Reflection on Antiracism circle from Erica Schultz

For the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to participate in ASDIC,

an antiracism workshop with approximately 28 other members of the Common

Ground community including our staff. We are meeting for four hours on Monday

mornings over the course of 10 consecutive weeks and are also committing to

several hours of weekly reading.

Before I reflect a little bit on my experience in the course, I would like to

simply express how meaningful it is for me to have this opportunity at Common

Ground. I have been in awe of the time commitment, honesty, humility and deep,

caring attention my fellow community members have brought to this workshop.

Participants have shared personal stories and thoughts—some painful, some joyful

and some shameful. I so appreciate the accepting, non-judgmental atmosphere that

we are working to cultivate as we go through this together.

A central aspect of the course revolves around exploring the ways that issues

of race and racism are embedded in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. As a

white person, I have gone through periods of my life where I have cared deeply

about these issues and other periods where I have given them very little concern. I

am learning that this ability to feel a sense of detachment is very central to the

history and lived experience of our country. It’s like have poor eyesight and not even

knowing you need glasses. Everything is a little blurry, but nothing seems all that

bad. Then all of a sudden (or slowly over time) you put on new glasses and the

world is cuttingly clear. The history you thought was safely relegated to books about

the past has been lying at your feet this whole time. And it’s still bloody. And people

are still dying. And even when it’s not that obviously bad, it’s still oozing into our

schools, and into our government, and into our daily interactions—a toxic mold

everywhere—but if you look the way that you’ve likely been conditioned to look, it

can be quite hard to detect.

I’m learning that detachment is not just a sort of benign neglect. It is its own

form of violence.

Seeing clearly the brutal history and lived reality of racism in our country is

not a pleasant experience. There have been times when I have not wanted to do my

ASDIC reading because it’s almost too hard to bear. I am grateful to be doing this

training within the context of a community who practices leaning into the truth of

the way things are, even if it’s unpleasant. It could be so easy to turn my head away

in small or big ways. Yet, we know from our practice that connection feels better

then detachment, even if it hurts.

Often, the unpleasantness is not simply in the readings or videos that we

watch, but in my own mind. I have learned that there is a notable discrepancy

between the things I say and write about race, and the dozens of racial thoughts that

float through my head. I was raised by good-hearted progressives and have had an

excellent liberal education—yet, I am amazed by the racism that I see in my own

mind. I am grateful for our practice which helps me learn not to take my thoughts so

personally. It helps me be more honest and more open to growth. If I had not have

experienced Buddhist teachings and mindfulness practice, it would likely be hard

for me to write this here now.

If you are curious about your “racial” mind, try paying close attention next

time you engage in a conversation with someone about education. What do they

mean when they say that that school is “rougher” then it used to be? Or try riding a

city bus if it’s not something you often do and notice what you think about each

person that gets on and off. I ride the bus fairly often and am still struck by what

thoughts come up.

Though I am not immune from feelings of guilt and shame, I am grateful for

teachings that have helped me take a deep breath and keep paying attention. I know

that I can’t erase racism from my mind just as I can’t wipe clean anything else that

defiles it.

Yet, I can keep valuing connection over detachment. Just as embarking on

spiritual practice takes real, ongoing, lifelong effort, I’m recognizing that so does

confronting issues of race and racism. In fact, I’m starting to see them as one in the

same. ASDIC is not just another thing to fill my schedule; it’s part of my spiritual

practice right now and I’m sure that many, if not all of my fellow participants would

say the same thing. Long after this training comes to a close, the heartfulness we are

bringing to this exploration will likely have reverberations for us, for the Common

Ground community, and for all the beings whose lives we touch.

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