Mindfulness and Failures of Leadership Support for People of Color (Entry VI)

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.

Failures of Leadership Support for People of Color

Unfortunately, the primarily white leadership of ECMC struggled to support community members of color, especially in the first ten years or so that people of color began to participate in larger numbers.

One difficulty emerged when people of color created an affiliation group specifically for POC community members. As one participant reported:

When the people of color sangha started, [white] folks were saying, 'Why do you need to separate yourselves out, we’re welcoming here.  Our doors are wide open to everybody," thereby invalidating the sorts of interpersonal and institutional barriers to full participation listed above.

The participant continued:

White community members would say, “Oh, you know, I’m about as dark as you, I guess I’m a person of color.” Or they'd say, “I don’t see color. It’s not really that important.” Or they would say, “I’ve never experienced you as a person of color."

This sort of aggressive color blindness was apparently rampant at ECMC in the early to mid-2000s. When it was challenged, tensions arose. And when tensions arose, too often the leadership of ECMC failed to intervene on behalf of members of color who were being verbally chastised for attempting to bring up racialized dynamics they were seeing in the community.

This led to a crisis for members of color. Some left. Some stayed but stopped participating in primarily white events and classes. Others joined the board and teacher's council and continued to push for change.

Still, some members that stayed are often skeptical of white members' newly minted desire for more diversity in the community. One participant used a metaphor to describe the experience:

They’re inviting other people, new people, new guests to this dinner party and these new guests are like, "Oh, we want to bring our own food.  We want to bring some music because we like to dance after meals and we want to bring our kids," and the dominant culture hosts are basically saying, "No, we already have the menu.  We just need you to sit at the table and eat our food".  That to me doesn’t lend to the sense of belonging.  It lends to the sense of, "Okay, we’re including you but we get to say how this is going to go down."

For other themes, click on the links below.

  1. Interpersonal Barriers to Full Participation
  2. Institutional Barriers to Full Participation
  3. Strategies for Coping with Racialized Exclusion
  4. Range of POC Experiences 
  5. Failures of Leadership Support for People of Color
  6. Promoting Equity and Inclusion

For the intro (Mindfulness and the Problem of Whiteness) click here. Click here for some closing thoughts.

For information about upcoming mindfulness workshops with Craig & Devon, please click here.

Craig Hase