Transforming Racism from the Inside Out
Written by Ruth King
Book review by Laurie Phuong Ertley
“Racism is a heart disease—and it’s curable.” As an educator with more than 20 years of experience, King offers her readers practical tools to cure one’s own internalized racism in her book Mindful of Race (2018). King identifies as Black Queer grandmother with more than enough compassion and wisdom to offer anyone willing to address the inherent and uninvited pain that comes from living in a racialized society. Her background in clinical psychology, organizational development, diversity consulting, and meditation informs her writing.
King recognizes that systems of oppression affect every member of society, regardless of their race. Thus, the book is divided into chapters addressing White people and People of Color separately. While she acknowledges that there are many nuances in terms of identity in both groups, particularly within the POC umbrella, she offers these discrete chapters in order to address the unique challenges that each group faces. As a reader, I read every chapter because I found it worthwhile to learn about all the perspectives, and I came away with a greater appreciation of everyone’s point of view. I particularly found the real-life case presentations helpful, because they illuminated the steps towards a sense of reclaimed humanity and wholeness. The individual stories in this book gave me social proof that not only can people heal from the pain of racial injuries, they can grow to be more loving people because they have faced these injuries.
For those not willing to read a whole book, the steps in a nutshell are: 1) Develop a mindfulness practice. This helps you exercise the muscle of non-reactivity; 2) Cultivate an attitude of kindness and curiosity towards your experience; 3) Feelings occur in your body, so drop your attention down from your head into your body; 4) Be open to discovering something new. After reading the book, I invited trusted members of my community to form a Racial Affinity Group. This is one of King’s solutions for us: do this work within our own racial group. The work of racial healing is akin to heart surgery, and you only want to do it with people you have faith in and who believe in you.