The Undefended Heart: Practicing White Fragility
with MRO Teachers and Senior Staff
June 21 - 23, 2019
A Retreat for White People
Zen practice and training offers us many ways to take up the arising of the self in gross and subtle forms. In training, we learn how to be a beginner, to learn something new, to receive feedback and to build our capacity to be uncomfortable with not-knowing. In these situations, we can study our karma, the ways we’ve been conditioned to fight, flee or freeze when we feel challenged. We begin to make visible and see ever more clearly an internal system that has been operating all along beneath the level of our conscious awareness, and this process has the potential to create more space and freedom within every part of our life.
White supremacy is a collective conditioning that every person who grows up and lives in the United States is subject to, without exception. And for white people, this conditioning is designed to remain invisible. Without really knowing it, we see whiteness as normal, natural and universal, and this “normalizing” of whiteness simultaneously creates “others.” This cultural and relational system is always operating, even when we’re alone or with other white people, and it causes us to create harm without being aware of it.
On the rare occasions when someone brings our attention to something that we have done or said that is racially problematic, particularly if it’s a person of color bringing our attention to it, white supremacy has conditioned us to react with a predictable array of behaviors that scholar and trainer Robin DiAngelo has termed “white fragility.” These conditioned behaviors are designed to shut down conversations around race and invalidate people of color’s experiences of pain and anger around racism, and as such, they are a form of violence. They also sever our connection to our own empathy and humanity.
Using Buddhist teachings on Mara and studying the socialized self, we’ll take up this system of defensiveness and fragility as an exploration to see the ways that this behavior causes suffering for self and other. With the facilitation of white members of the BFoD Planning Group, we’ll study some passages from DiAngelo’s White Fragility, watch video clips, journal and share with each other as a way of opening a gate for our own liberation, and see how Dharma practice and training give us skills and tools that are uniquely conducive to practicing anti-racism and studying the socialized aspects of the self. We’ll begin to see how this work is necessary not because it “helps others,” or is the right thing to do, but because our own liberation depends on it.
The members of the BFoD Planning Group are not experts and are not leading this retreat. Rather, they are in an active process of learning around issues of power, privilege and oppression. Their role in this retreat is to participate fully in exploring these issues alongside all participants, to offer their own experiences, and to help guide the day through practices, exercises and discussion.
As an acknowledgment of the pervasive historical and ongoing oppression of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the US, proceeds from this program will be paid as a reparation to Buddhist teachers of color.