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
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.