"Discourse about racism is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt.
Discourse is meant to drive people to action against injustice.
Question is, are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues
of diversity, including religion, gender and race?" Hari Singh Bird
"Are there even occasional conversations between White eyes and Colored eyes regarding the issues of diversity and racism and
their impact and complexities within the American community today?
Issues to do with diversity are not going away just because we deny
their existence, or because they cause us discomfort to discuss. We
must promote pluralism as did Guru Nanak Dev throughout his
ministry. Sikh Dharma's tent needs to be as big as the Cosmos."
"The human mind was created to discriminate, e.g., make choices between
up and down, in and out, black and white, etc. We must remain aware of our
tendency to use our discretionary abilities in order to marginalize and repress
people with whom we differ. We need to constantly see to it that we advocate for pluralism, against tribalism, in the interest of justice as taught by Guru Nanak Dev.
Our choices are to live for each other, or to live at each other." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa
1) Respect for diversity, even a celebration of our diversity, begins with the individual. A culture of diversity means an end to exceptionalism, a recognition that each of us are worthy of respect and essential human rights including life, freedom of association, healthy environments, the means to provide for self and family, equal treatment under the law, and freedom to worship or not worship as one sees fit.
2) A culture of diversity does not allow of elitist actions or policies based on cultural, religious, national or racial social distinctions. It engenders respect of all cultures, religions, nations, countries, and races. (See Example.)
3) A culture of diversity takes all necessary measures to correct social and economic inequities based on any recognized history of systemic oppression. These measures must include adequate legal, medical and educational assistance to marginalized groups. (See Selective Censure.)
4) A culture of diversity recognizes the disproportionate incarceration of members of racial and cultural minorities and works fervently to reverse systemic inequities while taking steps to heal individual wounds and the wounds of the society as a whole.
5) A culture of diversity vigorously prosecutes those who wage war without cause and those who wreak havoc on the economy through their greed and corruption - regardless of their social standing - for it is the weak and the marginalized who suffer the most from the crimes of the powerful. In a culture of diversity, these are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity, and prosecuted with all seriousness.
6) A culture of diversity respects the right of all people to honest work by creating and implementing balanced trade agreements which do not export jobs and impoverish the working class in the home country.
7) A culture of diversity addresses global imbalances of wealth and opportunity by creating mechanisms whereby the good fortune of wealthy regions may readily be shared in less fortunate parts of the world and also facilitate the secure flow of refugees and migrants across international boundaries. In a culture of diversity, we are the world.
BTW: I don't like it when we are called "White Sikhs" but I can see where academics and ordinary people on the street get the term. The Siri Singh Sahib did his best to make us culturally open-minded and racially sensitive, going so far as to create a school in racially brown and Punjabi-speaking India for our children, but old habits die hard. My sense is that Punjabi is not taken seriously among White Sikhs generally and that is a problem. Add to that America's racist and genocidal history and you have the makings of an issue that could well take generations to resolve. Still, let's do our part with Guru's blessing. More.
"Discourse about racism is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt.
Discourse is meant to drive people to action against injustice.
Question is, are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues of diversity, including religion, gender and race?" MySikhSense.com
Sat Nam. Minorities always will be subjected to fear and intolerance. It's up to minorities to defend their rights instead of complaining. Complaining is a sign of mental weakness, as is believed in warrior cultures.
Diversity is a social and civil atmosphere of exchanges of personal beliefs, religions, ethnicities and nationalities to come together to serve a common goal for the upliftment of all participants. As often stated, "All boats rise upon the coming of the tide." More.
"All sanctions, externally applied, are morality." Morality is not an absolute state. It is affected and changed by different cultures, religious beliefs, societies, etc. In some past cultures it was most
immoral to consider having only one husband, for example." Aftab Singh Khalsa
Sat Nam. Diversity is inclusion. It is a huge Welcome Sign and an invitation to all, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, sex, criminal record, financial status, color, or religious belief. A perfect template of diversity would be proportionally representative of the demographics of the society in which it exists. All entities in our organization should follow this model... (See Sensitivity Summit.)
I attended my first Kundalini Yoga class in early 1972 in New York. Later that year I converted to Sikhism from Roman Catholicism and started teacher training at the Maha Deva Ashram in Tucson, Arizona. I received the blessing and approval from Yogiji, in person at his Los Angeles home, to be a teacher in 1973, and he instructed me then to return to my native country, Trinidad, to pioneer the teachings there. I was ordained as a Sikh Minister in 1973 and have continuously kept my status active.
Currently, I live in Los Angeles. I lecture and workshop Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma teachings annually in mostly Australia and Trinidad. I also counsel and teach privately. More.
Sat Nam. It is an interesting time. So many want to be “diverse” but never learned how to with grace. And many just want that aspect to be over there. In our overwrought, complicated and filled with online, offline, gadgets, over communicated, over stimulated world it also needs to be a priority.
My solution is to just live it. Go out of my way to work with “diversity.” Speak to individuals I might not have when raised. The Eugene Rotary broke a serious barrier to skateboarders. In this town it is now very cool to have a skateboard. And be a skater. Such a grand example. Skaters come in every color. So we have that as well. It’s a start. Next is the color barrier, cultural barrier and then the holy grail of the religious barrier.
Rotary has been good for me to push on people to accept. We just have to apply principals of motivation to the Dharma. i don’t think people are outwardly racist. But old patterns come up. Things are said not realizing what they mean. The holy inner circle has so insulated itself, that they are completely unaware. And that in the culture built on Kundalini Yoga, The Yoga of Awareness.
As Gurumukh Singh said, so well. In detail. We are still grossly unaware. That takes more meditation and more letting go. Not be so insulated. Eugene was like a mill town. Everyone worked for GT. And spoke GT. Many hardly ever went outside that circle. Siri Singh Sahib encouraged us to go outside the circle. Teachers have to go outside the circle to teach. Wonder amongst the greater world.
Espanola is still a mill town. It’s like the Vatican. Insulated. Not really able to see beyond. That’s a big issue. What do we do with that? Not everyone says Sat Nam upon greeting. As teachers we have to extend ourselves. And lots do. And some don’t wear turbans. But some never did. And we have to accept everyone. Colors. Religions. Yogas. Status. Value. Earnings.
How do we become diverse when a homeless person turns out to be educated, smart and having had a history of business is still considered an untouchable? Caste is caste no matter where you are, what you do or who you are. And Sikh is anti-caste. Born of it. And still there. Casteless.
And that’s the bottom line. If one is prejudice of anything, that puts that things in a lower caste. Can’t do that. Against the ultimate teachings of the Gurus. And the teachings of a humble yogi. Was he humble? Ask yourself if you could do what he did. It all boils down to caste. All the committees including and not including. The inner circles and outer circles. The blessed and unblessed. Those who were close to the Master and those who were kept at a distance. And those who were sent out to be in the world. It’s not about finding the things wrong. But to embrace what is right. Casteless. If we all just meditate on that one thing alone. Being casteless. Eating in the same space (langar service) on the floor. Basic things. Seeing God in all – at the moment in every moment. Not later or another time. Or when the person before you is ready or willing to be part of the culture. (See Example.) All things at all times are equal. It comes from the heart. And is...casteless. More.
It is up to us, with Intelligence, to cultivate food, from weeds, and strength, wisdom, and peace, from weakness, ignorance, and conflict. Indigenous Wisdom traditions which remind us to connect to All Our Relations, and to Love our Enemies, are echoed in the recognition that the Other(ed) person is You. According to Yogiji, Kundalini Yoga arose out of Africa, as one of many paths to liberation. It passed through India, with its caste systems, violence against women, untouchable "Others", and those of different faiths. It was brought to America, where we have the opportunity to make yoga accessible to those who need it, particularly if they are the untouchables / homeless, addicted, incarcerated, survivors of war, domestic violence or discrimination of various kinds. Access to yoga is a Civil Rights Issue: Who of the starving would you not feed, would you not give a home to, would you not give access to a path of self Mastery? Who is being denied that access and why? What if Yogi Bhajan's spiritual successor was a Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Nelson Mandela, a Hopi Elder, one of the Indigenous Grandmothers? What if the focus was to bring the yoga to the places where it had only rarely been except where teachers from diverse communities brought it to those "other" communities? --
"A simple demographic analysis of any 3HO organization shows,
even in terms of workforce, attendance, there is probably not
Affirmative Action compliance, i.e., does your workforce
composition match the population within your local community?"
Sat Nam. I've been watching this (ACT) process, and the decision to go more "oblique", than "direct". What they (organizations) have done to offend is not oblique at all. It's been direct. Their response shows that. Saying they've communicated, but not producing the communications. Saying they haven't censured, when their actions censure. Saying that Yogiji said on advice of counsel but not producing a written directive. Even countering eyewitness observation.
I'm of the Frederick Douglass school: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong, which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Frederick Douglass
They've been doing wrong, and not conceding anything is wrong, and having us do all the legwork, and stalling so we'll lose interest and go away. Conditions will change at their leisure, or not at all.
Using parliamentary language, which itself is designed for deliberative bodies which take their time in correcting injustices, only in response to demands to correct those injustices, and only to the extent that their main power is uninterrupted.
I respect the use of language. I respect that you are approaching a religious body, on religious grounds, using the rationale and assumed common faith the Guru, and the process, to achieve justice harmoniously. I respect that. I'm not certain of its efficacy, but I'm willing to observe, while keeping my plans in reserve.
Whereas, the use of parliamentary language to obscure or nuance meaning has been used in the past to enshrine discrimination as law on this continent, I'd go in the direction of plainer more direct speech.
It is not complaining to say as a fact that certain things have happened, are happening, and continue to happen. A “perception” is a hunch, an intuition that may actually be found to be true upon investigation, research, and repeated observation. I always check for how diverse an organization is, as part of my safety check. I never assume the numbers are a matter of random chance. In my workplace, they definitely are not.
At my college, with 250 full time faculty at the time of my hire, I was the second African-American faculty member added in 1992. In academe, African Americans are 10% of faculty, nationally, in the US. If you hire nationally, and most everyone does in college, then your faculty should be 10% Black too.
As another example 30% of foreign language instructors are Native speakers, so it’s impossible on the West Coast, to have an all white Spanish Department. But my college does, because of the attitude, “Hispanics don’t work out well in this department”.
In my hire, 1400 people applied for 44 positions. 160 of them were minorities, about 11%. I was the only minority hired, 1 minority out of 160. So what are the chances that I was the only qualified minority out of 160. The statistical analysis shows that result to be 3 Standard Deviations from chance, and the Federal standard is 2 Standard Deviations. In other words the math, the data show that discrimination is going on. In fact, minorities are applying, and are deliberately being denied work.
That is not random chance, then it isn't our "perception", it's a fact. I didn’t need the math to demonstrate that my perception and intuition about my workplace being hostile, the data confirmed it. The math indicates and supports to the present day our low minority demographic at my college has come from deliberate, intentional, practice.
A simple demographic analysis of any 3HO organization shows, even in terms of workforce, attendance, there is probably not, Affirmative Action compliance, i.e., does your workforce composition match the population within your local community?
That is if you have more than 50 employees or use more than a certain amount of Federal funds in contracts, like with Akal Security, you have to demonstrate you are not discriminating.
Your hiring practices and workplace conditions is one data point. Not a perception a checkable fact.
How many artists are of color signed to, or distributed by Spirit Voyage?
How many different types of music (Native American, Latin American, etc are played during Sadhana, Solstice, or other 3HO events, other than Peace Prayer Day?
How many books are published through KRI whose intent is to spread the teaching among those who have not heard them, who don't wish to, or don't feel comfortable coming to certain events, because of the demographic?
These are all data points, which indicated conditions that are not welcoming on the face of them, therefore not simply people's "perceptions".
Their observations are representative of facts and actual conditions.
I’m not complaining, I’m looking at the data, and using Occam’s razor: “It states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.”
An attitude that suggests the lack of diversity in 3HO “is just the way it is, by random chance”, is ignoring past American history, and current conditions in society. If I can’t find Kundalini Yoga’s African origins, or how to cope with the stress of racism and discrimination, in the library of teachings, when I know for a fact he told African-American yogi’s including Krishna Kaur and Awtar Singh and others that. I’m not going to assume those omissions are an oversight, and accidental, any more than they were and are by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.
If I see a lack of diversity in any American organization, I’m not going assume that is due to random chance, particularly when there has been both history, and structures, policies, and practices, supporting suppressing diversity, in place, in society, and in effect the organization. The fact that you might have a few minorities in position of influence, but not proportionate to their presence in the population, means that something is keeping minorities out of 3HO, just like it does in other parts of American society.
Whereas, like any American organization that may consciously or unconsciously replicate historical and current patterns of discrimination, we encourage 3HO to investigate, research, support, and encourage its varying institutions and organizations to support culturally competent and proficient practices to adapt the Dharma to reach populations it may be denied to.
But I bid you to proceed in the manner, you see fit. --
"There is definitely racism happening in 3HO, by the diagnostic
criteria devised by African-American Psychologists from institutions like
Harvard etc. occupying positions in the government, and clinical practice."
Sat Nam. I am not specifically objecting to the use of Parliamentary language “Whereas”. But official deliberative bodies in the English language use that word when they have made determinations of fact and are developing policy. If the strategy is indirect, non-confrontational, you feel the target body is largely sympathetic to your aims, and won’t be put off by the pomposity of the language, and then it’s a good opening strategy.
I’m speaking personally here when I say, when someone says People of Color perceive this or that… the use of that word perception, used in parliamentary procedure often means that something could have the appearance of being improper, without actually being improper, according to whatever epistemology (how you know what is right, real, and true) you’re operating from. Or a perception is a hunch or intuition, that’s accurate but simply needs corroborating evidence for skeptics and believers alike.
There is definitely racism happening in 3HO, by the diagnostic criteria devised by African-American Psychologists from institutions like Harvard etc, occupying positions in the government, and clinical practice. It might not be conscious in intent, but based on case law and practice, the effect and impact is the same as if it was. 3HO and its organizations can either recognize that, based on the evidence and experience, or people will continue to stay away. Or people like Awtar Singh (see details), and Krishna Kaur etc. will simply endure the slights for the furtherance of a larger goal. These diagnostic criteria were developed to create coping mechanisms in the face of the total disregard and lack of acknowledgement or denial on the part of mainstream organizations and movements that 3HO has often modeled its practices after.
As comedians Key & Peele have noted, being called racist to White people is like being called nigger by Black people. For me as an African-American practitioner of psychology, racism is a co-occurring disorder i.e. both a mental illness (schizophrenia – denial, projection, delusions of superiority) and an addiction (think crack, meth, or power). If you speak English, you’ve been infected by the meme, and may experience ego inflammation manifesting in a variety of ways.
So when I describe racism, or say something is racist, its not enough to speak the term, you have to specify what and where, as if it were a cancerous tumor. Then there is a corrective course of treatment, based on the accurate diagnosis.
Here’s one that I use. There are six types of ISM’s, two by Individuals, and four types of Institutional (from the literature on Racism, but adaptable to other intersectional forms of systemic discrimination Class, Religion, Spirituality, Gender, Gender Expression, Age, Ability, Addiction etc.)
Type I: Overt Individual (Physical or Verbal Attacks) by Individuals Ex: Supreme Court “Fighting Words”, N-Word, B-Word, Faggot, Kike, Sand-N, Prairie-N, Raghead, etc.
Type II: Covert Individual (Racial Microaggressions, Microinsults, Microassaults, Microinvalidations…) From Chester Pierce, Derald W. Sue et al (Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life) Sue et al identify 9 or more species of microaggressions, which APA recognizes enough to have workshop tracks at its conferences, but not enough to put in its DSM-V manual.
Microaggressions can often be unconscious, but can also be conscious when accompanied by what is referred to as “little white lies” (white lie: a diplomatic or well intentioned untruth). One example I’ve encountered is the suppression of Awtar Singh’s book, which has Kundalini Yoga Kriyas and meditations. I found it an excellent resource for showing African-American students that there is a place for them in 3HO. KRI apparently doesn’t think so, and once told Awtar that the pictures weren’t “formatted properly”. Without specifying what that means specifically, that statement comes off as “too many pictures of Black people in it”. I personally edited a version of his book, from PowerPoint, and yes the photo files were whoppingly big, but printed off fine before and after I edited them down to web friendly size so I could put them on my iPad.
I mentioned before a KRI approved book by Deva Singh Khalsa, “Yoga for people with whacky families,” which has a cartoon graphic of an African person playing a balafon, (“Music and Mantra Requirements”) to illustrate the music section, and a few respectfully done cartoons depicting People of Color (Pg. 10 under Mahabandh). Here’s the issue: that was KRI approved, so cartoon depictions of People of Color are OK, but actual photographs of African American yogini’s and yogi’s in Atlanta, Georgia, are not properly formatted. Which do you think will better attract African-Americans to the Dharma? Cartoons, or actual photographs?
Oh, but why stop there… Who made the decision to place a Sikh musical CD in the Christian section of a music company’s website? Would that be the best marketing placement? Or alongside Krishna Kaur, Aykanna, CC White? Those two examples neatly correspond to the published definitions of racial microaggressions.
An example would be saying you have a standard, rule, or process that is not published, followed consistently, applied selectively, or not applied at all when it should be. We have a memo, a finding, we communicated, but we didn’t hear from them… Fine, you’re a bureaucracy, produce without fabrication said communications, standards, violations, steps to reinstatement. Seems simple enough. Can’t do it, don’t have it, don’t have records of similar incidents to prove that you’re consistent? Then it's easy to say given the other microaggressions, that this is motivated by some other personal agenda. It doesn’t appear to be unconscious or accidental. People may not be doing it deliberately, but simply unconsciously uncomfortable. But the intent doesn’t matter, as much as acknowledging that the impact, is as bad as if it were deliberate. We live in a society where such discrimination was deliberate and legal. Actively working to undo those samskaras is a task of the Yoga of Awareness. In my opinion, detecting “invisible” systems of discrimination is a siddhi.
Type III Unconscious Institutional ISM: An institution is composed of individuals, who take collective action. Type III institutional racism is when individuals, using institutional power, commit Type I, or Type II, and the institution is officially unaware, and makes no policy, procedures, or safeguards against such practices. Or even acknowledges that such things can and do happen.
Type IV Conscious Institutional ISM: Where discrimination is legal, and the institution carries it out as part of its function. The State of Oregon, Jim Crow South, the United States protection of Slavery, and policies of genocide towards the Indian Nations, Apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany… When discrimination becomes illegal, after being legal, there is still an infrastructure that may support discrimination and inequity for a time. This leads to:
Type V Conscious Institutional ISM Covert & Illegal. The discrimination continues, because it is profitable. To remedy it, you must follow the proper procedure, rules of evidence: Redlining, Credit Access, Subprime Auto and Mortgage lending…
Type VI Sociostructural Violence: The most dangerous and widespread, because it causes the most diseases and deaths, disproportionately against vulnerable populations: violence against women, sexual assaults, denial of access to treatment or health care, incarcerations for non-violent drug offenses.
I’m sorry that sensitivity training (as it was called in the 70s), and diversity training (80s to oughts) in their day, and in practice, cannot touch deeply rooted and systemic racism, and other ISM’s in those unwilling to be aware and be part of the solution.
Just because the APA doesn’t recognize racism exists, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that constructs can’t be devised to detect and counter it. --
Sat Nam, Family! There hasn't been a day in my life I haven't somehow been reminded that I don't come from mainstream American culture, and oftentimes through the lens of pride vs shame. Being Black often means to be 'Dueling in the Dark', as one gets good at navigating so as not to incite the subconscious collective thought form of 'fear' of minorities. Most People of Color are subjected to the mood swings of the ruling mindset, and how it's effect on one's station in life. Not being in a position to 'keep up with the Jones' can be a good thing, though, as one is challenged to endure and hopefully shine from a grounded place, rather than a giddy place. 'Lucifer' does much commerce amongst those with the false sense of power that affluence often brings as that lends one to be more easily "blinded and carried away by The Light", as their source of well being is less integrated in the body or connected to Soul.
Blesseid are those who sing the Blues because in so doing they get to maybe transcend the Blues. The same is true for Funk, defined by the poet Patricia Smith as "the underside of anything", a necessary reaction to the culture married to falseness and hyper everything. If one can 'allow' that thick, rich heavy state to come up in your awareness and give it a sound, the funk will move and create a steadiness (aka Ojas - the glue that hold body, mind and spirit together)... It may not be pretty, initially... and it could take a lot of courage. Oftentimes though, it is far easier to project that on someone else, or perhaps on a whole group of people, than to identify all of that as being one's very own 'stuff'. Many of us spiritual yogi types have gotten very good at pushing it down, putting a good face on it. A spiritual Clearasil of sorts, but every time we scrub our skin, use that alcohol pad, etc we leave a scar, as we've actually attacked our self and further broadened the distance between mind and body, heart and soul.
This animosity toward self boils over and throughout history has created some very ugly events. Nazism being one of the more obvious manifestations born of many generations worth of culturally suppressed orgiastic longing. Here in Massachusetts the distrust of the feminine aspect allowed for the burning of women at the stake, after being labeled witches. The local folks seemed to get into it. There was a time if a young Black man whistled at or looked at a White woman the wrong way in the South, he would be lynched. It was a often accompanied by a huge picnic as people drove from many miles around to be part of it.
I think we can understand the neurosis involved in one person wanting to scapegoat/blame the other for their own situation, or low self esteem. Where it goes South is when that same pain of disconnection is shared by a group, or the majority population. It begins with sympathizing, a recognition of a common feeling or frustration (birds of a feather).
Our teacher spoke of the responsibility we have to one another of not letting the other 'seal their fate'. To get in their way. To *skillfully* Poke, Provoke, Confront and Elevate. Sadhana is required to be effective in the Elevation part as Shuniya is necessary* Note. SSSji kept us busy. He gave us things to do. If you were getting too 'possessed' he moved you, regardless of the effect on the business. That wasn't as important as your soul.
What is missing is the presence of someone unattached and steady enough who can get in one's way. One who can break the teeth of our attachment, and have us 'like it'. If we're unwilling to confront ourselves, then we are in for a very, very rude awakening. A sealed fate is pretty much a mess. Our Souls often don't really want us to get our way, if what we want is not what the great spirit also wants. When the Master was around people were accountable. I don't see that happening except in small pockets. When the Master is absent, there absolutely has to be humility.
The most difficult obstacle to growth is the thinking that one is already enlightened or liberal because they've said the right things, and "acted' the proper part for decades...... And then someone comes along who is not pretending at all, or buying into the self-image. We see an [almost] subconscious reaction, as the cover is blown...... And then there is the proverbial cover up (eyes rolling). We see a rally to cloak the momentary exposure of the facade in another disguise. Spiritual condemnation, or some other guise of superiority. The truth is, what is coming up is self hatred (learned shame of one's own human nature, or something like it). It really must be dealt with at that level, and not buried again.
In the meantime DO NOT MAKE IT INSTITUTIONAL out of one's own sense of desperation.
"What we say is sometimes so outrageous,
we don't even realize how real and how contagious.
If we thought of the best,
oh what we could manifest."
What are our truest personal values? Re-member... what brought us to this path?... this sangat? How does the picture before you now compare to what you felt at the start. Chances are one's dignity will take a hit (maybe a huge one) if they are at all honest with them-self, but at least they'll be closer to being whole, instead being stuck in a role.
*Note: "Thoughts on your to skillfully Poke, Provoke, Confront and Elevate...Un-see what comes up in the first three steps. Acknowledge and verify the purity of the poked one's soul. Hold up their purest intentions whether they are openly visible or hidden. If everyone knew better they would excel and feel the victory of their spirit over the mistaken veil of illusion. You trust their whole-ness to flower as you expect it, as you feel your purity and project it to attract theirs.
Agreed! Poking is your prerogative as Teacher. Provocation takes the investigation deeper so that the ego, awakened by the poking, cannot brush aside your poke. Confronting goes deeper still when the psyche has to look for the answer that will elevate the moment past crisis. Without awakening the ego with the first three steps you end up just stroking it and deepening its entrenched patterns.
This process is not about persuasion or changing peoples' minds. It is a tool to allow someone to discover their own elevation of perspective and discover their own essential nature that may be hidden under veils of habitual perceptions and ways of responding to the play of life. We get to look at ourselves, our actions and motivation. If we like what we discover there is no problem - we can drop the subject. If we encounter reaction or resistance, then comes the opportunity to change with a re-evaluation of the current, not useful way of being." Siri Bahadur Singh
Sat Nam. To me, Diversity means Inclusion, openness, a melding of everyone's talents, skills, and hearts and souls, in any and every situation. And yes, I believe that in the Dharma, in our White, Western, 3HO-oriented version of Sikh Dharma, we need to look seriously at the whole idea of White privilege, who's using their position and/or power to what purpose, and how does it relate to whether or not they are White/Caucasian/Other - and are they even aware of it?
A bit of my history to explain where I am now in my life. I grew up in a rural, agricultural area of central-western New York State, where there were only a couple of "permanent" families of color living in the area. All the others I encountered were Black migrant workers brought from the south by crew bosses in the fall to harvest crops (pick potatoes by hand, mostly) - and they lived in what even then I knew were appalling conditions; small shacks with no running water or bathing facilities on the farmers' properties, and while the law required that their children attend school for the few weeks they were in the area, those kids were herded into the school's gym and - I don't even know what they did all day. Were they given actual education? I can't remember at this far remove. All I remember was everyone from teachers and staff down through the student body was just annoyed with the situation. "Our gym" was out of use for us because of "those kids". And all the families were referred to by local (White) people as "tranchunts" (transients, but pronounced as I've spelled it - with a very ugly and bitter twist). As if they were homeless hobos not worthy of anyone's attention or respect, rather than families trying to make it through life, just like everyone else.
For myself, I hated that attitude and designation, even as a small child. I felt a close and happy relationship with a couple of boys from one of the "permanent" families; one was my classmate and good friend from the first day of kindergarten all the way through graduating high school, and the other his next-younger brother. Well before that, my favorite friend at day care (unusual for that time, my mother worked full time in a business my parents owned and ran together) was a little Black boy.
Even today, when I see a photo of a group of people, my first thought is to wonder, where are the faces of color? Recently I was looking at the staff pics of an organization that was touting itself as so progressive and great to work with/for, and it took going through several dozen before I saw the first picture of a Black staff member - altogether there were only two People of Color or apparent non-White ethnicity on staff. So maybe not so progressive after all.
Lastly, I just came across this great presentation on... well, presentations. It seems relevant to me, in regard to presenting our ideas amongst ourselves and to others. You don't have to actually watch it, just skim through the highlighted points. http://www.presentationzen.com/ I think they will resonate. More.
Sat Nam. Diversity is celebrating our humanity. Accepting all Hues of the Human Race, all cultures are precious, all paths to the Divine are sacred. Before Unity, one has to forgive one's prejudices, insecurities and fears of those who may appear different. Accepting the diversity begins the process of acceptance. Growing up with Diversity and among different People of Color and religions seemingly different from my own gave me awareness of the presence of the Divine Light in all. I was taught before you seek peace in the world, find it within. Before one can see the One in everyone and everything, one must see and know the One is me. From this awareness one knows the One in everyone. By Grace and good fortune one rises beyond one 's fear and conquers the demon of duality. --
One week in 1974, a letter arrived from a prison inmate to the Director of Baba Siri Chand Ashram in Altamonte Springs, Florida. It was a request for Kundalini Yoga classes to be taught at the Sumter Correctional Institute in Bushnell, Florida. I was assigned the job of teaching the classes, and tasked with making the long drive.
I arrived that first Friday at 7:00 pm. I was patted down and then allowed, under escort, to meet the inmate who wanted to learn yoga and meditation. I spent about an hour with him. I informed him that he had to organize a larger group since it was 80 miles each way to the prison. He then informed me he would NOT do any yoga with Blacks. Actually, he used a different word to refer to People of Color. I then told him that there had to be 6 more students in addition to him, and 4 had to be Blacks. I told him it was his choice and that I was doing the classes out of seva (service), that I was not being paid, and that the Ashram was paying for the gas. He reluctantly agreed. Years later, he admitted he was grateful that I acted firmly with him.
So the next week I drove the 1-1/2 hour drive through orange groves and back country roads, through Mount Dora to the Sumter Correctional Institute. When I arrived I was informed by the prison guards that there were about 20 students registered for the class. More than half were Black inmates.
Several weeks later, I got there late. I was told to enter the compound and to go to the back. I brought my guitar and walked across a large open area to a building where I was also informed the inmates were already doing some yoga. As I got closer, I could hear powerful "Breath of Fire". I mean, I could feel the building move. It was amazing. The person leading the set was the young White man who had asked me to teach him but with no Blacks. As I walked into the room, he told the students to inhale and relax. I was so in awe of what I was experiencing. It was only the 3rd or 4th class. But after six months of teaching, the class grew to 65 inmates.
Over half were Black. By now, about 9 had asked Yogi Bhajan, aka Siri Singh Sahib, for a spiritual name, and converted their prison diet to vegetarian (as best they could). They traded meat for more veggies and salad. Some were getting up early and chanting in their cells. Well, more like softly chanting. One inmate, a Black, man, loved the yoga so much, he told his fellow inmates to turn off the TV and join him, one Friday night. I noticed that night he was missing. I was informed he was clubbed with an iron bar and was bandaged up in the infirmary. The following week, he sat in the class with white bandages wrapped over his head. He was smiling from ear to ear. He told me he was wearing a turban, like me.
In the autumn, just before the Winter Solstice, Yogi Bhajan came to Central Florida. With the help of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the State of Florida Corrections system, two chosen inmates, with escorts, were allowed to come to Baba Siri Chand for a banquet to honor Siri Singh Sahib ji. They presented him a leather flag, hand painted to match the Sikh Dharma Flag. Hanging from the bottom it said, "Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan", and the Siri Singh Sahib ji wept."
In the spring of 1975, I was called by nine inmates who were in a "work-release" program. They were first time offenders and had for almost two years been model inmates in the Correctional system. They were to be released. It was inspiring and humbling. One was the original student, and there were two more young White men. The remaining inmates who were released were Black. One of them was my white-bandaged warrior, who found the Light within that healed his mind, his heart, who then took responsibility for his life. Twenty years later. the original student, the young White man who didn't want to do yoga with Blacks, was out of prison and living in New Zealand. He called me to say, "Sat Nam!", and to thank me.
"Wahe Guru", is all I can express. It was an experience as a Teacher I will always treasure. My thanks to M.S.S. Hari Singh Bird for leaving me with the Orange County ('Thee Door') drug rehab center, Kundalini Yoga classes in Orlando when he and the Birds were sent to lead the House of Guru Ram Das ashram in Denver. I thank Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, my Teacher, and I especially thank Guru Ram Das for guiding me safely home those many Friday evenings when I was exhausted from work and teaching." More.
Sat Nam. Removing the barriers to diversity in our communities is a must. If we truly believe that what we offer in Seva is for EVERYONE (which it is), then we will evoke a more welcoming attitude to creating inclusiveness for all.
We see the reality of lack of diversity in media and mainstream culture. Even though diverse groups clearly exist, little do we see a wide range of ethnicities and other groups that represent our teachings.
In many cases, what we do is treated as a luxury for elitists in mainstream society. We can see it's not very accessible to diverse and marginalized communities. As a result, even with the best of intentions, we carry many of these behaviours and mindsets in our organizations and some will experience discrimination and exclusion.
Through various trainings and conferences, may we attain the tools to understand the unique perspectives, experiences and needs of various cultures and other groups of diversity. (See Example.) May we also support the growth and sustainability of outreach for groups "on the margin" while we empower teachers that come from these diverse communities.
Let us come together to remove barriers as we continue to live in the spirit of EK ONG KAR and knowing we are all one in equality. More.
My Sikh Sense By Siri Avtar
Sat Nam. I've had Black youth inmates with life sentences ask for Kundalini Yoga. The impact is amazing. If we could have a branch of 3HO outreach that includes yoga programs that help communities of diversity directly, then the lessons we learn at the sensitivity summit for instance can be implemented through these efforts.
These are ways we can make teachings accessible to neighborhoods with a large People of Color community, reaching youth, prisons. The reality is that "the hood" is small; many don't leave these four corners if they even survive to tell the story. There's also those who will not step foot in a mainstream yoga class sensing a lack of inclusiveness or that there's not enough relatability. Also, just throwing another idea out there: to have 3HO offer scholarships in diverse communities to those who aspire to become teachers yet lack resources. With efforts like these, diversity will become a reality in our organizations. More.
My Sikh Sense By Siri Avtar
Sat Nam. Overall there's still a lot of work and growth needed (even by ACT members) to understanding diversity issues. Once we understand then we can truly "ACT" (pun intended). As Guru Fatha Singh so eloquently put it, "Sometimes it is better to see things through the eyes of the oppressed than just to say what you see."
There needs to be more listening vs. projecting of opinions and reacting in offense when an experience of someone who is of diversity expresses an oppressed experience.This is how we learn and grow.
Also seeing how we can have more focus on action in diverse communities instead of simply lip service about what we think or perceive about diversity. Getting caught up in semantics or entanglements on how to word things, what labels to give various groups, etc will only keep us caught up in a word play game with loss of sight on real results.
So again, what can we DO to make a difference in creating diversity?
What people do we see next door,as students in our classes, our organizations sitting on the margin that are not being included or not getting the opportunities that everyone else has?
What people do we see that may want to become teachers but can't afford it?
What groups of people are scared to step into our classes for fear of not fitting in?
What people have the wrong idea of the teachings or of yoga in general and think it's only for rich privileged White people?
What poc are already teachers, a part of 3HO but don't have a voice?
What spaces, environments,institutions, community organizations can we approach to bring teachings to those who don't have access?
These are questions to seek that when acted upon will in turn crate solutions to diversity.That's why I personally joined ACT, to see who I can collaborate with and how I can serve community to make diversity a reality. More.
I like your idea, but how would this outreach be implemented in practice? In the past YogiJi would simply say, "Nirvair Singh, go teach in Alaska", or "Aftab Singh, go teach in Trinidad", or "GuruCharan Singh, go to Boston", etc, and we would go to teach in those places, without any promise of money or fame. There is nobody giving such instructions today, and there is certainly no one willing to go anywhere because she is told to. So how do we actually reach out to the minorities in Mississippi, Alabama, Grenada or Jamaica? Perhaps it could be a requirement of the Brahmin Teacher Trainers, or those seeking the hierarchical status of Level-3 to demonstrate that they are serious about teaching by serving in one of these places.
Anybody - what practical ideas do you have to make this outreach a reality? More.
To be direct, outreach/seva is really the best way to create diversity awareness. Diversity sensitivity can be taught, even well understood, but then what? Action to Engagement, i.e., implementation needs to take place in order to make a real difference. This is why there needs to be a specific Kundalini yoga diversity outreach program along with sensitivity training and certification.
There are People of Color everywhere. We do not need to go looking to reach minorities. Connecting with and teaching in schools, prisons, community centers, cultural organizations, community leaders, youth workers is a start to reach POC.
Also finding ways to support the initiatives of Kundalini yoga teachers who are of diverse backgrounds and are already serving is very helpful.
As for fame or money, as most of us who know, it can at times be like working in the trenches (such as when I have taught young women at the YWCA, one of whom was 16 with infant twins). So anyone willing to do the work usually knows it's for a larger purpose, i.e., creating a culture of diversity. More.
In our society, unfortunately, decency and equality must be legislated, because the majority will not do it voluntarily.
I agree with Action to Engagement, and I like the idea of scholarships in diverse communities, especially if these include the training of teacher-trainers all the way to Level-3. "Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan" is now almost completely commercial. We would not want a Brahmin trainer to swoop in, years later, to reap the profits of teachers who were dedicatedly working in these areas - marketing the franchise, as I saw happen in Australia and Trinidad.
I am not sure that getting yet another costly commercial certificate would help with actual implementation. We all know where the need is and who is in need. What we are seeking, long-term, is the making of outreach/seva and sensitivity to diversity the norm. These must be the cornerstones of our spiritual community - it should not be the exception. What we need is an actual directive to do something in a greater way, beyond what you and a few are doing. More.
Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods And Kings movie is racist as shit. And it’s disgusting, lazy and a movie that people shouldn’t still be making in 2014.
Wait. Let me backtrack.
There was a time when I was fed up with the idea of religion, Jesus and the way they’re both used to oppress seemingly as many people as they save. I spent three months studying abroad in Ghana--in the villages and more impoverished areas of the country for the majority of that time--and I saw how so many “missionaries” were conflating “converting people to Christianity” with “convincing them that they’re uncivilized and need to be westernized.” This all came with billboards of a blonde-haired blue-eyed Jesus. Churches where traditional African garb was replaced with suits and ties in 90-degree weather because that was somehow the proper way to worship. I remember distinctly walking around with a White classmate of mine--he was blonde with a beard and sandals on--as he got stopped by a Ghanaian who couldn’t believe how much he looked like Jesus. I spoke to one taxi driver who explained that Judas was the only Black person in the Bible. I saw firsthand the crippling mental oppression and inferiority that religion can bring. I didn’t want any part of it.
Which brings me to Friday night. I went to see Get On Up and there was a preview for Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods And Kings movie about Moses’ story in the Bible. The first thing I noticed was that all the main characters are White. Moses is White. The Pharaoh is White. Tuya is super White and Joshua is Jesse Pinkman. Not only are these characters who are supposed to be Africans White, they’re not even remotely tan. They’re pearly White. Christian Bale is Moses, a former slave in Egypt who was using SPF infinity sunscreen because he’s still Gotham City White. You can convince me that a guy can shake a staff and make it rain locusts but I refuse to believe someone who grew up in Egypt in the sun doesn’t have a tan at least. But this is all Hollywood stuff, right? White guys are always cast in these roles and we’re all here to throw praise on a cast full of White guys no matter where or when they live. It would have been annoying enough if Scott stopped there. But look at the rest of the cast.
Not only are all the main characters White, but the servants, thieves and assassins are played by Africans. Guys. This is racist. Ridley Scott is one of those guys who’s apparently hellbent on historical accuracy but doesn’t care enough to cast a person of color as Moses or a goddamn African queen while simultaneously filling out the rest of the movie with Black servants and thieves.
I could even accept him going the Louis CK route of “the best actor gets the job regardless of if race makes sense” and casting Merly Streep as Tuya, Guillermo Del Toro as Moses and Choi Min-Sik as Rhamses for all I care. But to make the main characters White and everyone else African is cinematic colonialism. It’s creating a piece of historical “art” that carries on oppressive imagery that’s helped shackle entire countries and corners of the world.
I’m so goddamn sick of Hollywood and its acceptance of these oppressive images. If studies have shown the way that perpetual violence in movies begets violence in America, then what about perpetual maintenance of the White savior standing over the ethnic servant / villain / imbecile? What damage is this creating for the American psyche? How am I supposed to feel when all the messiahs, last samurais, African kings and saviors are White?
I know the initial reactions to articles about movies based on Bible stories is to do that cool Internet thing where you say how the Bible is fiction and it’s not important because fish weren’t even discovered when Jesus was alive or whatever cool nugget you read on Mental Floss. And why should people even care about a book that you think is as fictitious as Harry Potter, anyway? Just take into account that regardless of what any of you may think about religion, it’s a source of self-worth, inspiration and intense love for millions of people who dedicate their lives to whatever school of spiritual thought they choose. So while some may give a dismissive “lulz parting the sea” as an initial reaction, the idea of creating a race-based hierarchy with these figures isn’t an offense that should be taken lightly.
As a “religious” person, I’ve seen the benefits and glory that a relationship with God can have on an individual. Unfortunately, religion has been used to subjugate, oppress and demean way too many people for way too long. While Ridley Scott may think he’s just making a movie, he’s participating in this crippling structure of subjugation and Hollywood is footing the bill for it.
Boycott the movie. Go see the movie. I don’t care. Just know that what you’re watching--if you choose to watch it--is a crock of bullishit. More.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and editor based out of Atlanta (but it’s still WHO DAT all day). --
Sat Nam. Diversity is that social order wherein people of diverse races and colors or who are of different cultures or religions are included and nurtured. However, People of Color who remain silent enable White people to remain culturally illiterate. It is incumbent on those who know to teach those who do not know.--
Diversity is the quality or state of having people who are of different
races or who have different cultures within a group or organization.
What do you see?
Uniformity is the quality or state of being the same:
the quality or state of having people who are of the
same race or color within a group or organization.
What don't you see?
Can People of Color ever see 3HO as an organization that promotes Diversity
when after nearly 50 years the organization remains disproportionately White?
Where is the Diversity... that quality or state of having people who are of
different races or who have different cultures within a group or organization?
"Are there any even occasional conversations between white
eyes and colored eyes regarding the issues of diversity and racism and their impact and complexities within 3HO/Sikh Dharma?
Issues to do with diversity are not going away just because we deny their
existence, or because they cause us discomfort to discuss." Hari Singh Bird
Think about it.
From 1789 to 2009
only one African American
out of the forty-four POTUS
and even fewer First Americans.
What do you see?
remains true today, in the ancient tradition of ignorance
that people of faith and otherwise good sense hasten to
ostracize and demonize any person or group whose
beliefs, lifestyle, and customs are unlike their own."
"I advise 3HO and Sikh Dharma, including their respective
corporate boards and committees, to be aware of their inevitable
drift into 'tribalism' that afflicts all organizations. This is practiced to the
extreme in Iraq, today. Tribes tend to adopt exceptionalism to the point
where marginalization and exclusion of others reigns supreme. An example is Awtar Singh Khalsa. In this Age of Aquarius, inclusion vis-a-vis pluralism is in,
exclusion vis-a-vis tribalism is out. Those that reject inclusion shall become irrelevant."
"People of Color who remain silent enable White people to remain culturally
illiterate. It is incumbent on those who know to teach those who do not know.
Bottom line is that the 3HO/Sikh Dharma community must hear from people of
color, i.e., people of African, Asian, Native American, etc., descent, as to their
perception of the organization, as it is, today. Given the history of human nature,
Sikh Dharma can avoid creeping into exclusivity by monitoring the perceptions of People of Color. Sikh Dharma is an inclusive as opposed to an exclusive path.
As students and as teachers we are obliged to practice what we teach using only
occasional words. Actions teach louder than words." M.S.S. Hari Singh Bird Khalsa