How Mindfulness Can Help in Healing From Racism
There is an eagerness and sense of urgency to address and eradicate racism in our newly awakened community members that is unsettling and alarming to the Black, Indigenous, Mixed Race, People of Color (BIPOC) communities that have been entrenched in this work for centuries, decades, and years. What we know is that racism is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the very fabric of our society. To do this work means taking a whole new approach and having long term, sustainable action to dismantle oppressive systems while centering the work from our BIPOC community. What is often also unnerving is the inability or unwillingness for folks to internalize that we all act in ways to uphold racism, it's not just the people we see in the videos (hello Karen). The way we approach social justice work is just as important as the work itself.
I find myself having trouble discerning what spaces help me thrive, what spaces are uncomfortable, and what spaces are simply toxic. As a POC with experience and expertise in clinical social work and social activism, I have been inundated with organizations and individuals requesting anti-racism programing. In order to do this work and continue to do this work for my lifetime, it’s really important that I protect myself from further harm. We all know that good intentions and niceties do not supplant microaggressions.
While I know that true healing will come when we dismantle the systems (culture, policies, practices, etc…) that uphold racism, I find mindfulness to be a helpful tool to get me through the moment. I hope to share with my BIPOC community the ways in which mindfulness has helped me recently and a loving-kindness meditation I created specifically for BIPOC folks.
Mindfulness Can Be A Decolonized Practice
What is nice about mindfulness is that it has roots in Eastern Philosophies and cultures that sometimes resonate more with BIPOC communities. For example, many of the cultures that practice mindfulness hold a collectivist mindset whereas modern mindfulness in western countries often holds a more individualistic mindset. As a result, modern mindfulness sometimes disengages from the idea of community healing. Modern mindfulness is often presented as a way for the individual to manage emotions (how many times have you heard to do mindfulness when you feel stressed, anxious etc…). and frequently ignores how we can build our sense of awareness to not only better serve ourselves but also our community.
Mindfulness Helps Build Our Internal Racism Detector
We can practice bringing awareness to our thoughts, sensations, and emotions using mindfulness. This information is going to be key in helping us identify what spaces might we feel safe in, where we might feel challenged, and what is simply more toxic (something I’m practicing). Many BIPOC individuals internalize mental health in our bodies. Sometimes it’s a matter of being connected to your body and knowing what it’s signaling. For example, after meditating on experiences I’ve had, I’m starting to connect the feeling of my body suddenly dropping in space as a sign of possible emotional danger for me (cue in the Sunken Place clip from “Get Out”). Compared to when I feel challenged, my body feels more like I’m itching to get out of my skin - it’s uncomfortable but not alarming. This distinction helps me validate my own feelings and gives me clarity on how I want to exercise my autonomy in choosing spaces to do this work.
Mindfulness Is A Moment to Practice Loving Ourselves (in a world that actively does not)
There’s a lot of implicit and explicit signaling about Black and Brown minds, Black and Brown bodies. Our Black community, in particular, have experienced strong negative signaling with all the stereotypes of Black folks. Even the best of us internalize these messages whether it’s about our bodies, looks, or minds. Spending a few minutes to counteract the negative messages not only feels good but also aids in our critical understanding of things like body image, beauty, and intelligence, and white supremacy culture. Mindfulness is an opportunity to practice some loving kindness that we may not get elsewhere.
Mindfulness Is A Moment to Have A Break From The Bullshit
Lastly, it can simply be a way to be with your present self and in that moment and have a break from the microaggressions and so forth. Sometimes a break is the difference between getting through the day and falling apart (which it’s absolutely ok to do too).
Here is a Loving Kindness Meditation I use for my own practice: