Anti-Racism Reading Group

We’re happy to announce that Renee and Shogen will be leading an anti-racism reading group this spring grounded in the book “White Supremacy and Me.” One important dimension of our deepening meditation practice revolves around bringing greater awareness to the important issue of racial justice, both within the community and within ourselves. Read Renee’s personal account of this work below.


Dates: Wednesdays from 7-8:30pm for 15 weeks starting in late March

Info and Registration: contact Renee and Shogen at info.bluecliffzen@gmail.com

Venue: held over Zoom (maximum 8 spaces)


Why read “White Supremacy and Me”? by Renee Myosen Legris:

To begin with, the White Supremacy of the book title is not what I expected.  It’s not just evil people marching and chanting in Charlottesville, or lurking in dark corners of the web.  It’s a whole network of foundational beliefs and attitudes that go back hundreds of years.  White supremacy infused the world view of our white European ancestors, justifying global colonialism, enslavement, theft of land and other treasures, and religious persecution.  They believed – as some Americans still do today – that white people are entitled to behave this way.  Another surprise was how the cultural inheritance of white supremacy has constricted my personal view of myself and of human beings in general, in very unwelcome ways.  

From a Buddhist perspective, much of our work in this life is freeing ourselves from conditioning, so we can see things as they truly are.  This book (and perhaps others to follow) is an opportunity to uncover a big chunk of conditioning.  We are lucky in that our practice has already given us tools to discover, sit with, and release conditioning.  

This writer has done a remarkable job of taking the fundamentals of a topic that is so broad and intertwined and potentially explosive, and organized it into 28 topics that can be discussed individually.  (It was originally published as a 28-day Instagram challenge.)  Each chapter contains a 3-5 page explanation, followed by a list of journaling questions that invite you to explore how that topic has showed up in your life.  The farther you get in the book, the more connections you see.

Something that baffled me before class, was how I was going to learn about white supremacy in a group made up entirely of white people?  Didn’t I need to interact with people of color to get this?  Turns out there’s plenty we can and should do to educate ourselves.  The whole purpose of this book is to help us get started.

I came away with a fiery curiosity about so much that I don’t know, aspects of world and especially American history that were glossed over or outright ignored in my education.  For instance, how had I never heard of the Tulsa massacre in 1921?  How did I not know that the first enslaved people arrived in Virginia before the Mayflower landed?  And today, how do we fix educational and economic inequality that are generations deep?  You can just imagine how many questions there are!  

I loved the subtitle of this book too:  “Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor”.  I want to do that.  

If you would like to feel more engaged and less helpless in the face of the vast social justice issues confronting us today, this might be a good place to start.  Get a handle on the basic concepts and vocabulary, and begin to see how white supremacy has shaped your seeing and your thinking.  As Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”  I truly feel that this book has started me on the path to “know better”.


Logistics:

If you would like to join Blue Cliff’s anti-racism reading group, here’s a little more information:

This group is being organized by Shogen and Renee, who have each read this book in the context of a similar group.  We’re both looking forward to a second pass through the material.

We are expecting to meet on Wednesday evenings, 7:00-8:30, via Zoom.  Eventually we hope to meet in person at the Zen Center, but that could be quite a while.

We hope to start meeting in late March.

Our best guess is that it will take us around 15 weeks to get through this book.  The group as a whole will decide what pace works best, and we may adjust as we go along.

We expect the use the “Circle Way” to structure our discussions.  This means everyone in the group is a leader.  

Here are links to two descriptions of how the Circle Way works.  We will go over this process in our first meeting.

2 page summary:    Basic Circle Guidelines (English)

Longer version:    http://www.thecircleway.net/s/The-Circle-Way-Pocket-Guide-7xsg.pdf 


What’s next for you:

Let us know that you’re interested.  Please send an email to info.bluecliffzen@gmail.com.  If you have questions or would like to talk to one of us about the group, please give us your contact info and we’ll get in touch with you.  

Get the book, “White Supremacy and Me” by Layla Saad.  It’s available locally, for example at Tsunami Books.  

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