Session 2: Historical Racism

This session brings us some of the stories, perspectives and dimensions on the construction of “whiteness” itself, revealing a complicated and painful history many of us were not taught in school.

Before Your Meeting

Please read or watch these before your meeting:

The video documentary “Race: the Power of an Illusion” presents both historical and contemporary forms of racial divide. The total series is 3 hours long and is free with your Kanopy account – (Kanopy is free for all San Luis Obispo county library card holders). Alternatively, the series costs $5 to stream (over a 1-week period) on Vimeo here. In this curriculum we will be viewing Part 1 and Part 3 only.

Also please review the discussion questions in the agenda below.


At your last meeting a facilitator was chosen. Here is a link to the .


  • Sit (5 minutes)
  • Review  (5 minutes)
    • Read aloud your group’s guidelines developed in the first session
    • Discuss any revisions to the guidelines 
    • Confirm that all members can abide by the group’s guidelines, or at least open to practicing with them
  • Mindful Sharing (80 minutes)
    • Instruction:  involves each participant sharing from personal experience. There is no discussion or cross-talk during this time period, only personal sharing.
    • Each person in the group may share 3-5 minutes on each question (gauge the time depending on the number of people in your group). Speak to whatever questions are most salient.

Discussion Questions 

      • In the first section of Race: The Power of an Illusion, we hear from scientists who show there is no basis for racial groupings in our biology. Is this new or surprising to you? What questions come up? What are the connections between the illusion of race and the Buddhist concepts of non-self or emptiness? 
      • The video Birth of a White Nation covers the historical construction of race in the United States. What comes up for you when facing how race was constructed to justify slavery, genocide, and theft of land? Where do you see this racial ideology and conditioning still in today’s world? How might you talk about a Buddhist concept of interconnectedness (“we are all one” or not separate) in a way that acknowledges the impacts of racism?
      • The third section talks about the perpetuation of the idea of race through policy that affects us still today. What privileges or opportunities have you or your ancestors been afforded (or not) because of your race? (That could include immigration status, ability to assimilate as white, economic opportunity in jobs and housing.) How does the karma of your ancestors’ opportunities impact your life today?
  • Sit (5 minutes)
  • Group Reflection (10 minutes)
    • Instruction: Group Reflection is like Mindful Sharing in that there is no discussion or cross-talk, however the focus is on what kind of experience the participants had during the meeting rather than on the content covered.
    • Each person in the group can share 2-3 minutes about what it was like to participate in the group (gauge time based on number of people in the group)
    • PROMPT: What was it like to engage in Mindful Sharing today? How has this been for you so far?
  • Next Meeting (10 minutes)
    • How did your technology or meeting logistics work? Any changes you would like to try for the next meeting?
    • When will you meet?
    • Who will facilitate?
    • If you are meeting online, who will set up the next meeting?
  • If there’s time left, finish with a closing sit (5 minutes)

Additional Readings, Videos and Podcasts