My Grandmother’s Hands | Resmaa Menakem

Summary of: My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts
By: Resmaa Menakem


Discover the profound impact that racialized trauma has on our bodies and how healing can begin through the powerful insights found in ‘My Grandmother’s Hands’. In this book, Resmaa Menakem examines the deeply ingrained racism that exists within America and the lasting effects it has on the human body. By understanding the trauma that is passed through generations and recognizing the role we all play in perpetuating it, learn how to break the cycle and strive towards racial healing. This summary will explore the critical themes and essential messages the book has to offer, providing a deeper understanding of the way forward.

The Bodily Effects of Racism

Racism is not only a mental and social issue but also a physical one. It permeates our bodies in ways we may not consciously register, affecting both victims and perpetrators. From early childhood, experiences of racial prejudice and trauma leave their enduring marks in physical and mental distress. Black Americans, in particular, suffer disproportionately from this trauma, experiencing higher rates of stress-related diseases and violence, such as police brutality. However, many white Americans remain oblivious to the deep-seated nature of racism in their own bodies. It is essential to recognize and address racism’s hidden roots and consequences to overcome it.

Trauma’s Compounding Effects

Our body’s natural response to a threat is to enter a state of high alert, resulting in a trauma when stuck in this state. Trauma compounds over time, between individuals, and across generations, affecting entire populations. Even the safest coping mechanisms can perpetuate trauma. This intergenerational trauma can be transmitted genetically and is still inflicted on certain populations today. Healing the body is key to healing the soul wound caused by trauma.

The Invention of Race

The idea of race, and consequently the belief in white supremacy, is a social construct that was invented in the late 17th century. This construct divided working-class individuals into black and white categories, with the latter receiving marginal benefits. White supremacy and white body supremacy emerged with the myth of white fragility, which posits that white bodies are fragile and need protection from dangerous black bodies. This is the reason behind the routine killing of innocent Black people by police and the rejection of job applications with “Black”-sounding names. Black bodies have been considered aggressive and hypersexual, and centuries of racial trauma have made everyone scared of each other. It is time to undo the myths of race and fragility and work towards understanding and equality.

Healing Trauma for Racial Equality

Racism runs deep in our bodies and can result in traumatic reactions. The trauma can often lead to violent police actions towards black people. To overcome racism, we need to heal our bodily trauma. Trauma therapists have developed exercises to help the body regain its sense of safety. The body scan is a mindfulness exercise that helps acknowledge and relieve pain and tension, allowing us to become calm and clear-headed. Practicing these exercises can help us work towards collective trauma with others, regardless of race or profession.

Healing Trauma with Body-Based Exercises

Trauma can have a profound and lasting impact on the body and soul. It can cause mental disorders and physical diseases. Black people, in particular, need to confront and heal their trauma. Body-based exercises, such as meditation, breathing exercises, and body scanning, can help process trauma. Engaging in these practices with others can also have a powerful soothing effect. In addition to exercises, general self-care is essential to healing trauma, including getting enough rest, eating healthily, and incorporating fun and relaxing activities into daily life. Starting with your own body is the key to changing the world.

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