Jewish Emergent Network
Challenge Resources: Section One
Scroll down for the readings from Section One of the Racial Equity Challenge
Silence by Langston Hughes
Of your silence
Before you speak
I do not need
To hear a word.
In your silence
Every tone I seek
“Embodiment is defined as the tangible, visible or lived form of an idea, quality, or feeling. As we develop understanding of the embodiment of racism, or the ‘racialization of bodies’ through systems, laws and structures, we are invited to consider the multiple processes over our lifetimes whereby bodies come to be seen as ‘having’ a racial identity. We cannot fully understand the production and promulgation of racism without reference to racial embodiment.” -Helen Ngo, The Habits of Racism: A Phenomenology of Racism and Racialized Embodiment
Embodiment of Racism
“We are living in a system in which human worth is determined by money, material wealth, color of skin, religion and other capricious factors that do not tell the true value of a soul. This is an insane system. Those who profit from this system have also determined, by rational and plundering, that the earth also has no soul, neither do the creatures, plants or other life forms matter. I call this system the over-culture. There is no culture rooted here from the heart, or the need to sing. It is a system of buying and selling. Power is based on ownership of land, the work force, on the devaluation of life. The power centers are the multinational corporations who exploit many to profit a few. True power does not amass through the pain and suffering of others.” -Joy Harjo, A Map to the Next World
Embodiment of Racism
“When I was a boy, I used to watch television with my grandmother. I would sit in the middle of the sofa and she would stretch out over two seats, resting her legs in my lap. She often felt pain in her hands and she’d ask me to rub them in mine. When I did, her fingers would relax, and she’d smile. Sometimes she’d start to hum melodically, and her voice would make a vibration that reminded me of a cat’s purr. She wasn’t a large woman, but her hands wee surprisingly stout, with broad fingers and thick pads below each thumb. One day I asked her, “Grandma, why are your hands like that? They ain’t the same as mine.” My grandmother turned from the television and looked at me. “Boy, she said slowly. “That’s from picking cotton. They been that way since long before I was your age. I started working in the fields sharecroppin when I was four.” I didn’t understand. I’d helped plant things in the garden a few times, but my own hands were bony and my fingers were narrow. I held up my hands next to hers and stared at the difference. “Umm hmm,” she said. “The cotton plant has pointed burrs in it. When you reach your hand in, the burrs rip it up. When I first started picking, my hands were all torn and bloody. When I got older, they got thicker and thicker, until I could reach in and pull out the cotton without them bleeding.” My grandmother died last year. Sometimes I can still feel her warm, thick hands in mine.” -Resma Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands
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