Tending To A Fundamental Ache Of Our Time

If you have been reading this newsletter for a while you will have noticed that the voices I elevate and the stories I tell here here at Primal Derma are ones of people (human and non-human) who are connected to a real life affirming kind of culture that have (or had) a kind of devotional relationship with land and/or place. These cultures braid grief and endings and sorrows to be amidst their joys, their food, and their beauty making to constitute their handmade lives. I will continue to be telling these stories for as long as Primal Derma lives.

If you haven’t been reading these newsletters for long I’d welcome you to go to PrimalDerma.com/blog to read the older ones.

These voices and stories are very often ones from people of color – black and brown people, indigenous people from all over the world. But I have also written many stories about people who could, incorrectly in my view, be called ‘white.’ Ukranians, indigenous Swiss, ancient Italics, French, The Manx of the Isle of Man, The thatchers of Wales…to name just a few.

I’m a life long Jewish New Yorker with generations of New York Jews behind me with further origins from anywhere Jews were chased from in Eastern Europe – Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the like. When my ancestors came across on boats, despite their similar skin color, they were not considered to be white. Same for Italians, or Irish people, or Polish people, or Germans. And many others. All of these people, who arrived here in flight, were often hated at their arrival. Through direct and indirect means these people were profoundly compelled to give up part of their ancestry and trade it for the acceptance and respectability of being ‘white’ and being American. Sure, they were allowed a little bit of cultural heritage as memory but the larger trade was made. But the fact that they were even allowed to make the trade was a kind of racialized privilege too.

I have been a beneficiary of the trade my ancestors made – swapping some portion of their Jewishness and their own cultural heritage for the cover of whiteness and being American. I have  enjoyed white privilege my entire life because of this trade by my ancestors and the trade that others made that more deeply embedded whiteness as a virtue in this part of the world.

The United States specifically, but the West in general, has a brutally rough history of colonial violence, racism, genocide and land theft stamped on its form from the beginning. Because the West has been so fervent in making others forget part of their heritage, it has itself forgot its own. And because of this, our collective capacity to braid grief and endings and sorrows to be amidst our joys, our food, and our beauty making to constitute anything that looks even a little bit like a  handmade life is compromised and frayed.

The likelihood of this being undone at scale in our lifetimes is zero. And if it is to be undone at scale it will likely take many, many generations. And it is not guaranteed to happen either. But it must begin in earnest  – come what may.

If you have been loving Primal Derma and these newsletters you have been part of an anti-racist work. This is not the sole aim of Primal Derma; anti-racism is a natural outgrowth of the elevation of our approach and the stories we tell. In these times it is not enough to simply not be racist, the hard work of being actively working to undo racism and the structures that hold it in place is part of the larger and mandatory culturally redemptive work

I’ve been doing my own anti-racist work and cultural reclamation work for a long time and there is much more to do.

If you haven’t taken this up yourself yet, I’m glad to have been doing a small bit with these newsletters but I’d urge you to do more. My dear friend Kimberley Johnson of Magamama.com suggests these resources:

1. This is a 5- part free course with Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. I highly recommend this book, and his podcast a well.
2. This is an extensive list of resources from children’s books to articles to videos to books.
3. On Tuesday June 2, from 12-1 ET, Jen Willsea, an anti-racism educator of 20 years experience will lead a free talk. She is non-shaming, and teaches from her personal experience. All are welcome.
Kimberly writes further that, “Jen’s approach to anti-racism and transforming whiteness is guided by these core commitments.

  • Nourish long-term, three-dimensional relationships with Black, Indigenous and People of Color as well as white accomplices
  • Root in context by being place-specific and history-informed
  • Remember that all forms of oppression and liberation are interconnected
  • Keep race at the forefront, and understand that racism is at its heart about power and resource-hoarding
  • Honor that there is always more to learn and room to grow
  • Navigate tension and conflict as a generative force
My dear friend Mattie Clark of The Lost Wildness suggests
This month long training from Spiritual Progressives that starts on June 1st
This 2.5 day workshop from The Peoples’ Institute for Survival and Beyond who have been doing ‘Undoing Racism’ workshops for 40 years
This book which is a 30 day self inquiry to dismantle and own your own experience with white supremacy
And joining a local chapter, if there is one of Showing Up For Racial Justice
None of these are perfect or magic bullets or will solve or fix the problem. But they are all worthy starts. I have worked with some of these people and programs, but not all of them but I hold these two women in high esteem for their suggestions.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Primal Derma and your willingness to deal with big and important things with and from your skincare provider.

If you have any questions or concerns I am 100% willing to have a conversation or communication with anybody about this email and the subject therein.

With great affections from New York City which sits a top Lenape land,


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