How to be a mindful anti-racist

By | February 11, 2021
I Was A Skeptic Of Mindfulness … Until I Tried To Make My Case

These times of uncertainty, anxiety and overwhelming information, mean that many of us are seeking to find a sense of calmness. On top of that, the global upheavals of a virulent pandemic, a very real climate crisis, the instability of economic and political powers and the emergence of anti-racist […]

A mindfulness practice — the simple act of pausing, taking a breath and becoming aware of our mind, body and heart — may offer some respite as well as a way to support one’s desire for action.

As a yoga teacher, mindfulness practitioner, former high-school teacher and now scholar, I have seen the benefit of mindfulness personally and professionally. My practice has taught me how to respond to strong emotions, bad behaviours and forceful words.

I have also witnessed how leading mindfulness practices in a community of mostly white education students can create greater space for social justice issues, like racism, classism and sexism. A growing body of scientific research supports my observations indicating that when one learns to examine long-held opinions and cultural assumptions towards the self and others, one can free the mind to unlearn and to re-learn, to story and to re-story, to revise and to recognize.

This takes time, effort and commitment.

Teacher education

Despite anti-racist policies and mandates in teacher education, access, equity and equitable representation remain ongoing challenges.

We know that white, middle-class, able-bodied, heteronormative students populate the majority in faculties of education across Canada. For some of these teacher candidates, gaining insight into the lives of “other people’s children,” as education scholar Lisa Delpit puts it, can support multiple ways of reaching out to the diversity of students.

For new teachers, heading into increasingly racialized and gender-diverse classrooms, mindfulness practices can help navigate feelings of discomfort and defensiveness when learning about racial inequality and injustice. They can also help provide important touchstones about best teaching practices.

Research highlights the importance of a teacher’s social and emotional competence in the classroom. Helping teachers become aware of their emotions, social relations and behaviour is the key to establishing positive relationships with students and colleagues.

By disrupting notions of assumptions, biases and prejudice, teacher candidates can become more aware of existing inequalities in their communities as well as the whiteness of textbooks, novels and multimedia materials used as reference points and resources in class contents.