Why a retreat for practitioners of European descent who identify as white?

Being white often means being part of the dominant group of society, who do not experience discrimination based on skin color. Whiteness does not solely refer to the lightness of the color of skin. It may also mean having a national or ancestral history of colonizing other countries, and sometimes a lack of awareness about this history.

Each of us will have our own thoughts, feelings and experience relating to this identity. For some the word white may feel irrelevant, to others it may bring up shame, anger, or other uncomfortable emotions.

This retreat is a place to look at whiteness as a constructed category which we did not take part in choosing - still, the effect of whiteness is a wound we need to heal, that can not be healed unless we dare look at it. We will create a supportive environment for those curious to expand their awareness and better understand the impact of this heritage and history, through and with the practice.

In a Call to Love in Action, the Plum Village ARISE sangha made the invitation to all sanghas to create safe and loving spaces:

  • For white people to look deeply together at discrimination, and the legacy of racial inequity -
  • For People of Color to share and heal from the trauma of racial injustice, and finally
  • For People of Color and white allies to come together to look deeply and engage in healing together.

To understand why, we can look to the Dharma Teacher Ruth King writing about the benefits of Racial Affinity Groups: “In a Racial Affinity Group, we put ourselves in intentional spaces with people of our same race, where we can be safe enough to be vulnerable, challenged, and unedited; to examine the stories we have been told and the stories we tell ourselves; to lean toward what is unfamiliar and away from what is habitual; and to understand what is difficult to acknowledge, feel, and attend to within us and among us as a racial group.”

(Continue reading Ruth King’s writing here.)

Ultimately this is about coming together to create understanding and work towards a truly inclusive collective Sangha.

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