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The Case For Diversity and Dialogue

WOW, THIS SAYS IT ALL

Posted by Jesus Garcia on Saturday, January 2, 2016

One Skin, Different Perspectives
"There needs to be a conversational relationship
between white eyes and colored eyes in America."


White Eyes                              Colored Eyes

"Looking at the one and only Black Family in 3HO/Sikh Dharma
after 48 years
from my perspective as a person of color I have to
ask, why are there so few Blacks, e.g., how many White Sikh Families
versus Black Sikh Families after 48 years? Oh sure, there are a few
African Americans
, but they are disproportionately represented.
Think about the optics from the perspective of most people of color.
Do people of color see this disparity as a positive or as a negative?
And how many Black Kundalini Yoga teachers-trainers are there?"

"Exclusion breeds intolerance. Intolerance breeds tribalism.
Tribalism breeds racism. Racism is contrary to Guru Nanak's message.
Inclusion begets tolerance. Tolerance begets diversity. Diversity begets
pluralism. Pluralism is the essence of Guru Nanak's message to humanity."

"Are there even occasional conversations between White eyes
and Colored eyes regarding the issues of diversity and racism and
their impact and complexities within our American communities today?
Issues to do with diversity are not going to go away just because we
deny that they exist, or because they cause us discomfort to discuss.
We must promote pluralism as did Guru Nanak throughout his ministry."

"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

*NOTE: In 2013, the population of African Americans, including those of more than one race,
was estimated at 45 million, making up 15.2% of the total U.S. population. Source.
This means that there should be 15 African Americans out of 100, on average.

My Sikh Sense
By S.S. Sirivishnu Singh Khalsa

The Case Against Due Process


Sirivishnu Singh

Sat Nam, Hari Singh!

I very much respect your work and the spirit of inclusion for all that you are projecting.

Your specific equation of Awtar Singh's situation (see details) with pervasive racism and bigotry in 3HO is way off track. The actions he took that resulted in his right to teach/be on stage, and his status as a minister and yoga teacher being revoked were real, unquestionable, unethical, and harmful to a significant number of people, over a significant period of time.

Your attempt to seek a resolution to this in a public forum is inappropriate and biased. Your blog displays Awtar Singh as a victim of racism with no consideration to the history of his highly unethical behavior.

Awtar Singh has been given very considerable and specific opportunities and avenues with the organization to begin a process of reconciliation and rectification.

It is my prayer that he will decide to take the avenues offered.

This is my personal view and I personally see no racism or prejudice against his skin color in the process or manner in which the 3HO and Sikh Dharma organizations have dealt with the situation.

I am not commenting here on the virtue of any actions that occurred at Solstice 2013, which were situational and spontaneously developed in real time.

I have lived in the melting pot of New York City for 35 years and completely relate to all experiences of prejudice that occur here daily for minorities or every color, creed, and nationality. It's real and ongoing. There are significant prejudices that exist against Whites of all ethnic and religious and social class as well. Even the neighborhood one comes from is the basis for bias, not at all limited to skin color.

The consciousness behind all prejudice is founded in tribalism, fear, and ego.

Seeing God in all and serving all without discrimination are the Sikh values that Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan taught and promoted. These are the values of 3HO and Sikh Dharma. Our job as individuals is to practice and promote these values and ensure that our organizations are doing so. It's a work in progress and it starts with self awareness, which comes from practicing Kundalini Yoga. Yogi Bhajan said this, I experienced it, and I am saying it.

In addition we have a yogic and dharmic lifestyle and we have standards of ethical and conscious behavior, many of which are more prescriptive than what society considers illegal, such as not cutting hair, not eating meat, not taking intoxicants, or not having sexual relationships outside a legal marriage. This is just the foundation for a healthy, happy, and holy life. However we still have to build the house based on our righteous actions on a daily basis. Earn our living through working honestly, share with others, serve others.

May Guru Ram Das and Guru Amar Das continue to guide and protect us.

Ardas Bhaee Amar Das Guru Amar Das Guru Ardas Bhaee Ram Das Guru Ram Das Guru Ram Das Guru Sachee Saee. --

Click here for counter point response to this commentary.

"Do not believe everything you see, hear
or think." UniversityOfDiversity.com

"Looking at the one and only Black Family in 3HO/Sikh Dharma
after 48 years
from my perspective as a person of color I have to
ask, why are there so few Blacks, e.g., how many White Sikh Families
versus Black Sikh Families after 48 years? Oh sure, there are a few
African Americans
, but they are disproportionately represented.
Think about the optics from the perspective of most people of color.
Do people of color see this disparity as a positive or as a negative?
And how many Black Kundalini Yoga teachers-trainers are there?"

"It's obvious, given the Awtar Singh Khalsa Family being
the only Black FAMILY in 3HO/Sikh Dharma after 48 years,
that a more acceptable and effective way needs to be found to
relate to marginalized populations in order to be consistent with
the teachings of Guru Nanak. I suggest taking his message to the
prisons where marginalized people are." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa

"Think about it. From 1789 to 2009, one African American out of
forty-four Presidents of the United States." Obama43To1.com

"Since the election of President Obama many Americans claim to be weary
of the ongoing conversation about racism. Think about the weariness of
people of color who have waited for centuries for substantive discourse
to occur. That conversation has only just begun." Hari Singh Bird

"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



 

More MySikhSense.com

                                          

                                 

See SensitivitySummit.com. See Desmond Tutu's Plea To Israel.
See The Homeless Banned And Jailed In 'Christian' America.
See Let's Have 'The Race Conversation' For Real, This Time.
See More Diversity Dialogues. See Institutionalized Racism.

See Required Reading. See Recommended Reading.
See Why Are White Tantra Yoga Classes So 'White'?

See Islamic Extremism vs Christian Extremism.

See A Native American's Thanksgiving Rebuke.
See What White People Need To Know.

See Americans Need To Pay Attention.
See What's Wrong With This Picture?
See A Case Of Unjust Enrichment.
See A Classic Case of Tribalism.
See What Tribalism Looks Like.
See Guidelines For Facilitators.
See For The People Of Color.
See What Is White Privilege?
See KRI Needs To Go To Jail.
See Jon Stewart On Racism.
See The Ubuntu Philosophy.
See TheMahanTantric.com.
See Example of Tribalism.

See ACT For Diversity.
See Comments Con.
See Comments Pro.

See Obama 43 To 1.
See My Main Point.
See Definitions.
See Questions.

My Sikh Sense
By Anonymous

The Case For Due Process

Awtar Singh Khalsa
An Example of Marginalization

Anonymous:* Sat Nam, Hari Singh. Here's my anonymous response to Sirivishnu Singh Khalsa's (hereafter known as SSK) commentary above regarding Awtar Singh Khalsa.

SSK: Your specific equation of Awtar Singh's situation with pervasive racism and bigotry in 3HO is way off track. The actions he took that resulted in his right to teach/be on stage, and his status as a minister and yoga teacher being revoked were real, unquestionable, unethical, and harmful to a significant number of people, over a significant period of time. Your attempt to seek a resolution to this in a public forum is inappropriate and biased.

Anonymous: I understand that you and many others have been told by certain 3HO/Sikh Dharma authorities that what you have written above is true. There are others who have information and evidence to the contrary that has not as yet been considered. Only as a last resort is transparency sought in this forum.

Considerable effort has been made to seek a hearing for Awtar Singh to face the allegations made against him in a just and fair forum. These requests have been denied. Judgment and censure were rendered against Awtar Singh without allowing him the benefit of a just and fair hearing. Awtar Singh was never advised of the specific allegations made against him before judgment and sentencing were finalized. A proper and transparent investigation has not been conducted to this day. 3HO/Sikh Dharma has not been fair in the treatment of Awtar Singh.

Even beyond that, you and many others have been told with certainty that Awtar Singh committed certain actions, when in reality these are allegations from questionable sources that were never properly investigated to determine their veracity. These are slanderous and they are unfair. There is ample evidence and testimony to come that strongly contradicts what you and others have been told about this matter regarding Awtar Singh, evidence and testimony, which has heretofore not been considered or investigated by those of 3HO/Sikh Dharma who summarily rendered judgment and sentencing.

No matter how many times people are told that Awtar Singh committed the alleged actions, it does not make them true. The allegations have not been investigated or verified, and the Siri Singh Sahib has either been misquoted or only partially quoted with regard to his statements. Repeated accusations about Awtar Singh without conducting an objective hearing or investigation to determine their veracity is a case of slander for which 3HO/Sikh Dharma must be held accountable.

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do
not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by
many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in
your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority
of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they
have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and
analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive
to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Yes, it does beg the question as to whether this action was taken against Awtar Singh for reasons involving racism because similar accusations have been made against other teachers and/or ministers, and yet, no other teachers or ministers have ever been judged and censured in this same manner, even when the evidence against them is considerable.

SSK: Your blog displays Awtar Singh as a victim of racism with no consideration to the history of his highly unethical behavior.

Anonymous: You have not addressed the historical fact that Awtar Singh has not been afforded a fair and just hearing to address the allegations made against him, nor have you addressed a 40+ year history of countless incidents of exclusion to which Awtar Singh and his family have been subjected. This is not to mention the exclusionary acts against others of different ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds. (See Selective Censure.)

SSK: Awtar Singh has been given very considerable and specific opportunities and avenues with the organization to begin a process of reconciliation and rectification.

Anonymous: The key words above are reconciliation and rectification. Yes, Awtar Singh has been given opportunities to begin a process of reconciliation and rectification, but these were based on unilateral 3HO/Sikh Dharma judgment and sentencing being rendered without ever informing Awtar Singh of the specific allegations or providing a fair bilateral hearing in order to investigate and determine the veracity of the accusations. See Sixth Amendment Rights.

SSK: It is my prayer that he will decide to take the avenues offered.

Anonymous: It is my prayer that 3HO/Sikh Dharma conduct a just and fair bilateral hearing to include evidence and testimony that is contrary to the judgment rendered, and then make an informed determination as to the veracity of the allegations.

SSK: This is my personal view and I personally see no racism or prejudice against his skin color in the process or manner in which the 3HO and Sikh Dharma organizations have dealt with the situation. I am not commenting here on the virtue of any actions that occurred at Solstice 2013, which were situational and spontaneously developed in real time.

Anonymous: This is my personal view. You have been given no evidence that validates the hearsay allegations made against Awtar Singh and you have either looked the other way or are simply unaware of the many actions over 40+ years in which Awtar Singh and his family (the only Black family in 3HO's almost 50 years of existence) have been excluded from participating in 3HO/Sikh Dharma activities. I find it very revealing that you, a White person, see no racism or prejudice against Awtar Singh's skin color. This same attitude by others in 3HO/Sikh Dharma has been a very unpleasant experience for me to witness.

In my personal view, the “actions that occurred at (Summer) Solstice 2013, which were situational and spontaneously developed in real time” are a travesty of justice, morality and ethics against Awtar Singh and his family and are beyond belief. And the pain inflicted upon the Awtar Singh family, who are all devoted Sikhs of the Guru—and by association, the entire Sangat—represent an abomination and a contradiction of all things good and truthful that we stand for as Sikhs. See Americans Still Lie About Slavery.

SSK: I have lived in the melting pot of New York City for 35 years and completely relate to all experiences of prejudice that occur here daily for minorities or every color, creed, and nationality. It's real and ongoing. There are significant prejudices that exist against Whites of all ethnic and religious and social class as well. Even the neighborhood one comes from is the basis for bias, not at all limited to skin color.

Anonymous: Yes, agreed.

SSK: The consciousness behind all prejudice is founded in tribalism, fear, and ego.

Anonymous: Yes, agreed.

SSK: Seeing God in all and serving all without discrimination are the Sikh values that Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan taught and promoted. These are the values of 3HO and Sikh Dharma. Our job as individuals is to practice and promote these values and ensure that our organizations are doing so. It's a work in progress and it starts with self-awareness, which comes from practicing Kundalini Yoga. Yogi Bhajan said this, I experienced it, and I am saying it.

Anonymous: Yes, agreed.

SSK: In addition we have a yogic and dharmic lifestyle and we have standards of ethical and conscious behavior, many of which are more prescriptive than what society considers illegal, such as not cutting hair, not eating meat, not taking intoxicants, or not having sexual relationships outside a legal marriage. This is just the foundation for a healthy, happy, and holy life. However we still have to build the house based on our righteous actions on a daily basis. Earn our living through working honestly, share with others, serve others.

Anonymous: Yes, agreed.

SSK: May Guru Ram Das and Guru Amar Das continue to guide and protect us. Ardas Bhaee Amar Das Guru Amar Das Guru Ardas Bhaee Ram Das Guru Ram Das Guru Ram Das Guru Sachee Saee.

Anonymous: I am chanting with you. Sat Nam. Wahe Guru.

Thank you! (See Sensitivity Summit) --

*NOTE: The anonymous author of this commentary has requested anonymity for reasons of possible retaliation and/or recrimination by those persons who wish to maintain the status quo within the 3HO/Sikh Dharma organization.

"It's difficult to get a person to understand something when their paycheck depends on their not understanding."

My Sikh Sense
By Saibhang Singh Khalsa


Saibhang Singh Khalsa

Sat Nam! Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. Talking with you definitely opened my eyes and I have a better grasp on where you're coming from and what you're urging us all to do with this movement. I'll definitely support this at the next meetings that I attend and I'll start asking people of color about their perceptions to get a better grasp on the prevalence of hidden issues within the community. --

My Sikh Sense
By M.S.S. Hari Singh Bird Khalsa


Hari Singh Bird Khalsa

Sat Nam! Thank you for your feedback!

Your heightened understanding of the issue occurred because of your willingness to discuss it. This is what needs to happen at all levels of our 3HO/Sikh Dharma family.

Please keep me posted as to your progress and keep in mind that this is Guru's mission. You are now Guru's messenger.

Diversity will happen. --

"You're not going to solve the problem if it's not being talked about."
President Barack Obama on race, December 19, 2014.

"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

My Sikh Sense
By Gurukarm Kaur Khalsa


Gurukarm Kaur

Sat Nam! Cool. Glad to hear from Saibhang, and know he's on board. He's good friends with a lot of young people with whom he can have influence in this area - not only to raise their awareness (many of them already are aware) but to get each other to act.

Cheers! --

My Sikh Sense
By Gurumukh Singh aka Mark Harris


Gurumukh Singh

Sat Nam. I confess I began writing this response when I was bored waiting for a plumber, and was mostly wryly amused at Siri Vishnu Singh’s response.

This is not poker where we are pulling a “race card” joker or an ace. This is not baseball where we are “way off base” attempting to steal home like Jackie Robinson. If sports analogy be utilized, its combat street basketball, like all of the Black NBA, and WBNA know how to play as part of their training: i.e. “no blood, no foul” rules.

When we take shots, we expect to be hit hard, and still drain the trey, grab the rebound in the extra hard wood, feed the outlet pass “no look” and not call the foul because of mere contact. We also don’t necessarily expect any “officials” to back the call either. We expect to take hits for telling the truth, particularly when we tell the truth backed by evidence.

Despite Yogi Bhajan’s attempts at outreach to communities of color, 3HO institutions have not carried out that mission in any sustainable way (I don’t mean adding a few pictures in books, or distributing a few CD’s). 3HO institutions do not have the cultural competence to be aware of and act upon purging or reforming systemic discrimination within their policies and activities. Largely because these policies have been adopted from a mainstream society which has been based on systemic discrimination, and many of these policies have been adopted without question as a standard way of doing business.

Even when other African-American yogi’s aware of ACT’s efforts, told me offline, in effect, I was wasting my time sharing our “cultural gold” with people who don’t recognize its worth, the principles of satyagraha adopted by DuBois, Thurman, Rustin, and King, bid me to speak. Upon further reflection and meditation, I was still moved to make a detailed response, recalling my elders’ conversations around the dinner table, and the books in our home, now my personal library.

Since these elders were / are African-American scientists, researchers, lawyers, educators, and civil rights activists, they taught me to have adult, sophisticated, and strategic conversations around patterned systemic discrimination. You can’t simply name a problem, you also have to have a detailed descriptive and prescriptive response. “No description, without a prescription”.

Racism and other intersectional (sex, gender, class, religion, disability, etc) forms of discrimination, have a diagnostic and prescriptive action metric, that is not recognized by mainstream institutions based on their sustained practice. I found Siri Vishnu’s responses so stereotypically ‘Central Casting’ of many such typical responses to diversity efforts, that I decided to move from boredom (yawn not again) and irritation (puleeze dude get out of your privilege bubble), to a more skilled and nuanced response, beyond the ad hominem.

To be clear: Awtar Singh is not the only person who has experienced discrimination, but his experiences over the last 40 years are an excellent case study. I’m not sure whether his various experiences all stem from the incidents alluded to but not detailed in a specified complaint, but that could possibly explain, but not entirely explain the KRI non-publishing of his book (Using all Black models to illustrate asana’s and kriyas), the Spirit Voyage distribution-marketing of his CD, (In the Christian music section). But if the book and the CD experience cannot be tied to the incidents, then there is still a larger problem with implications for others like him.

I haven't been a frequent visitor to the site of late, but have had lots of off and online conversations about this, and the dismissive and supportive reactions in the Sangat.

Without referencing the rest of my posts elsewhere, and just responding to what’s on the page, Sirivishnu Singh's commentary epitomizes what Dr. Rose refers to in that Tavis Smiley interview..."...the illiteracy about structural racism....". Watch Institutionalized Racism.

Illiteracy, meaning there is a canon (A collective body of work) to read from, (that his language clearly indicates he has not read from), and said canon imparts a skill set that allows one to "read" (Backwards, between the lines, and forwards to predict outcomes) structures generating inequality beyond individual actions. Hence the statements in my 2013 Summer Solstice workshop “The Yoga of Intersectionality”: perceiving structured inequality is a siddhi, conferred independent of Kundalini Yoga, KRI, IKYTA, SDI, SSSC etc.

A side effect of Kundalini Yoga practice is the development of siddhi’s, so that other awareness gleaned from other sources, is actually illuminated further. However, if you didn’t have the illumination to begin with, you can simply pay attention to what you want to, or what you’re exposed to within the Dharma, i.e. the Teachings, and whatever is contained within Sikh Dharma. In effect you can remain in a “Sikh Bubble”, which does not have the experiential skill set, theory, case law, and community organizing and cultural change praxis, that for some communities of color here in Turtle Island (North, Central, South America), has existed for over 900 years.

Part of the “3HO Sikh Bubble” is a characteristic of all American predominately White organizations described in Peg Macintosh’s 1988 paper: “I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing, and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case I can find ways to be protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.”

Despite whatever pluralism Guru Nanak Dev and other Sikh guru’s espoused in their own time, and their own cultural context, it is not completely generalizable to this cultural context, and shouldn’t be used to supplant indigenous, traditional, or other forms of inclusion. Pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Diversity can and has meant the creation of cultural ghettoes with little traffic between or among cultures. Merely acknowledging diversity without real encounter and relationship will only create more increasing tensions.

Pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Tolerance might be a necessary public virtue, but it does not require Sikh’s, Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and ardent secularists to know anything about one another. Tolerance does not require respect and healthy interaction between cultures. Pluralism does.

Tolerance does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves in place the stereotypes, the half-truths, and the fears that underlie old patterns of division and individual and institutional violence.

Part of that canon which studies systemic discrimination also states that Siri Vishnu and other White people do not get to definitively declare whether there is an issue of race or racism here or not. Declaring something off base, is denying an evidence based perceptual diagnosis. McIntosh speaks to this as well: “If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or their isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position, than a person of color will have.” You don’t get to define what racism is, any more than a man gets to define what constitutes sexual harassment, it’s the woman’s call.

Whether or not he did it intentionally, whether or not you intentionally discriminated, if the impact or effect is demonstrably negative, your intent, is irrelevant. The impact is the same as if you intentionally discriminated. In the case of rape, though, rape is the only crime in which the cop gets to decide whether or not the woman is telling the truth, even if there is a rape kit taken, they may decide to not test them for decades, even though she has been raped by a serial rapist. The cop’s biased personal call, has now been elevated to an instance of institutional neglect and systemic discrimination.

In the rubric that determines different levels of racism, certainly, no one is calling Awtar Singh the N-word, that would be illegal. This is usually what people who deny racism exists outside of personal interactions, use as evidence, when they call “playing the race card”, or your insistence on saying racism exists in a particular instance is “way off base” or other sports / game metaphors. However as far as personal racial microaggressions, and personal racial microaggressions force multiplied by institutional power, which elevate them into acts of institutional racism, that appears to have happened frequently.

Awtar Singh is not the only person of color who has been discriminated against by 3HO organizations. This 2013 Summer Solstice incident, (which I personally witnessed) is not the only instance that Awtar Singh has experienced disparate impact, or disparate treatment. But his experience, is illustrative of many people’s experience. Most people simply leave the Dharma, or practice the Dharma outside of the purview of 3HO, because the Dharma has not provided the mechanisms for relief in terms of policy, or in terms of teaching content.

Due to the privileges outlined by Peg McIntosh, in her seminal 1988 paper "White Male Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack" "If I declare there is a racial issue at hand….”

There is a racial issue here, based on institutional responses (Type 3 Unconscious Institutional ISM & Type 6 Sociostructural Violence Institutional ISM), not an individual name calling another individual racial names (Type 1-Overt Individual) or an individual committing one or several types of racial microaggressions (Type 2-Covert Individual: There are up to 12 types of microaggressions as defined in the literature.)

Race is not a card, we are not "pulling" it to deflect culpability from Awtar Singh's actions. My personal assumption is all this is generated by Awtar Singh's admitted actions taken in the 90's, in another country, from which no criminal charges were generated, but would only reasonably remain an ethical issue only if the behavior was repeated, and/or multiple subsequent similar incidents documented, and compounded, to justify the actions taken @ Summer Solstice 2013. This was not murder, babies are not dying, nor have children been buggered. Unless there is legally binding evidence to the contrary: i.e. documented emotional or psychological damage requiring therapy, lost wages, income, job status, i.e. among the legal definition of harm, and you’ve filed within a recognized jurisdiction, within the statute of limitations…

I’m no lawyer, but I do deal with the repair of trauma for which the legal system and mainstream healing systems provide scant relief. If you don’t meet those tests…Ya got nothin’. Except your own capacity for growing and learning from the experience, and the technology of Kundalini Yoga to liberate you. I’m not sure that you ever “get over it”, but I do know you grow bigger than it.

I’m no lawyer, but I'm saying this in an peer review capacity, as a Master Addictions Counselor of color, who is also a Kundalini Yoga teacher, interested in improving the cultural responsiveness of the Sangat community, despite warning from our teacher, that such a course was futile.

(The counselor in me asks you: “How does it feel to read that your spiritual community may have betrayed or compromised its defining mission, not once, but many times?)

Intellectually I prefer evidence, logic models, procedures, codes of conduct, and when codes or laws are violated, some type of procedural sanctions, restorative justice, and recovery for both targets and the people who target them. Intuitionally and experientially, I find people who are targets, or survivors, in various types of recovery, may expect, but may not receive any help in that process from organizations and institutions. I come from a community of people who have been systemically neglected when we’ve been targeted, so we’ve developed our own matrices of assessing types of targeting, and surviving, and healing.

In my community specifically, we don’t expect relief or understanding from predominately White organizations. It takes too much time for them to “get it” and to change fast enough to enable relief or healing from them. I’ve been trained to see the points of view of both targets, and the people aiming at them (abuse survivors, pedophile priests, survivors of war, and the soldiers who shot at them, victims of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and the social institutions that target and neglect them).

I prefer the term targeting, to victim, because the wounding is patterned, and precise, as well as predictable. Because knowing you’re a target, and being able to move, i.e. being a moving target, gives you some agency, rather than being a passive victim / static target. It also means finding healing in the face of widespread patterned systemic neglect. Particularly when institutions and organizations act less from a place of restorative social justice, and more from a place of avoiding legal exposure, or perceived legal exposure.

While I understand and respect the need for confidentiality, I also respect transparency, particularly in policy effectiveness evaluation. Numbers aren’t confidential, and whether, how, and for whom, a policy is working or not, shouldn’t be confidential either.

I’ve had offline conversations where people have made the “Catholic pedophile priest” analogy, and the organizational fear of exposure because of inaction, as the justification for certain actions. An analogy, I made clear the several times I heard it, was false, particularly in that:

A. Whatever happened, happened between consenting adults, not children.
B. Lack of evidence, to the contrary if it wasn’t consensual,
C. Lack of legal complaint, charges, etc.
D. Statute of limitations and elapsed time since alleged misdeeds occurred.
E. Lack of timely action within the context of a complaint process, if indeed a complaint was registered.

No one is saying nothing happened. But if its happened lots of times, have those others received any censure or sanction?

Within the context of addictive behaviors, if a behavior has not occurred for a decade or more we call that long term sustained remission, known to lay people as Recovery, and that’s a good thing.

Is there any evidence to show that there is some recency to objectionable actions?

If not, then I’m moved to conclude in the absence of evidence, that personal animus is driving institutional action, against one particular actor, not all actors who have done similar, if not demonstrably worse actions. If its personal animus, then I would assume the usual drivers of such anger fall in the classic intersectional lines class, race, sex, etc.

One form of racism (Type 6) takes place when wrong doers of color, doing the same behaviors as Whites are disproportionately targeted for sanctions, and experience greater severity of sanctions, while White wrong doers are ignored and systematically experience either no sanctions, or lighter sanctions. This is documented across a variety of types of wrong doing. Which is why I called for data, disaggregated for race, for ethical code violations. If you can’t show me that the process is fair, impartial, corrects for endemic systemic bias along long documented classic lines, if you can’t show me the organization has been correcting its actions of bias against others and other populations, then its easy to say this looks like the continuing act, in a series of actions which show evidence of a hostile climate against people of color, like Awtar Singh.

Awtar Singh’s story, is a story of redemption, despite resistance to acknowledging that redemption. I’m in a business, where people relapse, and that I plan for the possibility that I could be played or lied to. That’s always been my calculus and I haven’t suspended that in this particular instance. But even with relapse, there is the possibility of redemption and recovery. Show me evidence there has been a relapse. This does not affect whether or not , or how many times he engaged in wrong doing over a decade ago, as he has admitted privately. In my diagnostic criteria, I include the influence of patterned systemic bias against individuals as part of the problem.

It’s not a question of whether there is a racial issue, there is, its where and to what degree, and what is to be done about it, and the other intersectional issues. One of my doctoral psychology professors said that, using death penalty conviction and execution rates: The race of the victim determined the sentence, and its execution.

If the person was White, and the murderer was Black, the sentence was death. If the victim was Black and the murderer was White, the sentence was life or less. Black on Black murders were less than life sentences. State data, for example Georgia data was used. Applying this logic to IKYTA or SDI, if violation of ethical codes has occurred, there should be data collection in the form of complaint, investigation, determination of facts, determination of actions / sanctions / resolutions etc. There also should be graduated sanctions for non-compliance, and repeat non-compliance, and if you’re really smart i.e. culturally competent, you will disaggregate the data to make sure there is no hidden bias, or to correct for the implicit biases which will produce racially or other disproportionate reporting or sanctioning.

In my county, at one agency where a member of KC works, over 90% (The actual stated figure was all African-Americans in the agency’s history, from someone who was the only African-American to actually retire) of African-American male staff were falsely accused, investigated, and cleared for financial, sexual, and sexual orientation harassment, substance abuse wrong doing, while White male and female staff who were actually perpetrating those actions (racial / sexual harassment, being under the influence on the job, using illegal drugs with supervisees, misappropriating funds, etc. ) were not investigated at all.

The data show that this disproportionality in policy sanction accusation and application is common, particularly in predominately White organizations in America. Anecdotally, there is the appearance of racially disproportionate sanctioning in this process with Awtar Singh. Unimpeachably accurate and transparent data collection would help this situation. Your data collection should demonstrate the fairness, as well as document unintentional bias within the execution of the policy.

It would answer, nope, no bias, there were x amount of complaints, and they all were resolved, and the sole Black person received the same treatment as the 10 White persons in the same reporting period.

In the absence of data, you can’t demonstrate fairness with a history of discrimination. And I repeat, Awtar Singh is not the only one to experience discrimination and various forms and incidents of types of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, or the intersections of all of those forms of discrimination.

The issue is bigger than whatever Awtar Singh did, or the actions taken against him. It goes to issues of pluralism, which I would go beyond whatever the example Guru Nanak embodied, to the previously referenced Harvard Pluralism Project or the writings of Diana L Eck.

Perhaps the Guru, is giving us an opportunity here, to dispel darkness, and illuminate what is hidden (transparency). --

My Sikh Sense
By Gurukarm Kaur Khalsa


Gurukarm Kaur

Sat Nam, Hari Singh! Having just finished reading Gurumukh Singh's (Mark's) essay largely in response to Siri Vishnu Singh's rebuttal of Awtar Singh's situation, I want to call attention to the fact that within the 3HO/Western Dharma, there have been many known instances of White men committing the same or similar transgressions that Awtar Singh was accused of, which was given, apparently, as the reason for preventing him from participating in Summer Solstice 2013 and later events.

As far as is publicly or widely known, there were no official repercussions against those men (if there were such, it is NOT widely nor publicly known); any number of them have continued in the Dharma in various leadership or respected positions. That is, they've been tacitly, if not publicly, forgiven for their acts, with no consequence to their participation in the Dharma.

So, my point? Why? Why them, and not Awtar Singh, if not for blatant racism? -- 

"Looking at the only all Black Family in 3HO/Sikh Dharma after
48 years
from my perspective as a person of color I have to ask,
why are there so few Blacks? Oh sure, there are African Americans
represented, but they are disproportionate in number. Do other people of
color see this disparity as a positive or as a negative?" Hari Singh Bird Khalsa

"It's obvious, given the Awtar Singh Khalsa Family being
the only Black FAMILY in 3HO/Sikh Dharma after 48 years,
that a more acceptable and effective way needs to be found to
relate to marginalized populations in order to be consistent with
the teachings of Guru Nanak. I suggest taking his message to the
prisons where marginalized people are." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa

"Think about it. From 1789 to 2009, one African American out of
forty-four Presidents of the United States." Obama43To1.com

My Sikh Sense
By Anonymous VI*

Sat Nam! I am stunned at this (Gurukarm Kaur's commentary above). Simply stunned.

Thank you for this! --

*NOTE: The author of this commentary has requested anonymity for reasons of possible retaliation and/or recrimination by those persons who wish to maintain the status quo within the 3HO/Sikh Dharma organization.

"It's difficult to get a person to understand something when their paycheck depends on their not understanding."

My Sikh Sense
By Dharam Singh Khalsa


Dharam Singh

Sat Nam. In 1990 I was called and asked to manage the audio/visual seva at Winter Solstice. I had done radio work for years in Alaska but did not have much experience with PA (public address) systems. I accepted this responsibility as a blessing... a blessing as I would be pressed to do the best possible job, without any loud mistakes (feedback, etc). I pretty much ran it by myself from '90 to '98.

Occasionally Livtar Singh or Seva Singh would come in and give me a hand but it was a solo act for many years. I still remember how at the very end of my first year doing this seva nearly falling to my knees in gratitude after executing this 'job' without one audio mistake through the entire Solstice. I'll tell you, with Yogiji there in the flesh I was beyond inspired to do this perfectly.

After being trusted to run the Audio/Visual systems at Winter Solstice since all these years, I was removed for mysterious reasons in 2011, meaning when I asked why this was happening, I was not given any kind of reason. Starting in 2007 I was being told, "there were complaints," and when I asked what those complaints are I was never given an answer by the Camp Director.

In the Fall of 2010 I was told one member of my crew had issues with me, so he and I and the Camp Director (a very fair guy) had an email conversation. Those emails produced NO SPECIFICS! So I would go on to run Sound again... but only that one last time, as it turned out. In 2011 I was told by the Camp Director, "We're going to try someone different this year."

Again, I asked for a reason and was finally told some weeks later over the phone by the Camp Director that when he took over the job, one of the instructions he was given by the previous Camp Director was to 'get rid of Dharam'. This was divulged to me in a phone call, not in writing. I am sure he wasn't given a reason either, as we kept working together. It was a good relationship as far as I could tell. Respect begets respect.

I avoided the previous Camp Director as he was generally obnoxious, period. If I didn't have to talk with him I was fine with that. During the couple of years he directed camp I just went about my business of getting things as right as could be, despite the personalities and absence of the Siri Singh Sahib ji.

Fast forward a couple of years to Summer Solstice 2013 I had a very distasteful and unfortunate interaction with the previous Camp Director (my first in many years). I was taking some time to cruise the bazaar and I ran into a Black woman and a young Black man (mother and son). I took it upon my self to extend a friendly welcome and say Hi! I asked the young man if he was perhaps from eastern Africa (he had some interesting features).

At that very moment I heard someone right behind me say out loud, "I bet you say that to all Black people." I turned around. It was the previous Camp Director. I was aghast, almost speechless. Are you kidding?! What an obnoxious thing to say to me in front of two people I am just meeting for the first time. I'll leave you to fill in some blanks for yourself. Again, I had no dialogue with this person, and for these to be the first words coming out of his mouth to me in years? Strange humor. ESPECIALLY considering his instructions years before to, "get rid of Dharam."

Truthfully,

Dharam Singh --

My Sikh Sense
By M.S.S. Hari Singh Bird Khalsa


Hari Singh Bird Khalsa

I see what appears to be a pattern.

Sat Nam! Herein, we have statements about events in which Awtar Singh and Dharam Singh are on the receiving end of summary and unilateral actions taken against them by individuals in positions of power and authority that refuse to show cause as to their actions. As a person of Native American heritage and life experience I suspect that a racist attitude underlies these actions at least on the part of those making the determinations. Again, I point out that the Awtar Singh Family is the only all Black FAMILY in 3HO/Sikh Dharma after 48 years. It seems to me there's an unacceptable linkage that exists between these events, a pattern of duality between the teachings of Guru Nanak and actions tolerated by 3HO/Sikh Dharma. These acts of marginalization along with the history of 3HO/Sikh Dharma do not bode well for either the attraction or retention of People of Color, which makes the organization appear to support tribalism instead of practicing cultural competency. See Obama43To1.com. See What Diversity Is. See What Diversity Is Not. -- 

My Sikh Sense
By Hari Kaur

Sat Nam, Jio! This is a great platform to share ones experiences of what has transpired in our beautiful way of life as given by the Siri Singh Sahib in the past, and what could, should, and if offered will provide for a more open and peaceful environment for People of Color to feel inclined to be part of this way of life.

It is my humble observation and personal experience that we are far away from this reality. If you behave 'NICELY" and keep your mouth shut you will be accepted, but the moment you open your mouth you are made to know your place, especially here in Espanola, where I live. YOU will be shut off and start loosing all your friends in the name of Prayer and Peace. What makes it worse, is that it's also a business community. Favoritism is rampant, as compared to people getting jobs based on experience and education.

I am dark skinned and off East Indian heritage. It's taken will power of steel to survive in this community that is very tribal and sadly, does not know it. It's slowly happening, but how can you change a group of leaders who were born into a consciousness of separatism, "we are the chosen ones" mentality.

This is a deeper issue than just Lead Trainers and Level One Teachers reaching out to minorities. All the Leaders of the different groups created by the Siri Singh Sahib have been Whites for a very long time and even though now we have a few that are non-Whites, it will take a long time to change the consciousness. A lot are of Jewish background, which is great, but it creates a limited approach to all aspects of this lifestyle with a consciousness of tribalism based on money rather than devotion and exploration of the Teachings. I wish they had infiltrated this organization with the true Jewish Teachings of love and expansion. By now there would have been many teachers in Israel and Palestine. (Watch Tribalism For Those Who Dare.)

I have come to this conclusion; things may change as time goes along, but the necessity for Kundalini Yoga Teachers in the Black and American Indian communities is NOW. We can wait no longer. Krishna Kaur cannot do it by herself. Some brainstorming has to be done by this group to encourage the Level One Teachers to go out to these communities. We cannot wait for these Teachers to become Lead Trainers. Lets forget about the personal drama around Level One Teachers not having the benefits of training their students because they are not Lead Trainers, and thereby suffer financially. Some fair means can be worked out to where profits are shared.

We need to return to the old days when everyone was a Teacher. I realize for Legal reasons Teachers need to be Certified Level 1. But if students want to be Certified, have them come to Espanola, where they can get the benefit of being in the Master's Presence where he lived and worked. They can come in groups with their Level One Teachers and work out reasonable fees with KRI.

LET US ALL WORK TOGETHER

For Heavens sake, let this not be done with any attitude of anger or separatism from KRI and 3HO. It has to be done with respect for all, and in a realistic way NOW. No blaming or claiming, just love for humanity. When we meet at Solstices we can love each other and work out our differences.

There is one God, the God of Love;
There is one Race, the race of humanity;
There is one Religion, the religion of peace and love;
There is one Kundalini Yoga, the Yoga of Awareness and Union;
There is only one Union the, love for every aspect of God's creation.

Yours respectfully,

Hari Kaur Khalsa -- 

"Beware of those in power who make decisions and policies, and think
they can escape dealing with the results." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa

My Sikh Sense
By Ruby Khalsa


Ruby Khalsa

Sat Nam, Dharam Singh.

I am sad to hear of your experience. Most of the people are absolutely wonderful, but it is this small group who enjoys being in power and treating people in an inappropriate manner, which can not be condoned.

I am sad to say, I had a bad experience with a few people who behaved in an inappropriate manner as well. Not many people know of the following situation. When the Siri Singh Sahib finally let me quit working at a "family" business, (I put the quotes around family as the executives never made me feel like I was part of the family) unbeknownst to me he told the executives I was going to sue them for an Equal Employment violation (as I was the Director of Human Resources for this Company, it was especially bad on their part).

I told the Siri Singh Sahib I had not even thought of such an action. He told me that he had to let these executives know their treatment of me was not acceptable. So, he made the family business pay me more money because he said they would only understand if it affected them monetarily. At this point I half laughingly said the case I could have had would warrant more money.

At this point he chuckled and said he would only allow so much money to come out of his business. Moral of the story is that he did not condone his executives being bigots! And, as a teacher he used his skills to teach these people.

When the Siri Singh Sahib was in his physical body, he was able to deal with these situations. Without him, we need to have checks and balances, and training.

Blessings,

Ruby --

My Sikh Sense
By AnonymousVII*

Sat Nam. Why do you expect 3HO/Sikh Dharma to act differently? They are by majority White Americans, and White Americans in positions of authority kill Black men everyday without affording them the right of the Sixth Amendment. When a White American imagines that a Black man has done something wrong, they see no need to offer him the opportunity to defend himself. They can just shoot him on the street. The White Americans in 3HO/Sikh Dharma have the same consciousness so why do you expect them to act differently.

White people apply a different standard to themselves than they do to other people and Awtar Singh, not a White man.

A prejudiced mind cannot remove prejudice from itself, so maybe they cannot help themselves. Their racist values were instilled into their inner beings when they were very young and they are not willing to try to understand that they have a defect. Why should they? It is not in their self-interest.

3HO/Sikh Dharma really cannot see that they are racist, or are pretending that they cannot see that they are. They are, however, not unique in this way. The White authorities who kill Black men without trials are "religious" people too. Remember the Ku Klux Klan also wear All White. --

*NOTE: The author of this commentary has requested anonymity for reasons of possible retaliation and/or recrimination by those persons who wish to maintain the status quo within the 3HO/Sikh Dharma organization.

"It's difficult to get a person to understand something when their paycheck depends on their not understanding."

"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." Hari Singh Bird

My Sikh Sense
By Gurumukh Singh aka Mark Harris


Gurumukh Singh

Cultural Competency As The Standard 

Sat Nam. Three things and lagniappe (A little something extra).

. I never stopped being down for the cause, but I do reserve the right to remain silent after I have said my piece, and if I am asked for specific pieces of work. After a certain point I'm going to prioritize my health, fam, and work, which is starting to become more active. So I may not respond immediately.

. The piece that I commented on I'm recreating here: Change the language as you see fit but I'm saying it from my standard: Cultural Competency the Mental Health Medical Standard. Kundalini Yoga taught from the perspective that students are bringing "to the mat" issues co-occurring disorders (addiction and mental health), survivors of racial, sexual, PTSD, and MultiGenerational Traumas, as well as their infection status and other health concerns. We need to respond, both on and off the mat, to what has been coming to us and is coming to us.

A. Infuse Cultural Competency throughout all teacher training levels. (Not just Level I) To limit yourself to Level I only is to make the assumption, that no other level needs this skill based infusion. A conviction not borne out by the data, or our experience. (Its a standard practice to expect everyone at every level of the medical field to have Cultural Competence, the higher level of skills the greater the expectations).

B. Perform, (where not required by law) an EEOC / Affirmative Action workforce analysis to see where does "Diversity" work in 3HO, throughout ALL 3HO / Sikh Dharma, KC, Akal Security, Spirit Voyage, businesses and endeavors. The Feds only require you to track Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Age, Disability, Veterans Status (collectively referred to as protected classes). GLBTQAA folks have to self-identify where its safe (i.e. their other intersectional power shields them from discrimination).

C. Be able to document the demographic information of all disciplinary or other ethical complaints and discipline proceedings over the last 10 - 20 year period. I would settle for the last 5 years. But would bet money, that they can't come up with it. Therefore proving, what happened with Awtar Singh, is a form of discrimination. Not being able to produce such documentation is itself a problem, because if you can't produce the data, you can't say you are administering the policy fairly, justly, consistently. They would also need to be able to document what kind of complaint, where and who it happens, if there are any patterns.

. I'm down for participating in "Sensitivity Summit" as a facilitator / witness, etc. With certain provisos i.e. "paying the freight." There are certain things that I'm willing to do at my expense. This stuff requires hazardous duty pay, and "support" is a minimum requirement.

Lagniappe section:

Cultural Competence has evolved since the original work in the 80's. The standards outlined in A, B, C, have been standards going back to easily the Civil Rights Era, and many like Affirmative Action were bought and paid for with blood. So its entirely reasonable to ask an organization with diversity issues, to adhere to and aspire to operate at the minimal level...do the numbers, do the data collecting, look for patterns, and correct inequities. So that those who actually need "data" to punch through the diamonds surrounding their hearts, into compassion. And for those of us, who operate through intuition, data helps us too.

From the National Center for Cultural Competency at Georgetown

Definitions of Cultural Competence

There is no one definition of Cultural Competence. Definitions of Cultural Competence have evolved from diverse perspectives, interests and needs and are incorporated in state legislation, Federal statutes and programs, private sector organizations and academic settings. The seminal work of Cross et al in 1989 offered a definition of Cultural Competence that established a solid foundation for the field. The definition has been widely adapted and modified during the past 15 years. However, the core concepts and principles espoused in this framework remain constant as they are viewed as universally applicable across multiple systems.

A number of definitions and descriptions of Cultural Competence were reviewed to compile the selected list. The following definitions of are highlighted because they represent or are based on original and exemplary work and because of their potential impact to the field of health and human services.

CROSS et al, 1989

Cultural Competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enables that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.

The word culture is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The word competence is used because it implies having the capacity to function effectively.

Five essential elements contribute to a system's institution's, or agency's ability to become more culturally competent which include:

1. Valuing diversity

2. Having the capacity for cultural self-assessment

3. Being conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact

4. Having institutionalized culture knowledge

5. Having developed adaptations to service delivery reflecting an understanding of cultural diversity

These five elements should be manifested at every level of an organization including policy making, administrative, and practice. Further these elements should be reflected in the attitudes, structures, policies and services of the organization. --

"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." Hari Singh Bird

My Sikh Sense


Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

Interview With Beverly Daniel Tatum
Edited Transcript

Beverly Daniel Tatum, is a clinical psychologist, professor and President of Spelman College. She is an expert on race relations and author of Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community.

What is White privilege?

White people, who also have a race but don't always think about what it means to be White in a largely White-dominated society, sometimes struggle with the concept of White privilege. What are the benefits or the advantages to being White in a society that has historically given benefits and advantages to members of the dominant group? If you are a person who has that privilege, you don't necessarily notice it. It is sometimes taken for granted. Let's use the example of racial profiling. If you're driving on the highway and you are not randomly stopped, you don't get to the end of your drive and say, "Gee, I wasn't randomly stopped today." You just take for granted that you got in your car, drove to your destination, without incident, like you do most days. It's not something that you think of as a function of being a White person in this society, you know?

If you go looking for an apartment and you find the apartment you like, and you rent it without difficulty, you don't say, "Gee, I benefited from being White today. I got that apartment I wanted." If you go shopping in the grocery store and find hair care products and make-up that work for you, you don't think, "Gee, I'm benefiting from being White today. The hair care products I need and the make-up I want were readily available for me."

Can I find opportunities to express my culture if I'm of Asian or Latino descent? How often during the course of a day will I be asked if I speak English, or how long I've been in this country? Will the physical symbol of my face always mark me as a foreigner? These are not things that White people think about on a day-to-day basis - they just take it for granted.

In one of my courses at Holyoke, "The Psychology of Racism," I ask students on the first day of class to get in small groups and talk about themselves in terms of their own racial or ethnic backgrounds. In one of my sessions, that there was a young White woman in a small group talking about these issues, and she was struggling with how to describe herself in terms of her race or ethnicity. Finally she said, "I'm just normal."

When asked what did she mean in that context, she said, "You know, I lived in an all-White neighborhood. I grew up with people a lot like myself, and I was just like everybody else - I was just the norm."

What I think is so significant about her choice of words - to say "I'm just normal" - is that it implies that those around you, who weren't from that background, are "abnormal." She never would have said that, but it is embedded in how we think.

How does a person support racist systems without being personally racist?

Many people say "But I'm not racist. I don't have prejudiced beliefs. As a White person, am I racist, simply because I live in a society in which I'm systematically advantaged?"

For me the relevant issue is not, "Are you racist?" but are you actively working against that system of advantage? Active racism is what I think many people would stereotypically think of as "racist behavior": name-calling, acts of racial violence, intentional discrimination, cross burning, etc.

But there is a lot of behavior that also supports a system of advantage that we might describe as passively racist. For example, in education - if I am teaching a course in which I exclude the contributions of People of Color, only talk about White people's contributions and only talk about White literature. And I never introduce my students to the work of African Americans, Latinos or Native Americans. I may not be doing that with the intention of promoting a sense of cultural superiority, but in fact the outcome of leaving those contributions out is to reinforce the idea that only White people have made positive cultural contributions.

I know a young woman who went to her English professor and asked, "Why is it that there are only White writers on our list? This is a 20th Century American Literature course. How come there aren't any Writers of Color?" Her professor, to his credit, was quite honest and said I'm teaching the authors I studied in graduate school. It wasn't malice on his part. He didn't wake up one day and say, "Over my dead body will there be Writers of Color on my syllabus." He was simply teaching the authors with whom he was most familiar.

Another example of individuals supporting racist systems can be found in our lending institutions. I might be an individual loan officer who considers herself to be quite progressive, very open minded; a person with limited, if any, prejudice. And yet I might work for a bank that has the practice of charging higher percentage rates to people who live in particular neighborhoods - specifically neighborhoods that have been redlined. So when a Person of Color from that neighborhood comes to see me, my own inclination might be to give that person a favorable loan. But if the policy of the bank is to give loans at a particular rate in a particular neighborhood, I might enact that policy, apart from my individual attitude, and in my decision-making reinforce the institutional racism embedded in that practice.

If we want to interrupt these cycles, we have to be quite intentional about it. Even without any malicious intents, such passive acts of giving into certain institutions or traditions will perpetuate systems of advantage based on race.

What are the obstacles to an equal society? Why can't we be "colorblind"?

Does creating more equitable environments mean loss for some people? That's what the controversy around issues like affirmative action is about. It feels like a loss, people feel like opportunities are being taken away from them. They don't necessarily see that there is a gain for the whole society, and perhaps even for them, by creating opportunities for everybody to contribute more fairly. It's not just about taking things away, it's about creating a better environment for everyone.

A safer environment - a more just environment is a more peaceful environment. Martin Luther King said there is no peace without justice. We live in a world that is increasingly torn by violence, not always described as racially motivated violence, but violence which is very much related to systems of oppression. And to the extent that we're able to interrupt those systems, we're able to create a better quality of life for everyone.

Part of the problem is that people often struggle with the concept of meritocracy. They grow up with this notion that we live in a meritocracy, that people get what they deserve. It is an idea that has been part of their socialization. And to understand racism, or sexism or classism, or other isms as systems of advantage based on race or social group membership - these really fly in the face of that notion of meritocracy.

Think about the government assistance in home financing that took place for the World War II generation in the 1950's. Who got access to those loans? Where were those new houses being built? In the suburbs. And what resulted from the racially-restrictive covenants that blocked access to that new housing for People of Color? If you got a government loan with your GI Bill and bought a house in an all-White area and that house appreciated in value - that was all made more available to you as consequence of racist policies and practices.

To the child of that parent, it looks like my father worked hard, bought a house, passed his wealth on to me, made it possible for me to go to school, mortgaged that house so I could have a relatively debt-free college experience, and has financed my college education. How come your father didn't do that? Well, there are some good reasons why maybe your father might have had a harder time doing that if you're African American or Latino or Native American, or even Asian American.

The best response to the colorblind notion I have ever heard came to me from an African American father who I was interviewing for a study I was doing on the experiences of Black youth in predominantly White communities.

He was talking about his experiences with his children in school. They were often the only Black children in a mostly White class. And he talked about the teachers who would say something like, "I'm color blind. I treat all the kids the same, all the children the same."

And his response was, "The same as what? The same as if they were all White? My children, as the only Black children in the class, are not having the same experience as the White children in that class. The White children are seeing themselves reflected in the schoolbooks, in the classroom teacher. My children are sometimes called names that White children don't hear themselves being called. Their experience is not the same. So for you to say you're colorblind, that you're treating the children all the same, is to say that you're not acknowledging the reality of my child's day-to-day experience, and that feels very invalidating."

Doesn't the existence of multicultural curricula in the United States prove that we're making progress?

We use diversity as an umbrella term to describe the differences among people - whether those differences are cultural, religious, socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, etc. When we think about the benefits of diversity, I think we have to think about the fact that we are not interested in bringing people together just so we can say, "I know somebody who is different from me." It's not just about getting to know people as friends, though certainly there can be very important and useful friendships that emerge in diverse environments. But when I think about diversity and the value of it, I think about really different approaches to problem solving, different approaches to thinking about our society that might lead us to more equitable systems, the various talents that people bring.

In some schools they try to address diversity through what we might describe as a celebration of heroes and holidays. We are going to talk about Martin Luther King in January or February. We are going to have this day where we are celebrating holidays and people are going to bring in foods from different backgrounds, and it's a fairly superficial discussion of diversity, without really engaging in the meaning of that diversity in people's lives.

So for example, as an African American, I might come to school and talk about the holiday Kwaanza as part of diversity celebrations in the school. I happen to be in a family where we do celebrate Kwaanza as well as Christmas. However, if that is all we talk about in terms of my heritage, then I would feel like we had missed the boat. We have to be clear that it's not just understanding that he eats beans and rice, and she eats egg rolls and this person celebrates Kwanza. It's not about that. It is also about understanding the history of the way those groups have been treated in our society, and what we need to do to interrupt that history; to interrupt that current situation in terms of making sure that everybody has equal access.

So it's not just understanding somebody's heroes and holidays, but it's also understanding issues of social justice and how the society operates in ways that systematically advantages some members of our community, and systematically disadvantages other members of our community.

And if we can use our understanding of diversity in those terms and can connect with one another as allies working towards a more socially just environment, then I think we have really maximized the benefit of diversity.

How does racism affect everyone?

When I speak to audiences about this topic of race and racism, one of the questions that I often ask is for them to reflect on their own earliest race-related memory. In general, you can say that People of Color tend to have earlier memories - particularly if they grew up in the United States - than those who are White. Having said that, when you ask them what emotion is associated with this early memory, almost everyone, both People of Color and White people, will talk about things like fear, anger, sadness, shame, embarrassment, sometimes guilt.

What's really striking to me about this is not only do so many people have this experience, but when asked if they had discussed their experience with an adult or a parent or a teacher at the time, many people said they did not. They already knew that it was a topic you weren't supposed to talk about. Somehow the adults in the environment had communicated to them that this is something we don't discuss. Sometimes the People of Color will say I was upset by what happened to me, and I was too embarrassed to tell anybody else about it. Sometime White adults will say that it was a trusted adult who was the source of the confusion. One of the things that makes the process so insidious is that it comes from people we know, love and trust. It's your mother who rented the videotape that was full of stereotypical images. It's your favorite uncle who tells the jokes at Thanksgiving. It's your next door neighbor who makes the casual comments that imbeds. It's your favorite English teacher who leaves Writers of Color off the syllabus.

What's really significant to me about this is not only that people have these negative experiences, but they've also internalized the idea that we shouldn't talk about it. And that, I think, is really problematic if we are ever going to get beyond the issue of racism as an impediment to social justice in our society because we have to be able to talk about it order to move beyond it.

Why do some people voluntarily separate themselves socially based on race?

People are naturally drawn to people who they see as being familiar. However, if you want to connect with somebody who is different from yourself, you have to be able to understand where is that person coming from. And one of the things that I've observed when we talk about, for example, racial group differences, is that Students of Color often come already thinking about themselves as members of particular groups. Whereas White students don't necessarily come to college thinking of themselves as quote White.

That, I think, is important in terms of how young people are coming together. Because if I'm coming to school thinking about myself as African American, or Latina, or African American, and I'm interacting with White students -- many of whom may have grown up thinking that the thing to do is to be colorblind. And that White student, in her effort to connect with me, says something like, "Gee, I don't think of you as a Black person." Or, "Why do you put so much emphasis on being a Latina?" Or, "Why is being African American so important to you?"

And if that is a very important part of my adolescent identity development process, just asking me that question is going to signal to me that you don't get it, that you don't understand where I'm coming from. Then I have to decide do I want to explain myself to you, or not? I might be willing to explain, once or twice. But if I find that everybody I meet outside of my group needs an explanation, that might get a little old. I might get tired of that.

So I might choose to hang around with people to whom I don't have to explain why I wear my hair the way I do, or why I like to listen to this kind of music as opposed to that kind of music. Or why I speak Spanish on the phone to my mother. That if I don't want to explain certain parts of myself frequently, I might choose to hang around with people who are similar to me. And that's an understandable response.

Generally speaking, identity questions really start to come to the surface during adolescence. That's when young people really start to think, "Who am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? How do I want to interact with other people in the world? Who do I want to connect with?" All of these are questions about identity.

But when you talk to young People of Color, many of their identity questions are linked to their sense of themselves as members of a particular racial or ethnic group; not only who am I, but who am I as an African American woman? Who am I as an African American male? Who am I as a Latina? Who am I as a Cherokee? When you talk to young White people, they may be thinking about who they are and who they want to relate to, and how they want to think about themselves in the world. But it may not necessarily be linked to their sense of what it means to be White - particularly if they've grown up in a predominantly White community, or gone to predominantly White schools.

Now you might ask why do so many young People of Color think about their racial group membership? If White kids aren't thinking about it, why are Kids of Color thinking about it? And one of the reasons they're thinking about it is because other people bring it to their attention.

How do cultural influences (television, media, etc.) make Whiteness the norm and People of Color "the other"?

Certainly if we're talking about White people living in predominantly White communities, it is certainly true that many people will grow up without having direct contact with People of Color. And because they don't have that direct contact, the information that they have is coming to them largely from second hand sources; maybe from the television they've watched, the movies they've seen, the jokes they hear people tell, the casual comments they hear relatives making. So that the information is coming in stereotyped packages, typically.

One of the problems with stereotyping and the self-fulfilling nature of it, is that if you've heard these things, and then you meet somebody, you are likely to look for those characteristics.

Certainly if we think about how young children begin to understand race and the images that they are exposed to, we can say that White children receive many images in which they see themselves reflected. Their parents go to the library, they check out library books, and they see White children in them. They watch television, they see White children playing. Which is not to say they never see messages or images of People of Color, but they're seeing lots of White images -- not only on television but in their homes, in their families, in their neighborhoods. So as a consequence of that, they will tend to think of White as the norm.

One of the things that we know about White children is that they often express curiosity about that which they perceive as different. You know, the White child in the grocery store who might see a dark-skinned person for the first time saying, "Mommy, mommy, why is that person so dark?" They're not asking, "Mommy, mommy, why are we so light?" The question is framed in terms of the other.

On the other hand, young Children of Color growing up, even if they live in environments that are fairly homogenous - Black kids growing up in Black neighborhoods, Latino children in Latino neighborhoods, etc. - are going to also be bombarded with images of White people in the media, in the books they get from the library, in the television they watch. So that even though they may be surrounded by a community in which they see themselves reflected, in terms of the bigger society, they, too, are also watching the same television programs, reading the same children's books, exposed to the same curricula in school, etc. So Children of Color don't necessarily start out asking why do White people look the way they do, but why do I look the way I do? Young children come to understand the wider world in terms as one that is dominated by White people.

How can we have control over racial stereotypes?

"The Lion King" was a very popular film, and my kids saw it more than once, I will confess. However, when I watched it with them, I pointed out some concerns I had. I told my children that I was bothered by the fact that the hyenas - who were the bad guys of the film - have voices that make them sound like Black people and Spanish speaking people. Now, some people would say I'm making too much of that. But think about the fact that young children watch movies like this repeatedly and these messages are seen over and over again. They do have an effect on how we view others.

Now, am I saying that you should never let your children see a film that has a stereotype in it? No. What I'm saying is that you need to help your kids think critically about them so they can recognize them as stereotypes and think critically about whether they make sense or not.

Once, while we were driving through a city not far from where we live, my son saw a young Black man running down the street. He said to me, "Why is that kid running?" I said, "I don't know why he's running. Why do you think he's running?" And my son said, "Maybe he stole something." And I was horrified to hear him make that comment. Where would he have gotten that idea?

So I said, "Well, what would make you think so?" He said, "You know, we're in a city. Sometimes people in cities steal things." And I pointed out that we have been in the city many times, parked our car, and never had a problem. I've had one thing stolen from my car in my life, and that happened in the small town, predominantly White, in which I live now. Well clearly he sees the nightly news. He watches television. He had absorbed those messages.

Books, computer games, the Web, television - there are so many places that we can be exposed to stereotypes, that we can be exposed to distorted information. And there is a whole universe of information that we're not getting. Think about these stereotypes, these omissions, these distortions as a kind of environment that surrounds us, like smog in the air. We don't breathe it because we like it. We don't breathe it because we think it's good for us. We breathe it because it's the only air that's available.

And in the same way, we're taking in misinformation not because we want it. When you or your child sits in front of the television on Saturday morning watching cartoons, you're not saying let's have our daily diet of stereotypes today. But you're being exposed to them because they're just there, in the commercials, in the images that you're watching. And it's so pervasive that you don't even notice it sometimes. In fact, a lot of the time you don't notice it.

We're all breathing in misinformation. We're all being exposed to stereotypes, and we all have to think about how we have been impacted by that. You sometimes hear people say there is not a prejudiced bone in my body. But I think when somebody makes that statement, we might gently say to them check again. That if we have all been breathing in smog, we can't help but have our thinking shaped by it somehow. As a consequence, we all have work to do. Whether you identify as a Person of Color, whether you identify as a White person, it doesn't matter. We all have been exposed to misinformation that we have to think critically about. --

My Sikh Sense


Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Discusses Racism With Jane Elliot

Part I

Part II

"It is incumbent on those who know to teach those who do not know."

"It is incumbent on those who do not know to surrender their ego."

Watch Institutionalized Racism





More MySikhSense.com

                                          

                                 

See SensitivitySummit.com. See Desmond Tutu's Plea To Israel.
See The Homeless Banned And Jailed In 'Christian' America.
See Let's Have 'The Race Conversation' For Real, This Time.
See More Diversity Dialogues. See Institutionalized Racism.

See Required Reading. See Recommended Reading.
See Why Are White Tantra Yoga Classes So 'White'?

See Islamic Extremism vs Christian Extremism.

See A Native American's Thanksgiving Rebuke.
See What White People Need To Know.

See Americans Need To Pay Attention.
See What's Wrong With This Picture?
See A Case Of Unjust Enrichment.
See A Classic Case of Tribalism.
See What Tribalism Looks Like.
See Guidelines For Facilitators.
See For The People Of Color.
See What Is White Privilege?
See KRI Needs To Go To Jail.
See Jon Stewart On Racism.
See The Ubuntu Philosophy.
See TheMahanTantric.com.
See Example of Tribalism.

See ACT For Diversity.
See Comments Con.
See Comments Pro.

See Obama 43 To 1.
See My Main Point.
See Definitions.
See Questions.

    

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