Wow, my head is swimming. I’m trying to decide where to begin, but wherever I start, feels like the middle. I’m talking about systemic racism and the most recent example being the new voter suppression law in Georgia. It’s just one of over 250 measures in 43 states designed to keep Republicans in power no matter what voters want. What?
Thank you Heather Cox Richardson for bringing this to my attention before any news source did. This last line of her March 25th letter was stunning: The story today is not about coronavirus vaccines, or border solutions, or economic recovery, because all of those things depended on the election of Joe Biden. If the Republicans get their way, no matter how popular Democrats are, they will never again get to direct the government.
That sentence left me dumbfounded.
Soon after reading that, I met with my biweekly Embodied Antiracist Group where we’re reading My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem. The book is centered on racial trauma as it’s manifested in Black bodies, white bodies, and in the law enforcement system. After reading just the first chapter, I can glean the premise is that we need to heal this racialized trauma before we can make real change. It’s like the foundation in a building - you just have to start there.
We started out this week with an embodied practice asking, as it relates to racialized trauma, where do we feel hope in our bodies? Where do we feel fear? After feeling into it, for me, the good news is that I could plainly see that all my fear is in my head! All stemming from my good friend, The Lizard Brain. This is what runs through my Lizard Brain: “I’m striving to live my life wholeheartedly - but what if my wholeheartedness isn’t received the way I mean. What if my black friends think I’m paying lip service? What if I am? I sincerely want to understand and be understood.”
In many of our courses at Perfect Avocado Retreats, we talk about brain science and specifically the lizard brain, and how it can run our lives if we’re not paying attention, which we usually aren’t. So this next quote from the book is simultaneously shocking and no surprise:
“White-body supremacy is always functioning on our bodies. It operates in our thinking brains, in our assumptions, expectations and mental shortcuts. It operates in our muscles and nervous system, where there is routinely constriction. But it operates most powerfully in our lizard brains, Our lizard brain cannot think. It is reflexively protective, and it is strong. It loves whatever it feels will keep us safe and it fears and hates whatever it feels will do us harm.” (Menakem, 2017, pg. 6)
I’ve always thought of the lizard brain as that in-the-moment fight or flight impulse. It’s shocking because I’ve never thought of the lizard brain working as an embedded trauma response - that can be passed down generationally. Having seen it, though, it’s one of those things you can’t unsee. I can completely relate to this as a woman. I KNOW I’ve passed on my own gendered trauma to both of my children.
And that helps me to understand how rampant racism can be so entrenched. We keep trying to step over the trauma and just ask ourselves to get over it. Ha! Especially with regard to racism, more and more I am learning that we really all just don’t see things the same way. Even the people that we agree with may have trauma responses that we don’t relate to at all. We are born and living our lives from different upbringing, social mores, values and different trauma.
All that being said, I get stuck between understanding that all trauma is in the body, and the work must begin there, and being terrified that our country will devolve into oligarchy before that can happen.
But I am a master badass at hope. I’m confident in hopefulness and part of being hopeful is being able to imagine a future where our racialized trauma is healed. It’s so much easier to envision more and worse of what we’ve got and where we are, but please oh please, I HOPE that you will join me in looking at your trauma and how to cultivate hope in the body.
Dear Lizard, it’s ok, we’ve got this.