Notice the Rage, Notice the Silence

A friend sent me this open letter from Krista Tippett, of the On Being podcast. I have copied most of the letter below – have a read. Also, the audio of her interview with Resmaa Menakem is well worth a listen.

Here in Minneapolis, the street corner where George Floyd died with a police officer’s knee on his neck has become a sacred space of neighborliness, protest, bearing witness, lament, eating, bicycle repair, praying, mural-making, and singing. An alternative landscape of care has risen up amidst burned-out buildings, and it is teeming with young people. These pictures are not shown as constantly by drones and journalistic cameras as the pictues of destruction. But they are as true, and they matter as much. What is not covered seriously enough by journalism in crisis mode is often precisely what can save us: the redemptive landscape on which the work of the rest of our lifetimes is emerging.

Resmaa Menakem is a teacher and visionary in this city, though I only became aware of his groundbreaking work a few months ago. Just before the pandemic sent us into lockdown, I sat across from him in our studio on Loring Park. He watched me as closely as he listened to my words. He caught me bracing at the term ‘white supremacy,’ and taught me that noticing such bracing is exactly where I have to begin to live differently. He’s drawing on knowlege we’re just now gaining about systems and processes in our bodies that we’re only now learning to see: vagus nerve, psoas muscle, trauma.epigentices. He makes a stunning connection between generations of trauma that white bodies inflicted on each other in the centuries we call the Dark Ages and the generations of horrific trauma inflicted on black bodies in the ‘new world’ of America – which, as Langston Hughes wrote, ‘never was America to me.’ We are all literally carrying – breathing, reliving, and so repeating – much that didn’t happen to us personally. It’s one way to finally grasp why talking about race, and ‘teaching our brains to think better’ about race, has fallen brutally, tragically short: ‘the vital force behind white supremacy,’ Resmaa Menakem writes in his extraordinary book My Grandmother’s Hands, ‘is in our nervous systems’.”

This converstaion, and the intelligence and practical tools it offers, has become more precious to me with every day that has passed. I’ve drawn on theological language already in these paragraphs – confession, redemption. I’m also finding the notion of ‘repentance’ newly meaningful lately. Like so many other important sacred practices, we have taught this too much as inward, private work. But the word itself in the biblical Hebrew and Greek in kinetic. it is about stopping in your tracks and walking in another direction.”

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