Tarana Burke Says Our Nation Has Been Traumatized — and We Need to Look to Survivors to Heal

The MeToo movement's next act is going bigger. Way bigger.

Tarana Burke
Photo: Getty Images

Survivor, activist, founder of the Me Too movement, and overall badass Tarana Burke wants everyone to join the movement, whether you're a survivor or not. And she also wants everyone to know that that doesn't necessarily have to mean showing up to marches and protests. It can be as simple as picking up a book and educating yourself or volunteering through her Act Too movement.

In this week's podcast episode of InStyle's Ladies First with Laura Brown Burke tells Brown that any step you take to understand survivors and their experience can help drive change.

"My ambition, which is a lofty goal and a big, ambitious, juicy thing, is we want to make sure people understand survivors as a power base," she says. "We are a constituency. We can move policy. We can make people pay attention to people who we hire to represent us, pay attention to who we are. Our goal is to make sure that everybody from the president down understands sexual violence as a public health crisis, right? You got millions of people affected by this singular thing. We have to be more serious about how we approach dealing with it."

And there's no better time than the present to start making things right. Because not only are millions of survivors healing from sexual and domestic violence, but our entire country is in the process of healing from a number of traumas that we've faced as a collective. So we have to look at survivors — of all types — and follow their lead in resilience.

"What we've gone through the last four years is a collective trauma. One of the things that I really want to impress upon people in the world is that healing is possible. We define what resilience looks like. People who have survived traumatic experiences exemplify what resilience looks like," Burke tells Brown. "And this is a time where we can use the lessons we learned in our survival to really help people heal in the world because we don't need to, as Seinfeld says, "yada, yada" this moment. We need to pay attention to how people are feeling, what they're thinking, how they're moving and really do work to make sure we move into the next moment feeling good about this stuff."

Tarana Burke on Power: Episode 12: February 16, 2021

InStyle Ladies First with Laura Brown

Following the insurrection at the Capitol, Burke took to Instagram to address the hypocrisy of both the Confederate flag and the government.

"Just hours before in the same building folks who took an oath to be representatives of the people of this country were actively working against this country trying to defy a legal election," she wrote on Instagram. "Hours later here was the confederate flag in the Capitol looking like it was home."

She expanded on this idea to Brown that this act of terrorism and disrespect of our country's democracy comes from the leadership.

"Like Malcolm X says, chickens coming home to roost. Hours before that, there were groups of politicians who were elected, American politicians elected to represent American people who are standing against a fairly elected incoming president who were denouncing his election in favor of this treasonous list of long things that I could say about the sitting president. And I'm like, of course the Confederate flag is coming through the halls of Congress. You all created a path for it."

Change can happen when you recognize there is a problem to fix. Many Americans have rightfully felt ashamed over inexcusable actions of their fellow citizens — from the horrific incidents that fueled the Black Lives Matter movement last summer or the act of domestic terrorism on the Capitol in January — and they've insisted that this abhorrent behavior "isn't America." But Burke is reminding us that this is, in fact, the America we live in, until we can acknowledge this and push for change.

"It's not the America you want. It's not the America you want to witness, but it is the actual America that exists," she says.

Listen to the full episode and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. And tune in weekly to Ladies First with Laura Brown hosted by InStyle's editor in chief Laura Brown, who speaks to guests like Michelle Pfeiffer, Emily Ratajkowski, Cynthia Erivo, Naomi Watts, La La Anthony, Ellen Pompeo, Rep. Katie Porter, and more to discuss current events, politics, some fashion, and, most importantly, the major firsts in their lives.

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