Mindfulness and Complex Identities in Equity Training: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

Equity (diversity, anti-oppression) training refers to teaching self-awareness of social location, privilege/disadvantage that mainstream culture perpetuates, and working self-reflectively for equity in everyday interactions amid diversity. This paper investigates the efficacy of equity training on the basis of mindfulness, compassion, and an intersectional/complex identity. Mindfulness refers to a vivid awareness of the present moment, of one’s own embodiment, thoughts, and emotions, fostering self-awareness and compassion. A complex conception of identity in an intersectional approach recognizes that people hold multiple statuses and I propose that this helps them self-identify with both privilege and disadvantage beyond dichotomic notions, finger pointing, and angry reactions. I first discuss the relevant theory of intersectionality and compassion, and consider the significance of this kind of approach to equity training. I then report the outcome of my pilot study that compares the impressions of two small groups of trainees in different equity workshops who were interviewed: The target group attended a workshop based on mindfulness exercises within an intersectional framework, and the comparison group attended a workshop not based on mindfulness, but that included information about privilege, disadvantage, and compassion. The findings point to an enhanced and emotionally involved self-awareness in respondents that participated in the target group workshop, based on mindfulness and empathy enhancing exercises.

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