The gruesome murder of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands (or knee) of American law enforcement authorities has reminded us how entrenched racism is in our society. The Black Lives Matter movement is stronger than ever, as more people are joining in the conversation about breaking systemic racism and valuing Black lives. Black people make up 3.5% of the total Canadian population; with the majority of the Canadian population being white, it is necessary to talk about white privilege and bias as we seek to understand racism.

As we find ways to understand and change the systems that have been holding back minorities for centuries across the globe, it is also necessary that we each look within ourselves and ask the hard questions to make the changes that we want to see in our communities. As individuals, we all have our biases and more so, against people who do not look like us. Due to the fact that these biases are sometimes unconscious, we tend not to see how they are very deeply embedded in our discrimination is.

Mindfulness and compassion practices can help us with many of the subtle difficulties of dismantling the patterns and habits that build our bias’ by increasing our capacity to think clearly and act with purpose. Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “Mindfulness is: paying attention, on purpose, in a particular way, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, and with openness, curiosity, and kindness”. Research indicates that mindfulness and compassion practices help us acknowledge our emotions and sensations in a given moment and regulate our emotional response – helping to build our empathy and consider a different perspective in each situation.

Why did I do that? How can I react differently in that situation? How does that make me feel now? Mindfulness practice is an important tool that each one of us can apply throughout our day. In the long term, it helps us be more self-aware and contributes to more genuine conversations. We need to ask ourselves the hard and uncomfortable questions. We need to notice and sit with the discomfort and frustration we feel. That awareness is what helps us change. While mindfulness won’t end racism, this practice does help us reflect and become more aware of the biases that each of us holds, and take action to make a change.

Written by: Lynn Leke Epse Tajoacha, Child Development Counsellor, YW Calgary