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  • Laura Roeven

The Inner Work of Racial Justice

“What if this difficult time, this moment in which we seem more racially and culturally divided than ever, signifies not the beginning of the end but a profound opportunity for a new beginning? What if, through the pain of seeing the way things are, we now have a new chance to get it right? What if this time in which we can all see more clearly than ever how easily we can be divided by appeals to racism is just what we need to help us work for racial healing in ways that we never have before?” ― Rhonda Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness

I attended a workshop with Rhonda Magee this week, author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice. She started the workshop with the message, “We can begin again. We can always begin again.” May this moment be a refreshing beginning again. May this moment be a chance to ponder on your inner experience with racial justice.



Inner Work is Mindset Shift

Inner work is private work. Inner work is noticing what mindset we carry and being curious if it is serving us. When we are tired, overworked, or stressed, our mindset can get carted off in directions of depletion and despair. Mindset can focus on frustration when we are in conflict with another. Check in…What is your inner mindset telling you today?


When it comes to racial justice, inner work is recognizing all the ways we believed the system we grew up in. Schools, tv, music, elected officials, and society reflect the patterns that our historical systems have created. A mindset shift can happen by being curious of how to bring diverse voices forward for progress. In my lifetime, I am continuing to see a shift that our nation has been waiting for. The inner work of racial justice asks us to question our preferences and push past them. Progress means questioning our assumptions and widening our lens of inclusion. My mindset matters because when I stay awake to the systems in my community, I can use my privilege to ask more people to the table.



Inner Work is Deepening The Practice

Deepening the practice requires looking within to see when I am comfortable and when I am uncomfortable. Deepening the practice means to lean in when I would prefer to avoid or step back. Being curious can help to widen our lens and seek out answers to why diversity and inclusion matter. How equal is the system I am in? In what ways do I benefit from my whiteness? What can I do to chip away at my own ignorance? It is important that I continue the work of educating myself so that I can participate in inclusive actions. For me, this means reading books that enlighten, asking questions in my town’s systems of school and police, and participating in town discussions on the events of 2020-2021 BLM. It is important that our systems deepen the practice in caring about racial justice. Thinking and talking about racial justice at home and at work matters to continue the work of inclusion in our society.


“We don’t always realize that we must work continuously to make real the promise of liberating human interrelationship. Even less often do we have the skills to do this work together. Indeed, we have lacked the consciousness necessary to see our potential together and to lift ourselves up to a new plane for being in relationship with one another in ways that do not depend on power-over but rejoice in power-with.” ― Rhonda Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness


Recognizing Ignorance and Limiting Beliefs

The inner work of racial justice means meeting ignorance and limiting beliefs. For instance, I just learned the mortality is higher in health care for black and brown Americans. I learned America is one of the highest country in the world for mass incarceration since 2002. Of those incarcerations, black men are jailed at a much higher rate.


Learning matters so that we can make changes in our local systems. Learning matters so that false information can be corrected. I stay teachable by reading, watching, and talking about racial justice. It begins by being open to learn, being teachable.


I love the old story in Buddhist teachings that talks about a Zen master meeting a new student. This student was sitting for tea telling the master all that he knew. When the master began pouring the student’s tea, he kept filling the cup to overflowing. “Stop! The cup is full!” the student shouted. The Zen master replied, “So too is your mind. Come back when you have emptied and are ready to learn.” When it comes to the inner work of racial justice, I try to keep my mind open to learning. It will take an emptying of how things have been done to make way for new ways to include and listen. How you grew up and what you learned matters. Look within to meet what narratives you hold. Our American system has been a system of oppression for black and brown bodies. Carving out a new future requires change, education, and a willingness stay present and discern our own participation.



We Can Always Begin Again

We are not going to do this work perfectly. Inner work is taking a pause to assess, and course correct. When we can listen to ourselves and others, we can make better decisions. Mindful listening is an attempt to hold awareness at a wider level. It is allowing the other’s truth to be spoken and listened to. I hear you. I am deeply listening. What do you and I need in this moment?


The inner work of racial justice is long term work. This requires self-care and community support. Is there a book club or community group that you can get involved with to continue your learning? I am thankful for Mosaicos that offers amazing book clubs and diverse events. How about your self-care? Is there a commitment you would like to make to yourself for your well-being today? Some responses I have heard are yoga in the back yard, listening to a playlist that elevates joy, asking another for support this week. What will be your inner work of care? What will be your outer work of racial justice?


Namaste,

Laura

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