Best Self Magazine

Interview: Ruth King | Healing Racism from the Inside Out

Transforming Racism. Photograph of Ruth King by Bill Miles

Photograph by Bill Miles

Ruth King

Healing Racism from the Inside Out

Interview by Kristen Noel

June 20, 2018, Charlotte, North Carolina

Photographs by Bill Miles

Racism is a heart disease, and it’s curable.

 ~ Ruth King

Kristen:           Ruth King is an international insight meditation teacher, life coach, diversity consultant, and author with a master’s in psychology. She previously managed training and organizational development divisions for large corporations, where she also designed diversity awareness programs.

Ruth is referred to as a ‘teacher of teachers’, and the ‘consultant of consultants’. She teaches the ‘Mindful of Race Training’ program, which blends mindfulness meditation principles with an exploration of our racial conditioning, its impact, and our potential.

Her latest book, Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, has been referred to as healing medicine for the suffering of racism.

Thank you for sitting down with Best Self Magazine today, Ruth, and for inviting us into your lovely home. I knew the moment that your publisher got this book into my hands that I had to explore a way to have this conversation with you. But I also want to acknowledge that this one was a tough one to prepare for because it’s an enormous conversation, a much-needed conversation, but also an uncomfortable one. It was interesting to observe my own feelings that popped up while prepping for today.

Ruth King:       Yes. You’re in the zone!

Kristen:           I’m in it. We’re in it together.

Ruth King:       That’s right. Let’s do it! [joining hands]

Kristen:           With regards to our reaction to the word racism, you said, “Something alarming happens when we think or hear the word ‘racism’. Something deep within us is awakened into fear. All of us, regardless of our race and our experience of race, get triggered and more than the moment is at play. That word picks at an existential scab, some level of dis-ease at the mere insinuation of the word, some itch that we can’t seem to scratch, or some fear we believe will harm us. This activation happens to all of us.”

Ruth King:       Yes. It’s true. It’s a lot to get our arms around. And yet, it’s necessary.

Kristen:           I feel the gravity of attempting to explore this with you — to explore this for myself, to explore this for my son, to explore this for my legacy, to explore this for my community. And I’m tenuous, a bit reserved, to say this or that or to go here or there. It activates a lot of different things.

Ruth King:       Yes. One of the things I talk about in the book is discomfort as a core competency for waking up in this area. So, if we’re not uncomfortable, if we’re not feeling some degree of itch or scratch, it’s difficult to wake up. Discomfort gets our attention. The balance of interest in wanting to go there, but also the gravitational pull to not go there is at play — and yet, here we are.

Kristen:           One of the things that I appreciate so much about this book is that it’s not just pointing out the obvious. It’s the fact that you’ve provided some tangible, actionable practices that we can do to guide ourselves to relook at something we haven’t known how to approach.

So where do we begin? How do we begin? We undeniably get gripped by this conversation. As you pointed out in the book, we have these default settings or weapons that we resort to when we find ourselves activated. For some that’s fear, for some that’s anger, and for many it’s defensiveness.

Ruth King:       We need to begin with the intention to want to begin, again and again — because it’s not like we have this conversation and then and we’re done. It’s a conversation that I think ought to become as normative as eating breakfast.

So, having the intention that you are going to be in this dialog means you’re not going to turn away from it, you’re going to give it some time, you’re going to let it be your teacher for a while, and then you’re going to see how it teaches you how

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