The Inner Work of Racial Justice

reviewed by Damon Orion
Inner Work of Racial Justice book jacket

In recent times, the enduring prevalence of racial prejudice has come as an ugly shock to those who may have harbored illusions about civilization’s current level of advancement. It’s old news to law professor and mindfulness teacher Rhonda V. Magee, however. As an African American, Magee has been acutely aware of this issue since 1984, when her romantic relationship with a Caucasian boy led the latter’s father to kick him out of the house. Since then, she has made it her life’s mission to combat racism and the harm that it brings. 

Magee, who trained with instructors like Norman Fischer and Jon Kabat-Zinn, the latter of whom penned the introduction to The Inner Work of Racial Justice, begins this book by guiding readers through the basics of traditional mindfulness meditation practices such as Awareness of Breath, Body Scan, Moving Meditation, and Mindful Reflection. She then outlines the use of these practices with an eye toward social justice. One of the cornerstones of her approach is what she calls “ColorInsight,” a combination of mindfulness and compassion practices designed to give us greater empathy and receptivity when we listen to and speak with people different from ourselves, as well as an amplified awareness of our thoughts and feelings around race-related topics and situations. 

While presenting these practices, Magee offers numerous insights into racial dynamics. She sheds light on such subjects as the role that privilege plays in our relations with one another, the biases that underlie our daily interactions, and the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the spaces we routinely inhabit—banks, classrooms, etc.—are built for the comfort of the dominant racial group. In a plainspoken, easily digestible writing style, she suggests ways of navigating potentially thorny situations without lapsing into emotionally charged behavior, instead meeting  these challenges with increased compassion.

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