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Fighting Racism Through Mindfulness

Jill Suttie of Greater Good Magazine, interviews Law Professor Rhonda Magee on how mindfulness-based awareness and compassion is key to racial justice work. 

For more than two decades Professor Rhonda Magee has worked to address issues of race, racism, and identity-based conflict while teaching law at the University of San Francisco.  Teaching students about the many ways that racism affects law and justice, she came to realize that “we can’t just think our way out of racism or other biases-we need to go deeper  if we are to truly address bias in ourselves and others.”  In her book, The Inner work of Racial Justice, Professor Magee asserts that “mindfulness meditation may hold the key to grappling with interpersonal racism because it helps people tolerate the discomfort that comes with tougher discussions about race. And, it can help cultivate a sense of belonging and community for those who experience and fight racism in our everyday lives.”

“Mindfulness supports our ability to notice very subtle aspects of our lived experience and to be present with those aspects,” Magee says. “It also provides an ethical lens to help us understand how the ways we engage impact our interpersonal relationships and actions in the world.”  Mindfulness practice can bring about transformation on three levels: personal, interpersonal, and collective. “We must first clearly see our own biases in action, and how they harm others, and then work with compassion to bring justice into the world.”

Magee points out that we have been trained and conditioned through lenses of race, gender, and the intersections of those two, day after day, living in cultures that constantly feed the sense that we are different from and even should be afraid of each other. “Many of us have been raised with the idea that it’s best not to talk about racial issues and that to fight racism, we must be ‘colorblind.’  But bringing mindfulness and compassion practices to bear on experiences around race can help deepen our insight into how we see race, and how racism factors in all our lives. This is called ColorInsight. Developing ColorInsight – the capacity to analyze race and racism in our own lives, with compassion – can aid us in having more meaningful and healing discussions.  I wrote the book to help people recognize and grapple with bias and its impacts, to help us stop recreating spheres of separation and inequality. We all have a role to play and can help make a difference right where we are,” states Magee. Seedling Mentors are in the perfect position to model this approach. 

Excerpted from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_fight_racism_through_inner_work

Other resources: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-mindfulness and https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

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