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Oct 17
Saturday

Race and The Body: Why Somatic Practices Are Essential for Racial Justice

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Illustration by Alicia Brown

This article was originally published as part of an issue of The Arrow: A Journal of Wakeful Society, Culture, and Politics. The issue can be found here.

by Kelsey Blackwell

Within this fathomlong body and mind is found all of the teachings.” – The Buddha

But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

You’ve been invited to be part of a think tank to discuss how an organization that’s important to you can adjust its infrastructure, culture, and practices to be more equitable and racially inclusive. You arrive eager to begin the work of dismantling the structural racism that’s thwarting the organization’s potential for positive impact. At the first meeting, a woman of color you have not seen before steps up to lead the conversation. Notebooks are out and pens are in hand. You can almost hear the hum of action items to come, and you and your mostly white colleagues are ready. The stakes are high. If this team can’t get this right, it means losing more people. It means resources and a message you believe in won’t reach marginalized populations. It means your organization won’t be enriched by the voices of the diverse many. This must end. You can tackle this thing!

“You can put away your pens and notebooks,” the woman says. “We’ll begin this dialogue by being in our bodies.” You look around at your colleagues. Some eagerly put their things away while others look to each other with a quizzical glance. What thoughts run through your mind? Excitement? Fear? Incredulousness? Something in-between? What do you imagine happens next in the room? Continue…

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