“The Quaking of America” – Resmaa Menakem – HPP 110
In today’s episode, we are joined by New York Times bestselling author Resmaa Menakem. Resmaa is returning to the podcast to discuss his new book “The Quaking of America”, where he takes a deeper dive into structural racism and its roots in American politics and the political landscape today. We discuss the January 6th insurrection and the path forward during heightened times in such a divided nation.
Structural racism today and how we got here – 02:11
When it comes to white bodies as a collective, and race, white bodies don’t have a collective understanding, efficacy, or agility when it comes to race. They don’t, they have none. I’m not saying that there are individual white people who note that, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying as a collective, white bodies have not had to deal with the feral-ness of race.
The Quaking of America – 04:16
And so the Quaking of America was my attempt to say, look, this is a big, bright light. I know you think that things are going to return to “normal,” and you’re going to be able to count on your whiteness to get you through. But these people will murder you. What you saw was murderous intent, feral intent, and not to take that seriously is what will leave you and your family vulnerable.
Where the inspiration to write this book came from – 07:52
I’m going to give you a little bit of black psychology. As two black people are sitting there watching it, you know what’s the question that is rolling around in me and my wife’s heads? After about an hour of watching these people do this, the thing that we both kept saying is, How come ain’t nobody dead? Why haven’t they shot anybody?
What individuals can do and what the collective needs to do – 25:23
And that’s the piece that I’m trying to get at and quickly over man is that the doing is going to have to be both individual and collective among white bodies. If you think we’re at a crossroads, we’ve been at a crossroads since 1860.
The origins of humans on this planet and how that impacts all of us- 36:06
We know it didn’t start in Germany, right? We know that the first representation of human-ness, homo sapiens on this earth, started in Africa. The oldest bones are African woman.
Resmaa Menakem, Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer
Resmaa Menakem 00:00
And what happened to most poor white bodies at the hands of elite white bodies? For eons, did not happen to individual white bodies, it happened to collections of white bodies. What happened in Germany? It wasn’t just one Adelstein. Right. It’s like, we’re going to get Adelstein, get a whole army, just go after Adelstein. That’s not what happened, it’s like the collection of Jewish white bodies. Right, is what we’re going to exterminate and brutalized and raping kids.
Keith Kurlander 00:37
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer, and this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.
Resmaa Menakem 00:47
Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:51
Hey, Resmaa. Good to see you.
Keith Kurlander 00:52
How are you?
Resmaa Menakem 00:56
Not bad, he’s busy. He’s busy as hell.
Keith Kurlander 01:00
Tell us a little bit about what you’re up to these days.
Resmaa Menakem 01:02
So my new book is coming out April 12. It’s picking up a lot of steam. I’m writing a screenplay, I’m writing a stage play, I’m cutting an album. I’m going to be in New York in April, doing some TV. It’s just a lot of stuff happening, it’s a lot of stuff.
Keith Kurlander 01:21
Awesome. We want this to be an episode, people are inspired to go get the book, we’ll wait to put the episode out until the book is ready. So, you saw my email where for us, we’re a little out of our depth if we get into the speculation stuff.
Resmaa Menakem 01:36
Keith Kurlander 01:37
We’re going to feel out of our depth and not know how to engage that well. I feel like the context of the book, for me, I think it would be really useful to just talk about structural racism in this country. And at the governmental level, how is that being perpetuated? And what do we do about that as individuals, how we relate to that?
Resmaa Menakem 01:59
Keith Kurlander 02:00
And communities. And how are we going to relate to that? And how do we deal with our own sanity? How do we break it down? How do we actually break through it? So, I think that would be a great conversation.
Resmaa Menakem 02:11
Absolutely. I don’t expect people to read the new book, because the new book, honestly, is a totally different tone than My Grandmother’s Hands decidedly, because I had recently started writing a book that was going to be called Our Grandchildren’s Souls. It was basically going to be part two of My Grandmother’s Hands. And then these mothers attempted coup on January 6, and I was like 150 pages into the other book. And I was like, This is crazy. Like we’re watching a coup happen. And if it hadn’t been for the black police officer who steered those doofuses in the other way, they would have home pets. I’m not a friend of pets, but they had a wreck the gallows like nooses. And so for me, I was like, if I don’t write the book that helps people give context to what they’re watching, this next book is just going to be like a money grab. And so, when it comes to white bodies as a collective, and race, white bodies don’t have a collective understanding, efficacy or agility when it comes to race. They don’t, they have none. I’m not saying that there are individual white people who note that, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying as a collective, white bodies have not had to deal with the fairness of race. Have white bodies had to deal with bad difficult things? Absolutely. White bodies have had to deal with patriarchy, have had to deal with violence, have had to deal with all that stuff. But when it comes to race, they have not had to. The structure of race has made white people so comfortable. Think about it like this. We’re living in a country right now, where they are literally passing laws, that you can’t make white people uncomfortable. They’re trying to pass laws to not make white people comfortable when it’s talking about race.
Keith Kurlander 04:14
Give an example.
Resmaa Menakem 04:16
In Florida, right now in Florida, they’re trying to usher in laws. A law that says if you teach history in school, you can’t make white children uncomfortable. But it’s all right for black children and indigenous children to deal with racism, but not talk about it in front of white-shoe. I mean, it’s absurd, but what it does is when it comes to race, it makes them infantile and immature. Right. And so, when I wrote, The Quaking of America, my goal was to say, look, here’s the cultural context, right? When I talk about plantation ethics, right? Here’s some of the stuff that you’re seeing right now in front of you. Here’s why that matters, here’s where that comes from. The reason why I wanted to do that is that I felt like what usually happens when large things happen in this country to white bodies. The first thing that most quote unquote good white people do is that they get shocked. They go, Oh, my God, I wasn’t aware. And how did this happen, right? And then the next thing that happens is they will do a thing. When you watch what happened at the Capitol, and then now a year later, you asked most white people, did you go take a self defense course after you saw that? Did you go buy guns after you saw that? Did you do more study about race and racism and white bodies supremacy and Kusa stuff? Did you do any of that? Did you study in a community around all of this? Did you see how coos in authoritarianism? Did you do any studying on how to use it? Did you talk to your children, like a year later, are you talking to your children about how to protect themselves if people start shooting each other? White bodies depend so much on whiteness, that they think that when the shooting starts, that that’s going to protect them, and it is not. White people don’t take things like that as a collective seriously in terms of changing behavior, charting a new course, taking a different path, what do they do? They sit there, they say, let’s wait, let’s wait till we get all the facts, we really don’t know. And when you have at least 10 million people in this country, who align themselves with an ideology of authoritarianism, an ideology of xenophobic, and they are enamored with the cult of personality, you have a potential to see bloodshed in the streets and white bodies, because they’re so used to being protected. Racially, that they don’t see the warning signs. And so the Quaking of America was my attempt to say, look, this is a big, bright light, I know you think that things are going to return to “normal”, and you’re going to be able to count on your whiteness to get you through. But these people will murder you. What you saw was murderous intent, feral intent, and not to take that seriously is what will leave you and your family vulnerable. So that was why I wrote the book. Can you say a little bit more about it, because this book is so different. When I read My Grandmother’s Hand, it definitely goes into sociology, it goes into psychology, it goes a little into the political sphere, but this book goes majorly into politics, and way more into sociology, and really looking at social structure in this country. I would love to hear a little more from you. Like, personally, what happened to you? Like, I’m not writing another psychology only book. Not that it was psychology only, but I’m not writing a book focused on psychology, I’m writing a book focused on the political atmosphere right now.
Resmaa Menakem 07:49
Keith Kurlander 07:50
What happened inside of you?
Resmaa Menakem 07:52
I don’t consider “The Quaking of America” a political book. I consider the things that I do at the beginning, setting the context for you to understand the stuff that happens later on in the book. And so I use those first four or five chapters to be like. Look, this is the play here, this is how this works, these are the things that I see in terms of what feeds this monster. And so what happened was that me and my wife were just like Tamir Rice then. Me and my wife were sitting on the couch, and we were watching the thing play out throughout the day. My wife was working and going up and down the stairs, so we had a TV on in the living room, and went upstairs. About halfway through the day, she’s upstairs and I hear, go, go Resmaa, like that. And, of course, a husband, I’m like, what do I do now? Yeah, I forget to pick the kids up or they’re 20 they overdo it. But anyway, so I said, Yeah. And she said, Are you watching what’s on TV? And I was like, No. And she said, Come up here, come upstairs, and you start seeing these fools kicking the windows out and climbing up the scaffolding. And we’re sitting there thinking, I’m going to give you a little bit of black psychology. As two black people are sitting there watching it, you know what’s the question as that is rolling around, and me and my wife said, after about an hour of watching these people do this, the thing that we both kept saying is, How come Ain’t nobody dead? Why haven’t they shot anybody? That means this whiteness thing, like the white body being the standard of humaneness. Everybody knows that. And when you watch people kicking out windows, climbing scaffolds, waving a confederate flag, a secessionist battle flag. My wife said to me, she goes, How come they’re not shooting? Why aren’t they shooting these people? And then I said to my wife, I said, could you imagine if that hadn’t been 6000 black people, indigenous people, brown people attacking the Capitol, the amount of carnage that you would have seen on the screen that they probably would have had to turn away from. And this goes back to the rubric that I say, is that the white body Dean’s and has deemed itself the supreme standard by which all bodies humanity shall be measured structurally. And philosophically, if you don’t understand that one organizing rubric about this country and about the world as it relates to racialization, and white binary supremacy, everything else will confuse you. So when, as a black body, I’m watching this, and I’m saying that I’m not shooting these white bodies. I understand it in that context. I go, Oh, okay, I got, this just reinforces when I’m talking to my white friends who have not studied in this. And I say, why don’t you think they’re shooting them? Why wouldn’t you? Why are you advocating shooting them? I’m not advocating shooting them. I’m saying that if you take that, and you do a carbon copy on the other side, and there were black people would have gotten shot on the steps. And if you don’t examine how that has evolved, how you got to the place, where now you see that, and you refuse to ask the question, and you refuse to be uncomfortable enough, in white bodies to go, we’re going to examine this, we have to slow this down. So we can examine why this happens. Why white bodies, good white bodies, I’m not talking about the assholes who were there 60. I’m talking about the white bodies, who were sitting there watching it, and their behavior never changed. You were sitting there watching it. And they didn’t say, Oh, this is about an attempted coup of this country. And those people that did that, hate me, too. I’m not saying either. That’s not what most white bodies did. And so that’s why it took me a couple of weeks before I even called my agent. I kept trying to write, and then I called my agent. And I said, Hey, man, I need to talk to you, I think you’re gonna be pissed at me. And he goes, he goes, Why, why? Why? As the Scott, I can’t write, I can’t finish a grandchildren’s soul. I can’t write that. And he goes, tell me more. I said, January 6, has to be addressed. Not think I’m the only one who can address it from an embodied police. Everybody can write about it. Maybe Trump wrote something like a lot of people write stuff about it, but they can’t address it in the racialized traumatic way. And he started, he’s a Jewish dude, a white Jewish dude. And he goes, I’m so glad you called. He goes, I had been contemplating how to call you, and how to talk to you and ask you if you’re sure you wanted to go along, keep going with our grandchildren. So he said, I’m so glad you came to this. He goes, because you’re right Resmaa. You cannot write about our grandchildren’s selves. You got to write this thing here. And I said, So what needs to happen? He said, Well, I need to do my job, I need to go back to the publisher. And I need to talk to them and see what they say. And he said, but what I need you to understand is, they could very well say, because you know, you made a lot of money a lot sold a lot of books from our graduates they want to pay 100 Is that That’s just how publishers work they wanted to, he said, so they can say, we don’t want that. And I said that we got to be done. So that’s how it came about.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 13:24
Thanks for sharing all that it feels good over here to feel your stand, your integrity, of needing to speak to that. And in some ways, it’s sort of the insurrection or January 6 storming the Capitol kind of provided this kind of exclamation point on what you were already describing in my grandmother’s hands, in terms of historical context. So in getting into quaking of America, it’s like, it brings my grandmother’s hands even more into the present. It’s like a bigger call to action and the bigger context, and is just so what you were just describing of white folks watching that unfold and not changing their behavior just brought me back to something you said in the book, your new one about how we got here over 15 generations, right? To get to a point where people can watch that and not have it occur to them that something bad could happen to them. And so I guess,
Resmaa Menakem 14:18
Will, can I stop you first? Yeah, we’ll just think about the trauma of white bodies so that they could watch what happened. It did not go. Wow. They could do that to me. Think about the years of white bodies. Like in this country, we have 4500 documented cases of lynching. Right, that’s documented. I’m not talking about the undocumented. I’m talking about the document. And here’s one of the pieces that I think people miss about Trump, especially as it relates to white bodies. Most white bodies that are probably listening to our call listening to this and watching this, most of those white bodies are descended from white bodies who were fleeing something. Right. That’s the first setup. Right? The second set up is that those white bodies that were fleeing something, know what it’s like to be brutalized either imperially, colonially, lamp F genocide by other more powerful white bodies watching the same thing played out in Ukraine right now. They know what it’s like to be put upon by more powerful white bodies. So fast forward to here, where you have 10s of 1000s of white bodies participating in hundreds of 1000s of white bodies participating in lynching many times bringing their children to so the children end up understanding, whoa, I’m smelling this, I’m seeing this I’m seeing my body may be having a horror response. But the caregivers around me are reinforcing the silence. So if I say what you’re doing, I know not to say that because I know if I say that, I will be murdered. I will be brutalized. Right. And so over time, that piece becomes decontextualized in the white community and in the white body and passed down as standard. Right? That the silence, the recoil, the yielding, become standard fare. So whiteness ends up being the standard, as opposed to, that’s horrible. I need to turn my eyes, you can’t do that. And so that’s why when they watch it on the TV net, it is rotating in the background as this spring loaded, like something should happen. But the way that I’ve been trained, and the way that I have been conditioned is that I take it, I tap it, I don’t metabolize it.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 17:14
Well, that makes sense. Totally, totally makes sense. Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Keith Kurlander 17:18
I mean, I want to reveal a little about my process around since we’re on this, I think you’re helping me reflect quite a bit here on my own process of one that went down on January 6, and so I’m Jewish. And so that’s what my process was about in those weeks. And my process was, could this get as bad as Germany got? Could he get that bad? Like, could this, get that? Out of control? Could we lose that much law? And order? And a part of me at that moment in time was like, he probably won’t, but it could, probably won’t. But it could be like, this is next level. So that was my process. And then of course, I was also recognizing, which is why I’m bringing this up that like, I don’t wear my Judaism on my skin. I’m not a religious Jew. I don’t even wear it externally. Religious people do what you would know if they were Jewish. I don’t. So it’s just making me reflect on reality. I can disconnect from this reality quicker. Even if it brings back more historical things in my lineage. I can disconnect it from it quicker, because I don’t wear it externally. I’m not identified in the same way. And I think that’s what you’re speaking to, in general, just in terms of white body. Yeah. I might have the subset of not that long ago. Yes. Right. I might not be here, but I’m not as impacted right now. Because you know,
Resmaa Menakem 18:51
Can we work something real quick, Keith, if it’s okay? So when you said what you said, what I heard were two different parallels, kind of like poles, right? What you said probably won’t happen but it could. I want to take a line and go down the middle that I want to ask you when you say but it could. What do you mean by but it could, when you say this could spiral out of control and get like Germany? It probably won’t happen. We can work that side. But I want to work just this one, But it could. What do you imagine? Imagination is intelligence. What do you imagine? Would it look like it could if it did?
Keith Kurlander 19:41
I think if I’m just being honest, I think that reality could impact my individual life. Okay, in my daily life in some way. That’s right. It comes down to my body. That’s in some way.
Resmaa Menakem 19:55
Did you go beyond that? Did you think well, it could impact my body in this way. To impact my body, but where did you land when you said it could impact my body?
Keith Kurlander 20:06
Mostly it wasn’t I didn’t go all the way into very detailed scenarios it was more like, is my personal way of life? And that way of thinking, Yeah, my personal way of life. Yeah. gonna change. Like, well, I have less opportunity. Will it be scarier in public? Is it going to be a higher level of threat than it is now? Which is already? Yeah. I mean, it’s not ideal right now. It’s not amazing, right? I mean, we just talked about everyone in this country, right? You get plowed down at a supermarket, right? Yeah. Like it’s a little hairy out there. Yeah. But I again, as the white body like it’s relatively safe for me. So that got impacted.
Resmaa Menakem 20:50
Yeah, you guys want to ask that question is that the level of fairness and horror that I saw, when I watched that is impacted by the way that I moved in this world, like the way that I am in this Black body. And let me illustrate what I mean by that. So my agent who I love, I was friends with his wife before he became an agent’s literary agent. So a lot of the stuff that I work on in the book, I run through him because not only is he a writer and an agent, but he just has a good eye for stuff, right? And so I was talking to him about in the book, I keep talking about body, not identity. And he kept like, saying, pushing back on it. He said, well they are the same? I said, no they’re not. When I’m saying body, I’m saying that there’s a pigmentocracy that was created, and that pigmentocracy said, when I look out in the fields, when I look across the street, I can tell who’s human and who’s not based on pigmentation. That’s the pigment tangles, and there’s ranking and power and access given to that right, with the black body, being the most deviant from humaneness to the race question in this country is a species question always been the species question. Right? Is Resmaa a monkey? And the answer to the legal institutions to economic institutions to the educational institutions is that yes, he is a monkey. Right? He is not a fool. Just a couple of days ago, the House passed the anti-lynching law a bill. It’s not a law yet, but a bill, anti-lynching. And 2022 lynching is not federally illegal, as we speak. Wow, lynching. So when I said to Scott, who’s my agent, I said, Scott, I said, let me explain it to you like this. I said, I love you love me, we haven’t been friends for a long time, right? Let’s say, Me, and you were both Jewish. And we left the temple. And we were walking down the street. And the police decided that they were going to stop us for whatever reason, are we going to have the same experience or a different experience? Now we’re both Jewish? Are we going to have this any goes I got? I got it. She said, What you’re saying is that identity exists and is important. But that ain’t the same thing as pigment autocracy and pigment. I said, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And this shapes that. And so the reason why I asked you that question, Keith, was because when I’m listening to you talk around my life might be changed. What I don’t hear in your voice, even when you’re talking about it now, is the horror that should be present. Right? I hear inconvenience, it might be inconvenience, or might be I could potentially be in danger and all that other stuff. But I don’t hear horror. And you can hear it in my voice. You could read it in the book. That was horror, when I saw that hearkened back to the lynchings that harken back to what my people have had to contend with, since our feet touch the story. And so that’s the piece I was trying to instill in the book was like that piece where y’all just go, oh, that’s bad, is not the same piece that happens in me. And then giving the benefit of the doubt that white bodies love collectively given the benefit of that you say it probably won’t happen. And what I’m saying is, I’m coming from the people that were raped for 250 years legally legally raped for 215 years. When you tell me it probably won’t happen when I hear it, I can believe that you’re potentially dangerous also, because you don’t understand what we’re dealing with. I’m not talking about this personally, I’m saying what happens in me is like when you Say the word probably won’t happen. How do you know? Like the horror that my people that indigenous people have experienced when you say that what happens in us is, yeah, you might be progressive. But you’re missing this collective piece. This weight, the volume of what you saw on January 6, harkens throughout time.
Keith Kurlander 25:23
Yeah well. So I want to say just to be clear, first of all, I was relating more to myself around. Am I going to be back in Nazi Germany? That was more of a personal thing there. But that probably won’t happen, just to be clear is yeah, I already think it’s happening. It’s not that like what we’re talking about here would be an extreme fall of society type thing. Like, yeah, I already think we’re in Yes, a civil split. That is, is completely, we’re at a crossroads. I already see ourselves that we’re already arrived. Right. But I’m not professing that I’m engaging this as much as I could be. I’m not. Yeah. And the reason I’m not I think still is my I’m leaning on whiteness to not as much as an urgent position, because of my comfort. Like you’re saying, I’m doing some things. I could be doing a lot more. Yeah. And that’s real.
Resmaa Menakem 26:26
Yeah. And that’s the piece that I’m trying to get at and quickly over man is that the doing is going to have to be both individual and collective among white Bodies. If you think we’re at a crossroads, we’ve been at a crossroads since 1860. And the only difference now is that there’s Campbell’s. That’s the only difference. So
Keith Kurlander 26:50
We’re in a new wave. There are a lot of waves. You want a big wave, right? Yeah. And I don’t know where we’re at in the waves, but it’s a wave, it’s a tsunami.
Resmaa Menakem 26:58
Underneath the wave. Other waves are coming down and crashing around. That’s what it is.
Keith Kurlander 27:04
I also want to say another thing. Let’s talk a little bit about this, because I think it’s really important, which is about resourcing for safety inside oneself. Let’s just talk about the climate right now. What does it look like in a place where you already feel unsafe, right? And what do you do in order to get to a place where you feel resourced enough that you have basic safety inside your body enough to walk across the street? And you feel like there’s some resource, right? Yeah, you threw out martial arts in there a little bit. I went through a big well, and I bought that I went through a big journey or martial arts for this very reason. Working through my Holocaust, sorts of situations, right, almost 75 years a bet to go really deep into a martial art until I started going, actually, I am safe. Enough. Yeah, I’m safe enough. Yeah, I came from a place of walking around. I’m not safe. Now. I’m in a white body. Yeah, so I’m just sharing this because I related to this piece in there. And I want to talk a little bit more about creating internal and external safety resources, in a climate that sometimes isn’t safe,
Resmaa Menakem 28:13
and quick, and I talk a lot about white bodies love striking out on their own. Like, I need to be safe myself, I need to make my bike very individual, right. And what happened to most poor white babies at the hands of elite white bodies for eons did not happen to individual white bodies. It happened to collections of white bodies. What happened in Germany, it wasn’t just one, Edelstein. Right. We’re gonna just get a whole army and just go after Adelstein. That’s not what happened is like the collection of Jewish white bodies, right, is what we’re going to exterminate and brutalized and raping kids. And so I believe that healing has to also do that. Healing has to be communal, you have to do the individual pieces, but you also have to do the communal pieces. Let me give you an example. When I do my workshops, and my training online, one of the first things is to get two hours into a session. And one of the things that inevitably happens is I have some progressive white person, click on and say resume, I hear everything you say, and I agree 100% with what you’re saying, and I’ve read my grandmother’s hands and baba, baba, blah, all this different type of stuff. And then they’ll say, but when do we get to sit and talk with black bodies or indigenous bodies so we can reach across the aisle and do this together? Because white bodies don’t want to be in a room with other white bodies to talk about race and to work on race, specifically, not everything else but race. It makes them crazy. And when they end up doing this they start attacking each other. They start going to each other. They start doing the hierarchical stuff. They start up all this just starts playing up, which is why when I do my training, I don’t have bodies of culture and white bodies in a room together? I don’t do it. And if it is, it’s very, it’s very orchestrated. It’s because that spring loaded us that energy that exists among white bodies have to be metabolized and taken care of, among other white bodies, before I bring you into a rule of bodies of culture and have you blow all of that 400 500 years aborted to those bodies? So the safe enough stuff can’t just be individually, it’s got to be how am I going to get together with two other white bodies, former triune for the rest of my life work these pieces over time, not only do I have a safe enough ethos, or safe enough sense of myself individually, but I have a safe enough understanding because I’ve worked it with other bodies, not just individual. Do you understand what I mean? And so for me, one of the things that I always have to caution bodies about is to stop looking to do this, on your own part of your running is that you have not developed a living embodied anti racist culture, to hold all of the things that are happening. So something new can emerge. Fourth, you haven’t done that. So what ends up happening, it becomes either an intellectual exercise or an individual exercise, but there’s no weight to it. And so in my book, I really talk about how the tempering conditioning needs to take place? What needs to happen, what things get surfaced that you have to contend with? And how do you begin to create a container like for me, I’m constantly getting death threats. I’m constantly getting people talking about doing something to me, where I’m gonna live and all that type of stuff. I come from a family where firearms have been part of our life since I’ve been a kid, right? My grandfather was in World War Two. My brother’s a police officer, I’ve always been around because I have gangsters in my family. Always been around guns. So for me, I carry right. But I’ve also boxed in martial arts and all that is a different episode. In Minneapolis, the concealed carry permits have gone up, like 50%. Right. Amongst bodies of culture, there are more black gun clubs and black gun associations. Why? Because black people are starting to see the Second Amendment as being something that’s tied to our survival now, not just recreation like so these ideas around martial arts, these ideas around developing tribes, these ideas around beginning to understand guns, more and more progressive people who are being vehemently against guns, you’re starting to see more progressives starting to began to take gun safety courses and all that difficult stuff. So for me, it really is about developing small ways to begin to process racialization and white by the supremacy amongst groups, and take what we’re seeing as seriously as seriously and not something that is negotiable.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 33:17
One of the things Rasma that is coming through this conversation for me is how insidious for white folk, the effects of these layers of trauma can be where you’re not aware, it’s different. Obviously, as you just said, it’s different for people of color than it is for us. I see us because my genetic shows I have not one gene from Africa, at least. I mean, that’s just what it is.
Resmaa Menakem 33:43
That’s amazing. Most of us have a mitochondrion of at least a little African woman. Yeah, right. So you real white why is that? You like a prototype of like?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 34:07
What I’m reminded of is sort of like a physician, by training. So many of the conditions that kill us are insidious diabetes, high blood pressure, come on. And these are all conditions, as you pointed out, in my grandmother’s hands are trauma related conditions and stressors, the stress, stress, stress, yeah, illnesses of chronic stress and the frog boiling in the pot of water who’d unknowns in there. And so I started getting overwhelmed when I started thinking about how deep that is, in my own healing work over decades of somatic experiencing and having the privilege to learn from Peter Levine and get a lot of work that helped me a lot. I will. There are just always more layers to work through in my body. And so it just, it chokes me up a little bit to think about how pervasive what we’re dealing with is and you mentioned the amniotic fluid of how we created this culture, if you want to call it that, and I get discouraged about how it’s going to be centuries to read a different culture.
Resmaa Menakem 35:13
Yeah, one of the things I’ve talked about is that it’s going to take at least nine generations before white bodies even know what the hell this is at least nine generations. And that’s if they start seeding right now. So there’s a piece that I’ve been researching lately. I think now, one of the things that we know is that we know that the first representation of humaneness on this earth did not start in a caucus mouth. Right? We know it didn’t start in Germany, right, we know that the first representation of humaneness homo sapiens on this earth started in Africa, the oldest bones are African woman, we also know that most of us besides you, of course, most of us have the mitochondria.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 35:58
Okay, I might have the mitochondria, I might have it.
Resmaa Menakem 36:06
Most of us have that great mother, Africa, by the country. Right? Not to say that there weren’t other women. But some of those women didn’t have children. Some of those women died out of some of the shows. So most of us come from that line. Right? Right. I asked this question when I was doing the talkback show about two years ago. And I asked this question to the audience. And you could hear the most pissing on cotton when I asked this question. I said, When did Europeans start to develop pale skin? And you would swear that I gave everybody in the audience a Rubik’s cube or something? Because people were like, What are you talking about? Like, what do you mean, when did they start to develop pale skin? And even the person who was interviewing me said, was that like, would you say I said, Europeans have not always had pale skin? I said, Did you realize you like pale skin and stuff? No, I’m not even talking about the 1500s. I’m not talking about starting that. I’m talking about just skin, that the idea of pale skin actually is less than 1000 years old.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 37:18
Well, that’s very recent, pull it up.
Resmaa Menakem 37:21
I’ve been doing all the science magazines and are starting to come out with them now. And they think it might have something to do with a vitamin D deficiency or something to do with milk or something like that. I’m not sure. But when you say that to white people, the idea of pale skin is less than 8000 years old. If that’s the case, your connection is really recent, like the connection between me and you, in terms of a body sense, is very recent. So how do we get from 1000 years, which is a blink, I mean, it’s nothing right? To the development of whiteness. This is why I say I start saying white privilege. And what I say now is white advantage, because in a society that’s constructed on whiteness, and white bodies, deeming themselves the standard of humaneness in that construction, the white body, it is not a privilege to be in a white body, it isn’t an advantage. Right? It is a literal event, it is not just a principle for some you can use a knife, right? Any advantage is something you have. So for me, the idea of talking with white people or talking with white folks and white bodies around this idea of pale skin and whiteness, like even when I say that to y’all, you can notice that there’s a texture to that. It’s like Holy fuck, like, what does that actually mean? Like, if the idea of pale skin is a relatively new occurrence in our evolution? What does that mean in terms of how I see myself connected to that black woman to the very first human being? Like, how am I connected to that? I’m not talking about religion, I’m not talking about a national, I’m not talking about identity, how am I connected? And are the things that I’m doing disconnecting me from that creation principle? You know what I mean? So for me, when I’m talking about where do we go from here, I’m talking about how do we begin to be reconnected to the trajectory of creation? And by trajectory, I mean, human to human I mean, human to Earth, I mean, human to bird, I mean, human to elemental pieces. How do white bodies begin to white bodies are not even thinking about that type of stuff. Like, how do I reconnect to creation? How did the construction of whiteness disrupt my connection to creation? That’s a whole nother thing that I think most white bodies have to develop a collective container to broach that As opposed to just going about it individually,
Keith Kurlander 40:03
I think that’s really good, this last piece is actually really good, a good piece to lean into with white bodies. Where do you come from? Where do you come from is really where you’re asking, Where do you think he was from? Where do you think you come from? Yeah. It’s I think it’s a really important piece to reflecting on
Dr. Will Van Derveer 40:22
and highlighting what I’m hearing you do. Rasma is calling attention to the unperceived cost of being disconnected from where you came from, which is such an important part of our health, at least from my very amateur study of indigenous tradition, like, knowing where you come from is your health. Like, if you don’t have that you’re you can’t be healthy.
Resmaa Menakem 40:44
It mores you, like most white folks who came to America gave up there may think about it, think about it. They shortened it, they truncated it, they gave up pieces of themselves for the opportunity to be white. Not only that, but that was part of the rubric. Giving that piece up, creates a longing. And after you log for something for a while, and you don’t get it, you’re willing to take anything that comes along because Bill that, huh?
Keith Kurlander 41:22
Well, I also just clarify, is it that they gave up their names to become white American, right? Because they were coming from other nationalisms that they had to give up. They want to disassociate from other areas around the world. Exactly.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 41:38
They didn’t want to not pass as white.
Resmaa Menakem 41:40
And that’s the piece that whiteness has currency. Would you watch what happened in the Ukraine with white Ukrainian stopping black and indigenous and brown bodies? And Eric folks from getting on planes? That’s the currency, everybody knows the currency. But when you say that’s the currency, people go, Oh, you’re reverse racist? No, I’m just saying that that’s actual currency, that when you watch people write themselves as more human and non human, not because they didn’t ask, are you really Ukrainian? Now you have an asset? You looked out? And you said, in that sea of humanity, those are more human than thou. So global currency.
Keith Kurlander 42:26
Let’s take another 10 minutes or so where do you want to go? Rasma? Why don’t you tap into yourself for a minute. So we want to take this verse.
Resmaa Menakem 42:34
In the book, I talk about preparing your body, preparing your body for this stuff, don’t be so quick to blow it off as not really important. Right? And one of the things I talk about both in my grandmother’s sands and in this book, I talk about vendors, right, they’re the vendors are literal facets of creation. They’re literal intelligences within creation, and that whiteness has truncated the import of those intelligences. We’ve said that the only intelligence that should really get any room is cognitive intelligence
Dr. Will Van Derveer 43:16
and cognition. Let’s explain for the audience members some vibrations. Yeah. So the members
Resmaa Menakem 43:21
are vibrations, images, thoughts, dreams, cognitions. meaning making and shifts in behavior. It urges, effect, and feelings and emotionality. And sensation and sensation. Right? Yep. And so whiteness can truncate the expression of those pieces. And so we have to begin to do in triads and and community and individually, is that we have to begin to hone those other intelligences. So we can actually access not just what’s cognitive, but access what’s in the room in the world in the experience. And so a lot of the work that I do is helping people begin to work with what it is like to have a VA, I as a black man cannot walk down the street and not have some understanding of vibration? A vibes of potential, both safety and danger, right? My people, I come from a people who were raped for 250 years, they had to pick up on what was in the environment before somebody said something. The average age of rape on plantations was nine years old. Right? This American experiment was born out of rape culture. And when I say right, I don’t mean just women. I mean women, men, children. For most of our history, the white body has had full and unfettered access to every part of the black body. It is relatively new, like me talking to y’all the way that I’m talking to y’all right now, that’s new. That’s new. And white bodies don’t have any collective place in their collective understanding of a free black body. Just let that land for a sec. For most of our history, the white body is used to having full and unfettered access to the black body. And I’m not talking in the South. I’m saying in the South, in the north, it was the one of the things that one of my ancestors said to Malcolm X, he said, as long as you south of the Canadian border you in the cell, right, is that this idea? That, that the black body is only as valuable as the white body says it is in the white body in that construction in the trap that the white body set for itself. In order to do that it has to truncate its understanding of creation. With regard to vibrations, it had to truncate this understanding of working with image, working with Dream working with texture working with volume, working with CHARGE working with weight, right, it had to truncate. In order to participate in the organization of whiteness, white bodies collectively had to truncate part of their experience with meaning make, as it relates to race specifically, had to truncate their experience with behavior in urges, feeling an emotional connection, as an expression of creation itself. And so for me, the vendors and beginning and white bodies beginning to work those vendors with other white bodies, right, is so paramount for white folks right now that the white bodies can continue to operate. When you see 144 people get injured at the cap, when you see people dying, and being killed, right? When you see people down, many of the police officers shooting themselves becoming homeless, having very demonstrative mental health issues, after that thing when you see that, and you don’t understand that that comes from a real rooted place. Right? If you don’t begin to work those pieces and condition yourself around developing a different sense than any other intelligences, then you’re going to be overwhelmed, and put your hands up and say I can’t do it. This is why I say it’s gonna take at least nine generations.
Keith Kurlander 47:55
Let’s wrap up here. You’ve spoken to this already. But I want to have you speak to this again, in a little bit of a different way. So I encountered many white bodies that were very, very mentally ill during the Trump administration, there were many people who were very troubled by those four years in a deep way. And I don’t see that as much right now. Okay, so I want you to just speak in a different way about the transition of power. And there were white bodies that were very freaked out in a big way and scared and less so now. Not all I’m not, I’m not generalizing tall, white bodies. But you’re talking about something that continued? Yes. That you’re writing to your book. Okay. You’re talking about a continuation process versus like, a chapter that maybe ended and maybe it’s coming back, but it’s like, you’re talking about a continuation process, right? So maybe just let’s kind of wrap up there about the continuation that we’re in and that nothing’s going away. And, and you know, how that shifted that there were many people that got actually very sick, and all bodies. Yeah, during those years, and there’s still people that are troubled by that. But I wanted to speak to that a little bit.
Resmaa Menakem 49:14
So one of the things that I say is that before COVID, 19, black people had to deal with COVID 1619. And white folks wanted to, if you notice, a lot of people were saying, We got to return, we gotta get back to where we could just be with each other. We got to these masks and stopped breathing. I got a medical condition all like these little inconveniences become a major political rallying cry, right. And this is why I say we’ll keep that we’re not going to get out of this. White bodies in particular are not going to get out of this by thinking about it differently. Right. They’re going they get out of this because they develop a culture that can actually hold what it takes to get the gotten this
Keith Kurlander 50:08
great for you as a somatic engagement. Yeah, and a somatic
Resmaa Menakem 50:11
engagement is a piece of it. But the reason why I choose somatic engagement is because it forces bodies up against each other and forces bodies to develop a different sense of being with each other and being in the world. And you got to get reps in on that. You have to be tempered on that. And what happens with a lot of white bodies collectively, is that when the tempering, because white supremacy white by the supremacy is in racism is an immature idea, right? Their immaturity pops up before they stay in it long enough to actually mature. Do you understand it
Dr. Will Van Derveer 50:57
makes a lot of sense.
Resmaa Menakem 50:58
That’s why the tempering is so important, is because you get little pieces of the wreck. So you can condition your body to be able to withstand the 400 years of charge that is actually here. Right? Most of my buddies don’t want to do that. The moment stuff gets to be too much. They can drop the race stuff and move out to a suburb, they can drop the race stuff. And because their quote unquote, mental health is too bad, they don’t engage in it anymore, right? They don’t come back to it. I don’t get that option. And so that’s why I talk about the embodiment rather than creating a living embodied anti racist culture, your ideas are not enough. Your niceness, white bodies collectively think that niceness and kindness is the same thing as anti racism in creating a living, but they’re nice, right? Because here’s what white bodies can do is that white bodies say those people on January 6, que que que to people who were saying Jews will not replace is the guy that was wearing the Alpha shirts. Those are the bad White. I’m a good one. Right? But my goodness is only self declared. It is not good because my goodness comes out of a culture that pushes anti racism in the living body and anti racist culture building. No, I get to self declare that I’m a good one. And then nobody holds me accountable. I’m not accountable to other white bodies. I’m not accountable to what it really means to usher in a living embodiment, anti racist culture, I get to declare it. And what’s starting to happen is that the tightening that a lot of white bodies are experiencing now is the noose tightening because they’ve avoided it for four and five and 600 years, they’ve avoided it. So now it’s getting tighter and tighter and tighter and what you’re starting to see is more mental health issues in white body. There’s more stress related stuff in the white body we just don’t see. Right, that’s because this piece has never been dealt with communally. Thanks for Thanks so
Keith Kurlander 53:07
much. Rasma for coming on. Again. It’s always great to talk to you
Resmaa Menakem 53:11
anytime I get to work with John man. It’s cool. It’s good stuff.
Keith Kurlander 53:18
We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice podcast, where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.