress. The other side of that is that we can grow, and be resilient. We can get stronger.” Rebecca

  • “I believe resilience is integral to the energy that exists whether I bounce back from something, or not.” Resmaa

  • The need and benefits to having a fortified mindset.

  • “Your individual niceness to me is inadequate.” Resmaa

  • “Reticular activation” is a brain function but an analogy is drawn to how noticing or ignoring things work in our culture.

  • Developing a somatic abolitionist mindset and community.

  • Grounding exercises to connect with others.

  • Clean vs. dirty pain: clean is going through it, and dirty is going around it.

  • Resmaa walks us through a history lesson on how the white body (and its antithesis, the black body) became the standard. 

  • Upon reviewing a galley copy of his book, a white elder came back to Resmaa with tears in her eyes and told him it was an amazing book, but she had one request of him: for him to address that what the white body did to the native, indigenous, and black bodies, the elite white bodies perfected on the poor white bodies, first.

  • The white elder drew upon the history lessons from the dark and middle ages as examples of what the elite white bodies perpetrated on poor white bodies for thousands of years, which the white bodies then brought with them to the Americas.

  • The early 1900’s saw the policing structure militarized by people from England, based on what worked there.

  • “Story is medicine, story is how we connect.” Rebecca

  • Understanding who are, and who are not, your people.

  • Hyper-vigilance, being stuck in activation and the imperativeness of allowing time to settle your nervous system by grounding.

  • Secondary trauma and moral injury should be discussed as soon as someone expresses an interest in entering the field of law enforcement.

  • “It is not your fault that this stuff has happened to you, but it is your responsibility to do something about it, now. When you accept extreme responsibility, it broadens your response ability.” Resmaa

  • “I would recommend reading your book multiple times, because some of the exercises are confrontational, and they’re hard to sit in. I think the second time you go back, you can sit a little deeper.” Rebecca

  • “Practice is the meat of everything in life.” Rebecca

  • Slowing down and listening, doubling down on your weaknesses, and reaping pleasure.

Listen to the entire episode to discover your own valuable insights and understanding on this topic and please share it!


Connect with Resmaa: https://www.resmaa.com

While these discussions will guide you into the Connectfulness Practice, the podcast is not meant to be a substitute for counseling from a licensed provider. Reach out. Initiate the ripple. Learn more about my connectfulness counseling practice and our collective for therapists in private practice here.

This episode is brought to you by Therapy Notes. Therapy Notes is a simple, secure, EHR platform that keeps you organized and creates a container for all details that run a private practice -- so you can tend to what really matters. Use the promo code connectfulness and get two months free when you sign up at therapynotes.com  

And if you’re local to New Paltz, NY and are interested in the deep community work Resmaa guides us into in My Grandmother’s Hands, contact Rebecca so we can coordinate local meetings.