Session 7: Investigating Racism in Our Own Organizations

For our next study session, we invite our groups exploring white awareness and racism to turn our careful, loving attention toward the practice of investigating and uprooting racism within our own organizations.

Like with racism at the individual level, the question is not “Are these organizations racist or not?” As we see in the supplemental readings, leadership from various dharma organizations affirm that they are not immune from replicating racist dynamics, and take responsibility for creating change.

What does it take for organizations to change racist dynamics? We will explore our own responses and begin to apply knowledge of how change has worked in other organizations. We invite you to take care in this investigation together, especially with the judging mind. We know the easy tendency among white people is to judge other white people as worse than us (so we can validate ourselves as “good white allies”) or better than us (so we can shame ourselves as “bad white people” who need to be better). Do we recognize those tendencies among ourselves? Can we be present with the diversity of responses that are arising in each of us, shaped by such distinct causes and conditions? Can we be honest about our own responses, even those we feel confused by or ashamed of? Transformation can happen through this intimacy with our own experience, not only in ourselves, but in our organizations.

We are in a rich time of deepening practice around the dharma of racism. It’s a beautiful opportunity to wake up to an aspect of deep conditioning that causes harm. This learning is at the very core of our practice, as we learn to loosen our attachment to self, to views, to privilege. We invite you to engage with this material as honestly and openly as you can, stretching outside of what feels comfortable and easy. Curiosity, compassion for self and others, and even laughter are great supports for this journey. May our work together be of benefit to our own hearts and for the liberation of all beings.

Before Your Meeting

Please read or watch these before your meeting:

Homework – Please do this before your Session 7 meeting:

Select 1-2 dharma institutions that you participate in — as a sangha member, leader, retreat participant, teacher, donor. If there’s an institution you share in common with your study group, be sure to include that one in your investigation. We have included a few examples below. 

Investigate: What conversation is your community having about diversity, equity, and inclusion? Do they have any written materials for you to review? Contact a leader or fellow community member, to inquire about other conversations that might be happening, but not be written down.

Also please review the discussion questions in the agenda below.

Facilitation

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

Agenda

  • Sit (5 minutes)
  • Review Communication Guidelines   (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 (65 minutes)
    • Instruction: Mindful Sharing  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 

      • Tell us what you learned in your homework. Share from your heart about how you felt as you investigated the inclusion practices (or lack thereof) in your dharma institutions. 
      • How might you support your dharma organization to engage in facing institutional racism? Notice how you feel even being asked this question. Do you have any confusion, aversion, or desire to be recognized as good arising? What is the story arising? If you feel stuck, disempowered, or defensive, what feels threatened? How do these potentially get in the way of change?
      • Do you see the characteristics listed in the reading on White Supremacy Culture showing up in organizations you are part of? If so, how? What particular characteristics do you find yourself participating in (perfectionism, fear of conflict, power hoarding, individualism, etc)?
  • Group Investigation (15 minutes)
    • Instruction: Group investigation will allow more space for discussion than mindful sharing. The goal is to investigate how an analytical framework applies or does not apply to a situation. There is no requirement for groups to reach agreement; diversity of opinion can be very helpful to fully investigate the framework. The facilitator can invite people to speak up if there are long pauses, and can invite quieter people to speak up if 1 or 2 voices are dominating the conversation.
      • The Western States Center’s Resource Guide for Dismantling Racism supports organizations to move from being an “all white club” to an “anti-racist/inclusive” organization. Using this framework, how would you describe organizations you are part of in terms of their stage of anti-racist organizational development?
  • 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 (5 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