Mindfulness and a Few Closing Thoughts on the Problem of Whiteness (Entry VIII)
Welcome! You have found your way into the middle of a discussion of the experiences of people of color in primarily white meditation communities. To access the beginning of this thread, click here. Otherwise, please read on.
The findings I have presented here have some limitations. I only interviewed eleven people of color, all from a single community. That community occupies a particular cultural niche in a unique urban/suburban environment. The people of color I interviewed have had particular experiences in that particular community. To say that every primarily white meditation community in America will enact precisely these six dynamics would, therefore, be a pretty big stretch.
Still, after having shared my findings with many members of primarily white meditation communities, both POC and white, from many different primarily white meditation communities across the country, I have come to believe that there are probably certain currents in these findings that, in fact, do apply to nearly all primarily white meditation communities in America.
In fact, one of the baseline conclusions I draw from the findings listed above is that primarily white meditation communities in America behave very much like other primarily white communities in America. Whether in hospitals, clinics, schools, churches, neighborhoods, or meditation communities, there seem to be very similar narratives that members of the majority culture have absorbed and then enact, nearly always without noticing. These narratives seem to play out, one way or another, in the form of the themes listed above, such as interpersonal and institutional barriers to full participation. The East Coast Meditation Community is no exception. Other primarily white meditation communities that are serious about being inclusive and equitable spaces for people of color will likely find that they are no exception either.
In addition, the ECMC community took a long time to wake up to its own whiteness. Along the way, white community members had to begin to admit that they were participating in subtle exclusionary practices. They had to educate themselves about how these dynamics were playing out and how they might deconstruct and combat them. They had to move beyond their comfort zones, receive difficult feedback, and find ways to stay in painful conversations. Other primarily white meditation communities that are serious about being inclusive and equitable spaces for people of color will likely have to go through similar processes.
The good news is that, according to most of the people of color I interviewed for this project, ECMC has made good progress toward creating inclusive and equitable environments for people of color. Or, perhaps more accurately, they have made good progress in allowing POC to create inclusive and equitable environments for themselves. Because much of the work for white members of primarily white meditation communities – or for that matter, white members of any white majority culture – is to simply get out of the way and allow the people of color to determine more of the direction of the community. For ECMC, this work has included the creation and funding of a POC affiliation group, the creation and funding of diversity and equity committees, the empowerment of people of color on the board and the teachers council, and racial awareness training for white members of the community.
The East Coast Meditation Community is one of the first primarily white mindfulness communities in America to make a serious investment in racial equity work. As such, they have run into difficulty, conflict, and frustration. However, they may now represent a template for other primarily white meditation communities who would like to do similar work. It is my hope that the findings and conclusions presented here can facilitate and support this growing movement in our communities.
For other themes, click on the links below.
- Interpersonal Barriers to Full Participation
- Institutional Barriers to Full Participation
- Strategies for Coping with Racialized Exclusion
- Range of POC Experiences
- Failures of Leadership Support for People of Color
- Promoting Equity and Inclusion
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