Author Ruth King discussed her book Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out last night at the Charlotte YWCA's regular book club meeting. I actually haven't read it yet (ugh--I know!), but now I absolutely will buy it tomorrow. She talked about the different ways white and black people "see" race and how that can sometimes impede social progress. I agree that whites typically see it at an individual level--which absolves us of confronting what we do as a racial group--whereas people of color identify more clearly as a group. So, what to do? Work on yourself first! Get deep, and one way to do it is through racial affinity groups. This puts the burden more responsibly on white people rather than forcing black people to show us the way. And spirituality is key to navigating the inevitable rush of guilt and shame, which often causes white people to shut down. And just earlier in the day, I was mapping out my own "civil rights timeline." I noted key events and then placed events in my own life and the life of my extended family to give it context. As simple as it sounds, this has a profound impact. No longer are bus boycotts, lynchings and legislation just dates, but they become real ingredients that make up the social soup into which I was born. This exercise helps me understand my own social context and my role within larger white society and what I might do about all of this. King's book affirms so many things I've been working on (thanks largely to Coming To The Table) and encourages me to keep going. Racial conflict permeates our society and our history, and I want to be part of the solution. And to King's point that this isn't something we can just fix. It's a process, and in order to make a difference we simply must be mindful, a mindfulness that is active and not passive. And no, we're not there yet.
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