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The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness

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An essential mindfulness and compassion-based approach to confront racial injustice and work towards healing

Law professor and mindfulness practitioner Rhonda Magee shows that the work of racial justice begins with ourselves. When conflict and division are everyday realities, our instincts tell us to close ranks, to find the safety of our own tribe, and to blame others. The practice of embodied mindfulness--paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in an open, nonjudgmental way--increases our emotional resilience, helps us to recognize our unconscious bias, and gives us the space to become less reactive and to choose how we respond to injustice.

For victims of injustice, embodied mindfulness calms our fears and helps us to exercise self-compassion. Magee shows us how to slow down and reflect on microaggressions--to hold them with some objectivity and distance--rather than bury unpleasant experiences so they have a cumulative effect over time. She helps us develop the capacity to address the fears and anxieties that would otherwise lead us to re-create patterns of separation and division.

It is only by healing from injustices and dissolving our personal barriers to connection that we develop the ability to view others with compassion and to live in community with people of vastly different backgrounds and viewpoints. Incorporating mindfulness exercises, research, and Magee's hard-won insights, The Inner Work of Racial Justice offers a road map to a more peaceful world.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2019

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Rhonda Magee

4 books10 followers

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5 stars
162 (41%)
4 stars
144 (37%)
3 stars
69 (17%)
2 stars
12 (3%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 46 reviews
Profile Image for Briayna Cuffie.
190 reviews13 followers
September 5, 2020
This book did not do it for me. It’s a bit better from chapter 18 forward, but that chapter was really the only solid one for me. This is 100% a resource for people that are extremely full of white fragility and need the softest, most pleasant approach to getting them to being actively antiracist.

I‘m not averse to mindfulness activities and concepts, I even use some regularly. However, the mindfulness aspect carries a disproportionate weight in this book. So much so that it essentially comes off as a way to keep white people calm and emotions unruffled as they learn just the tip of the iceberg as to how racism in the U.S. is a nasty, deeply entrenched beast.
Profile Image for Katie.
6 reviews
October 25, 2019
A part of my personal canon. Magee incorporates historical context, personal experiences, and mindfulness to create a thorough and much needed modern approach to the exhaustive work of racial justice. Drawing from Dubois, Coates, Diangelo, and the Buddha among others, the author integrates the irreplaceable concept of mindfulness into a highly emotional, nuanced, and challenging field of Racial Justice. Merging mindfulness and the fight for equality and justice with this practical, Magee offers a guided practice that builds empathy, patience, and appreciation. Practical and comforting for activists, communities, social workers, or anyone wanting to dive deeper into race and insectionality and how we can approach them more mindfully.
Profile Image for cat.
1,030 reviews27 followers
June 25, 2020
Not going to star review this one because I am conflicted. If you are looking for mindful and somatic approaches to unlearning racism, I totally recommend starting with My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem. This book, focused on mindfulness methods for racial justice, felt like a useful addition to other books, and less like a stand-alone place to begin.
349 reviews3 followers
March 24, 2020
Magee offers mindfulness as an inner resource and tool to build awareness of and explicitly address racism in this country. Her approach will appeal to those who already have a contemplative practice or are interested in related fields (nonviolent communication, community talking circles, restorative justice, etc.) I can imagine her guiding practice in person and being very impactful in doing so. I would have just liked to see a little more editing in this book as it didn't always flow well and got a little bogged down with language that didn't always lead somewhere.
Profile Image for Serge.
319 reviews
October 20, 2019
New age approach

The book offers good insights but is muddled with new age frames that mar its effectiveness. Would have appreciated multiple lenses to interpret racial conflict and healing.
Profile Image for Cyndie Courtney.
1,248 reviews6 followers
December 1, 2021
"It is about not merely creating spaces for truth-telling, but actually becoming, in our own being and presence, a space in which the truth can be spoken."

The spirit of this author and her book I think would call on this review to be vulnerable. Writing it makes me think of how she talks about mindfulness practice as "relating with reality in ways that support being in paradox." I feel as a white woman sharing my opinion on this book contains both the potential to help and to harm, to encourage others to consider a new approach that might be helpful to them and to the world, while also wondering if I'm drawn to this compassionate, mindful, non-violent approach particularly *because* it is less threatening to me as a white woman.

For what it is worth, this book seemed filled with both gems of insight as well as emotional and mental challenges that kind of ache to wrap your heart around. In particular it seems that the exercises go beyond surface thinking to get us to explore more deeply. It feels important, and quite unlike anything else I've read on the topic.
Profile Image for Liz Matheny.
92 reviews9 followers
June 17, 2020
Excellent resource for personal or group strategies and activities that foster authentic reflection and meditation on race, injustice, and action. Really glad I read it and will probably modify some of the activities to use with students in our NAACP YOUTH COUNCIL.

The only thing I’ll criticize is that it felt repetitive at times. It’s over 330 pages and felt like some parts could’ve been cut. However, I still enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Tracey.
287 reviews1 follower
October 9, 2020
I feel somewhat conflicted about this book. I really appreciated the meditation practices. They brought important stuff up for me that I needed to process and gave me practical tools for doing so. Some of the writing around the edges of those practices felt repetitive and wordy. I read this with some others as part of an anti-racist reading group and the others gave up part-way through. Reading it for that group and trying to really absorb it also meant that I read really slowly over a period of 3+ months so maybe that’s also part of why the book felt a bit disjointed and didn’t flow. But also, I think it benefits from being read slowly and taking the time to actually use the practices in it. So I guess 5 stars for the meditation practices that actually made a difference in my life and maybe 3 stars for the rest. Overall though, I’m glad I read it.
Profile Image for Bookworm.
1,845 reviews58 followers
July 12, 2020
Was intrigued by the title. Mindfulness and racial justice are perhaps two areas that a lot of people may have thought do not have much overlap, but of course that is not true and that is changing. Author Magee takes the reader through her own journey, various exercises and what it means to use mindfulness when it comes to dealing with racism, bias and other forms of bigotry.

I have to say: this was a tough read. Books on mindfulness and meditation often go too far in the realm of being too "New Age" for me. This one was a little different. The book feels entirely too wordy and when I looked up the author I realized it was because Magee is a lawyer. I have to agree with negative reviews that said this could have used a better editor.

I respect this is Magee's background and do appreciate the book for what it's trying to do but at the same time, this could have also been a lot more accessible. And while it's about the "inner work," I also felt the author talked a little too much about her own experiences. It's undertandable (hence the book title!) but it also got a little much.

There's a negative Goodreads review that mentions a Dan, which is student Magee has who wants to write about why Rodney King deserved to be beaten and how he harbored grudges against Black Women (Magee is a BW). Magee is understandably taken aback and describes her own process in approaching Dan and how he would eventually begin to better understand his own biases.

This seemed to be a good example of my problem with the book. I didn't expect this anecdote to come with any sort of grander or deeper conclusion (where is Dan now and has he learned *why* what he said and his attitude was so disturbing?) but I don't know if Dan also deserved the grace Magee gave to him. There are likely elements that Magee may have changed or did not discuss but all the same it made me a wee bit more skeptical.

Would say if mindfulness is something that is a part of one's work in addresses racism, bias, discrimination, etc. this might not be a bad read. Would recommend supplementing it with other books, though. Borrowed from the library and that was best for me.
Profile Image for Michael Rancic.
41 reviews11 followers
May 23, 2021
perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects of practising mindfulness is seeing how others mischaracterize it and its utility in everyday life. this mischaracterization comes partially because of the commodification of mindfulness practices in corporate workplaces. that school is divorced from the root of mindfulness practice and is nothing more than another kind of bootstrap logic peddled by neolibs. so, unfortunately this is how people come to know mindfulness, thinking that mindfulness invites us to bury or obscure conflict or "negativity"rather than invite it in for contemplation.

this also gets acknowledged in the intro of the book: how a lot of mindfulness teachings avoid dealing with race head on, reinforcing the perception that mindfulness is about cultivating a state of obliviousness, apathy or complacence. so this book also acts as a corrective.

at times it comes off a bit like coddling racist feelings and biases because it explains how racism functions and its roots to a degree that feels redundant based on the level at which most public conversations on racism and antiblackness are happening today. but this detailed rundown of how racism functions, coupled with opportunities and methods to sit with and think through how it manifests, aligns with how the book functions as a corrective to how a lot of mindfulness literature doesn't provide much of a roadmap for this level of self reflection and critical thinking.
Profile Image for Jan Snyder.
126 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2020
I read a review on NPR or through the Yoga Journal this winter and ordered the book. Little did I know what would unfold during the summer of 2020. I finally started to read this in July and it has taken nearly a month to get through it - I am so grateful that I stuck with it!!! The text explores racial bias and the author explains the difficult concepts of whiteness and otherness in descriptive terms that the reader can hold onto. She reveals meditations that assist in the grim reality of racism and offers hope for the future. While I would not classify this as a ‘summer read’ I am glad that I took my time to get through it. I know it will be referenced often in the future. Thank you Rhonda Magee!!!
Profile Image for Kyra Atterbury.
57 reviews
July 30, 2022
I’m really torn about this book. Let me start by saying that I agree with so much of what the author says. I really do believe that mindfulness and meditation are keys to liberation. That we need more sessions like the ones the author hosts and that I am sure that those she touches are transformed. I also have a daily meditation practice that I have sustained for quite some time so I am fully on board with MOST of what the author says. I worry though about spiritual bypassing. About the lack of action and the reliance on “just breathing” though something where, in many cases, the thing that happens must be addressed. One of the things that my meditation practice helps me with is clarity of voice. I know that I can return to my breath, to the ground beneath me, when something troubling happens. However, it gives me the ability to voice my feelings about that trouble. And if there needs to be accountability for whatever it was, I can speak that clearly. (Or at least try too) I think her story about the law student Dan was where I became a bit concerned. In that instance, I felt like Dan’s feelings were held to be more important that having a real discussion as to why the Rodney King beating was wrong. I understand that his first professor may have handled it incorrectly but Dan has held on to that for years, held on to the image of the angry black woman, without it seems attempting to talk with this professor, gone to a dean, or some other Avenue that an ADULT could take to address a problem. To me, and again, we only got a short taste of what happened in the book, it felt like he was being purposefully provocative, which meditation or not, is immature. I’m glad she was able to handle it in the way that she did but he STILL wrote the paper. I just wondered if he was able to learn anything? To think about why this topic might cause rage in a black person. I just don’t want us to believe that the only thing we have to do is sit in circles meditate and talk about our experiences of race to make things better. I know that she does not believe this and that meditation and mindfulness are jumping off points for the real work but I wish there had been more examples of how that could happen.
Profile Image for Tiffany Corvi .
155 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2021
I really enjoyed this new (to me) idea of mindfulness. I'm just starting on my mindfulness journey, and I appreciated her guided practices throughout the book. Because of these, and her recommendations to journal, this was not a quick read. It's definitely a book you want to make time for, and really give all your awareness to.

As a white woman who was fed colonial /white-washed history, with the belief that racism was in the past, the 2020 political year was a huge year for my awareness to racial injustice. Of course I knew it existed, but I unknowingly was complicit to much of it and hid behind the privilege that kept me safe from it. Through the "Pause" practices, I was able to uncover where my racist beliefs stemmed from, how they were being perpetuated and ignored in my life, how I was triggered by conversations about race, and how I could be a better ally against racial injustice. I really enjoyed being able to take the time to realize so much through the reading of this book.

I'd have rated it higher, but at times it felt very repetitive and circled back to much of the same through the 5 parts of the book. I think it could have been edited down better to make the points she made even more clear and valuable to the reader. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone of any race, as she speaks to all of us who have been hurt by, been ignorant to, and have been complicit in racism. It was refreshing to read something that made me realize so much about myself without shame and with so much love and care.
42 reviews
December 26, 2020
Rhonda V. Magee brings in her personal work as a lawyer and law professor, as well as a mindfulness practitioner who leads bias workshops, to this book about deepening our ability to engage in honest, compassionate, and constructive discussions about race.

I appreciate that she is open about the pitfalls and doubts of such work; she describes her own doubts about her work possibly being used as a cosmetic/PR band-aid for institutions which don’t do real material anti-racist work; and other such things.

For me, this book lays out how necessary it is to build up the emotional fortitude to talk about racism.

There is a huge amount of emotional strength and labor expected of people of color in this arena, and it’s up to white people to do work in this as well, rather than retreating to comfort at every chance, or thinking that it’s only “other white people” who need to learn anything.

The mindfulness practices shared in this book can be used to help us to not “fight, freeze, or flee” when uncomfortable topics arise.

Profile Image for Alicia Tapia.
173 reviews15 followers
November 30, 2021
As a mindfulness practitioner dedicated to racial justice, I was really excited to read this book, especially because she is based local in San Francisco and I haven't seen a book that integrates these two topics dear to me.
It is a noble feat of a book, and worthy of the praise of its endeavor. Personally, I think the structure of the chapters and sections didn't flow well for me. You jump from anecdotes (which I enjoyed), to history (necessary, if you didn't already consider the history of racism), to then a mindfulness practice in which to sit with what has come up. It's like pushing on the gas pedal, and then being asked to come to a complete stop with the engine running.
I see the logic, but that doesn't make it easier to read. I will still keep this on my shelf for lifelong practice, and again, admire the noble effort of this book to combine heart and head, to push for cultural humility, but it's still just tough to find a good flow.
62 reviews
May 24, 2021
I think the premise of the book is awesome. Unfortunately, Rhonda Magee did not really sell it without hard evidence to show how this actually improves communities nor did she offer many practices that I would find useful for guiding my own community. Reading this in congruence with a mindfulness social justice class might be useful, as you'll be able to use those practices to cultivate the philosophies laid out in this book.
I'm just trying to think about the injustices seen in the Gaza strip right now and this book feels really tone deaf regarding race relations (granted they're also religiously-founded as well) to help people there. Equally, I feel like this was more pointed at white healing than for people of color's communities.
Profile Image for Jack Ryan.
29 reviews
August 4, 2021
This book was good, I thought it was well written, did a good job reinforcing ideas, and explaining mindful which is a pretty complicated idea for those who have never experienced it. Some reviews say that it was not great because it catered to white fragility, which at first annoyed me as well. But then I realized that it was speaking to everyone of every race because white supremacy runs deeps in our societal brains, so I thought there were things that everyone could take away from it. Had to read it for orientation. I only give 5 stars to books I “devoured” in a sense, but this book was very enjoyable to read and I took a lot away from it.
Profile Image for Athalia.
11 reviews
January 18, 2023
It was definitely an interesting read, and I learned a lot throughout this book. The author eloquently discusses the importance of mindfulness-based practice in encouraging and race-related conversations.

The reason as to why I gave it 3 stars is because while I do love the emphasis on mindfulness, I felt as though it took away from the book. The practices, at least for me, were overwhelming and some were repetitive.

Nonetheless, this was a great book for understanding the effects of mindfulness on racial justice.
Profile Image for Sammy.
15 reviews
February 28, 2023
seemed to be an incredibly important, supportive, and accessible resource for folks in the earlier stages of struggling to dismantle internalized "racial bias" (author's language).

i struggled through the text every step of the way, taking what felt useful and leaving the rest. it was helpful to continually remind myself this was written from, by(, and probably for) the perspective of an extremely educated, probably not poor, lawyer living in cities.

(read this with a diverse group, and opinions were incredibly mixed based on the positions we hold in the world)
Profile Image for Meredith.
81 reviews
November 8, 2020
This book kept me reading from the first page. I found myself agreeing with what the author wrote about and teaching me so much! I was also happy to see how the author included ways to practice mindfulness techniques in order to help with the topic discussed. I would very much recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about racial justice or wants to read something new. I am so happy to have picked up this book and hope to read more from this author!
Profile Image for Tanya.
298 reviews3 followers
March 24, 2021
I’ve been reading this amazing book slowly over the past 6 months or so. There’s so much eye- and heart-opening information in here. So many gentle prompts to examine how racism manifests in our culture, questions and meditations to help build up the tolerance to sit with hard feelings, and so many reminders to practice self-compassion as we learn, make mistakes, and then come back to learning and growing.
199 reviews2 followers
November 20, 2020
I too am ambivalent about this one. There are some good insights, and probably helpful for people who are involved in the struggle for social justice. But in the present time of mostly isolation, it's hard to know how to put them into practice. p. 292: "Calmly, clearly, and with love, we do what we can. And then we let go and let be."
Profile Image for Annie Walker.
58 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2020
This was my first book that included meditation, which was difficult for me to adjust to. I think from that standpoint, I would’ve enjoyed it more as an audiobook. However, the stories and conversations Magee shares provided great insight to the viewpoints of many on the issue of racism and injustice and how we can have more productive conversations on the issue. I’m glad I read it!
4 reviews
April 9, 2021
Magee has developed a wonderful tool for people of all walks of life to become more aware of racism and how to combat it using meditation. The meditations in this book are appropriately focuses to BIPOC populations, however, non-BIPOCs can successfully engage in the meditations from a different perspective. It is a great resource for reframing your experiences past, present, and future!
Profile Image for Teresa Hildebrandt.
326 reviews22 followers
March 11, 2020
Thank you Jessica! I loved this book. A must read for everyone and especially everyone in the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science community.
It’s one of the best books that touches the heart. I am very grateful.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
678 reviews12 followers
March 12, 2020
The key word is in the title - WORK. It will take hard work to undo the harms of racial oppression. Rhonda Magee shows us how to do the inner (and outer) work of understanding and compassion. This book should be read slowly with the mindfulness exercises at the end of each chapter practiced.
1 review1 follower
July 5, 2020
Inner work is critical to unpack our own embodied experiences of our bodies and the bodies of others. This book does an excellent job of taking a contemplative approach to social justice. Magee is honest and personal making it an authentic exploration that is both challenging and useful.
Profile Image for Lauren.
321 reviews16 followers
September 6, 2020
On the face of it this should have been right up my alley - I’m always interested in books on race and books on mindfulness, so combining them? Gold! Unfortunately, I struggled to engage with this one and gave up in the 200s. Just not my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Sheri.
121 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2020
I listed to this amazing book on audio. This is a resource which could be utilized multiple times. I appreciate listening to the author��s guidance and the opportunities she presents for mindfulness exercises. Owning a copy is a “must”.
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