A Sustainable Culture Built Around Anti-Racism

resmaaAn excerpt from an interview Kristen Moe did with trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem, originally posted on Medium (May 24, 2020).

…we will not fix the problem of structural racism and racial violence in this country unless we heal the ways that racial trauma lives in our bodies. It will not happen. One thing that white people and white justice leaders are starting to understand is that there’s work to be done among white people — and that work has to be embodied. White people have got to start to lean into how to create culture around the abolition of white body supremacy. Not workshops, not book clubs, but culture. There’s been a culture built around segregation and assimilation; but there has not been a sustainable culture built around anti-racism. Not yet. How do we build a culture in which white people name their children in the tradition of anti-racist heroes? What are the stories of that culture? What are the rules of admonishment and rules of acceptance? What does the elderhood process look like in an anti-racist culture? How do we teach our white children about race in a way that is open and honest but doesn’t center them as the standard? How do we leverage our white body currency to make lives for our children less arduous? How do we develop the ability to notice when we’re taking up too much room, or when we’re hiding because we’re uncomfortable?

And that means coming back over and over again, and when you get tired, you get up and do it again. There are so many ways for white folks to say, “Okay, I’m done.” Right? But we don’t get to do that.

Here’s what you have to watch out for: white culture is all about the head, not the body. What they’ll do is they’ll take something that would be embodied and before you know it, it becomes a strategy. That’s where it’s safer.

But there’s no energy in safety comfort. You have to be willing to to go the “suffering’s edge” — white people have to be willing to tolerate the discomfort and pain of really experiencing all the difficult emotions and sensations in their bodies when race comes up. They don’t have stamina for that yet.

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