My Grandmother’s Hands Book Summary, by Resmaa Menakem

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1-Page Summary of My Grandmother’s Hands


Racism is part of America’s DNA. It has affected every single American in some way, whether it be slavery or police violence or small day-to-day injustices that happen to black people. Racism affects white Americans as well because they are living with the burden of racism caused by historical and social events. This trauma can change a person’s brain chemistry and nervous system which is why we need to heal from this trauma so that racism will end completely.

In order to understand how racism is perpetuated in America, it’s important to know its history. In this essay, the author will explain the brutal European Middle Ages and how that led to police killings of black people today. He’ll also discuss why many encounters with police end violently for black Americans and ways we can overcome white body supremacy as a country.

Big Idea #1: Racism lives in our bodies.

The author’s grandmother picked cotton as a child. She worked on a plantation and her fingers were torn up by the sharp burrs of the plant.

This is just one example of the bodily harm racism causes. However, not all of the physical damage racism does can be seen. Racism also harms people in ways that are less visible to others, such as when they’re unconscious or unaware of their actions or beliefs. Many people don’t overtly practice racism but still perpetuate it without knowing it.

The key message here is that racism lives in our bodies. One time, the author’s wife noticed a Walmart employee who was checking receipts randomly after people checked out. Except she only seemed to check Black customers. When the author’s wife told a supervisor about this incident, she realized it wasn’t random at all and apologized for her actions.

Racism is deeply ingrained in many white Americans. They don’t even notice how they contribute to it, and with this racism comes a lack of attention towards the problem. Black people are used to dealing with racial injustice, so they don’t pay much attention either.

But there is a difference. In the United States, where white people are valued over black people, Black Americans suffer more from stress-related diseases and violence than white Americans do. They also experience higher rates of mental distress and depression because they are subject to direct violence such as police brutality.

Racism in the US is a physical experience, both for its victims and perpetrators. It’s caused by the history of this country, as well as social systems and injustices that happen every day. It’s buried deep within all Americans.

Big Idea #2: Trauma compounds over time, between individuals, and across generations.

Our bodies are always trying to feel safe. When we’re safe, our body is calm and collected. However, when it feels threatened, the body goes into a state of high alert in order to help us fight or run away from the threat. Sometimes that threat is so overwhelming that our body remains in this state of high alert for long periods of time, which can lead to trauma. Trauma affects everyone differently but doesn’t mean it’s an isolated experience; like a virus, trauma can spread between people over generations.”

The main takeaway from this is that trauma can be passed down over the generations.

Trauma can be a result of one event. But it may also come from many ongoing events as well. For example, Black people in America face this kind of trauma because they are constantly being threatened by racism and police brutality.

Trauma can damage your body and mind. It can make you sick, even if it’s not physical trauma. And the way we react to trauma is often involuntary and instinctive rather than by thinking about it rationally.

My Grandmother’s Hands Book Summary, by Resmaa Menakem

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