Resmaa Menakem (MSW, LICSW, SEP) teaches workshops on Cultural Somatics for audiences of African Americans, European Americans, and police officers. He is also a therapist in private practice, and a senior fellow at The Meadows. His New York Times best-selling book is My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.
‘Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence’
Across the past year, and now as the murder trial of Derek Chauvin unfolds with Minneapolis in fresh pain and turmoil, we return again to the grounding insights of Resmaa Menakem. He is a Minneapolis-based therapist and trauma specialist who activates the wisdom of elders, and very new science, about how all of us carry in our bodies the history and traumas behind everything we collapse into the word “race.” We offer up his intelligence on changing ourselves at a cellular level — practices towards the transformed reality most of us long to inhabit.
Host Krista Tippett:
‘Across the past year, and now as the murder trial of Derek Chauvin unfolds, with Minneapolis in fresh pain and turmoil, I return again and again to the grounding insights of Resmaa Menakem. He is a Minneapolis-based therapist and trauma specialist who activates the wisdom of elders, and very new science, about how all of us carry in our bodies the history and traumas behind everything we collapse into the word “race.” We offer up Resmaa’s intelligence anew on changing ourselves at a cellular level — practices towards the transformed reality I believe most of us long to inhabit.’
More from Krista:
‘Ever after, when I use the word “we” or “us,” I understand in a whole new way that I do so in a White body … I hold that knowledge together with my clarity that when time becomes history, the generations for whom we are the ancestors will see an “us.”’
‘…enough of us are preparing to be the generation, in bodies of every color, after so many generations of betrayal & blindness, to step onto that long arc of the moral universe—bending it towards justice & the Beloved Community.”
‘When we’re talking about trauma, when we’re talking about historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, persistent institutional trauma — and personal traumas, whether that be childhood, adolescence, or adulthood — those things, when they are left constricted, you begin to be shaped around the constriction. And it is wordless. Time decontextualizes trauma. So when my grandmother is saying that, I need to pay attention to that. And for her, it’s decontextualized, so she doesn’t even have a context for it.
Bodies of culture. That’s right. And so one of the things that happens with the vagal nerve — there’s two. There’s the vagal nerve — I call that the soul nerve — and then there’s a muscle, the psoas muscle. That psoas is a beast, because the psoas, what it does is, it connects the top part of the body with the bottom part of the body. It also — if you’re braced, it also manages whether or not you mobilize or immobilize. And if you’re born to people who are already braced, you pick up in your psoas this kind of locking down, this kind of bracing, decontextualized.
And so what I’ve been talking to people about is, how do we begin to get the reps in with those pieces? So you’re gonna need time to condition your body to be able to deal with the aches, deal with the doubt, deal with all of that difficulty. You’re gonna have to get up against your own suffering’s edge, before the transformation happens. But you need to condition that. Why do we think that when we talk about race, that’s any different — for me to say, “We’re gonna have a white body supremacy talk; deal with the root of this stuff”?’