Embodied Antiracism: Examining Whiteness for Equitable Activism

About the Course

Becoming an embodied antiracist is like learning anything new – it takes time and repetition. With increased practice, we get better at it. This course will share important facts and details about the history of the United States as they pertain to race. We’ll take a closer look at examining why many DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) programs have had disappointing outcomes, and how opening up our hearts can help. We’ll experience the importance of ritual and collective mourning. We’ll hold one another up, turning our eyes inside: together we’ll begin our journey of looking inward when it comes to racism. Together, we will inquire, challenge, call in and call on one another. We’ll make progress towards our collective liberation.

Students will integrate learning how mindful, loving awareness, the felt sense in the body, and nervous system regulation and co-regulation can all help support widening our range of resilience around racialized trauma, deepen our understanding of systemic racism, and move us towards discerning, balanced, compassionate action.

We won’t shy away from messy conversations around race. In fact, we’ll guide conversations in a way that is rooted in deep listening and humility. We’ll show that it’s possible to use embodiment as a way to move through grief without getting stuck or without skipping ahead to spiritual bypassing. We’ll embrace collective joy and embodied spiritual activism in our daily lives personally, professionally, and in our communities.

Over the years, institutions and systems in our country – and in others – have been created and sustained through the idea of a “better than” philosophy. These ideas are often rooted in racial inequity, with certain groups dominating others. To uproot these inequities, it’s critical to use mindfulness and loving awareness to examine our own thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and actions. Many of us have trauma histories that keep us from being embodied in the present moment, and also, from examining our reactions when it comes to race. Our first week highlights the history of racism in this country, with surprising new historical information people are often never taught. We’ll examine why “not being racist” is insufficient, and how being antiracist is a shift towards loving awareness. Using ancient wisdom teachings on compassion, appreciative joy, lovingkindness, and equanimity, we’ll look at where suffering is rooted in the body and mind, and how to break the cycle of confusion and “not enough”. We’ll look at our own personal attachment styles and social location/positionality, and how they influence a culture’s embodiment.
It’s not hard to think of racists as people “out there” who are part of hate groups, or individuals with extreme beliefs. Examining the racist part that may exist inside each one of us can be challenging, and force us to reckon with our own self-concept as someone kind or helpful. But even if white – our bodies carry the weight of years of systems of inequity and oppression, influencing our neurobiology and responses. This week we’ll look at using mindfulness to unpack how institutions and systems created long ago still influence us as it pertains to race. We’ll learn to actively change our beliefs and behavior. We’ll explain what “whiteness” is, who it benefits, and how it separates us from our common humanity. We’ll look at the antidotes to feelings of isolation and separateness and how our human interconnection can bolster our sense of belonging to one another. We’ll look at the links of whiteness to shame and violence and how to change. We’ll explain Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, learn the basics of regulating our nervous system and bolstering the range of resilience, explore the collective nervous system through the concept of Cultural Somatics, and begin to shift from shame, to humility, to deeper connections.
There are many stages we go through in becoming an embodied antiracist: these may take months, years, decades, or lifetimes to process. Dr. Janet Helms’ model of racial identity development helps us understand – especially as white-bodied (or white-proximate) persons – that we can look at ourselves more deeply as racialized beings. Although not linear, the stages include contact, disintegration, reintegration, pseudo independence, immersion/emersion, and autonomy. We’ll use mindfulness and a “both/and” philosophy to embody how we can allow ourselves to be who we are as white-bodied folx, and still lean into our growing edge of becoming an embodied antiracist. We’ll explore how white people are also racial beings – but may not be aware of it – and how learning more about your personal heritage helps support individual and collective transformation.
Anne Braden, Jane Elliott, John Brown: historically, these are some of the white allies who exemplify the traits of being an embodied antiracist. We’ll unpack how their actions differ from “Karens” or “Beckys” and “nice white ladies.” Of course, we need white allies/comrades/co-conspirators to disrupt systemic injustice and reimagine collective liberation. But good intentions don’t always have a helpful impact, and often lead to more harm for communities that often have been historically the most oppressed and marginalized. In unlearning white saviorism in our shift towards embodied antiracism, we’ll ask ourselves what our deepest intention is when we act. Who is it we’re really trying to soothe and serve: ourselves, or others? Using our foundations of mindfulness and regulating our nervous systems, we’ll recognize our urge to jump in and “help”, and pause to see what’s most useful to our common community. We’ll suggest how to introduce race in conversation, in a way that may create a greater sense of protection for a wider range of folx. We’ll also explore being mindful of “white-adjacent” racism in the forms of shadism and colorism that exists in many different POC (people of color/culture) groups.
Once we’ve begun to do our embodied antiracism work, we may realize we’ve become heartbroken. It’s one way we can begin to feel the depth and heaviness of what it means to be entitled to live in a white body amidst and within racialized institutions and systems of oppression. This week we will look at grief from a personal and collective lens: how understanding the history of the construction of race was always meant to, as Ian Haney Lopez says, divide and conquer, instead of unite and build. We’ll learn to tolerate grief in our bodies, process it as a wave of activation that moves through us, and scaffold one another in the process of community. We’ll explore the importance of ritual and ceremony, look at how we came to inherit the beliefs we have around feelings of grief or sadness and uncouple those from any feelings of shame or guilt. We’ll use understanding as a buffer to grief and shame, as an alternative to spiritual bypassing, and as a portal to our embodied antiracist action.
We will turn our attention to creating a new way of being grounded in wise, embodied, compassionate, antiracist action. We’ll reconceptualize activism as embodied relational engagement, rooted in curiosity, compassion, and respect. We’ll practice the mindfulness principle of deep listening as a basis for showing up within the framework of love as understanding. We’ll move towards a social justice lens of rebalancing what’s been violated, shift from separation to a felt sense of togetherness, and invite an elegant ferocity in how we move forward in doing this work together.

Students who take this course will:

  • Compare the difference between ‘anti-racist’ and ‘non-racist’.
  • Examine and critique what is ‘Whiteness?’ using social location.
  • Analyze how trauma lives and presents differently in white and non-white bodies.
  • Demonstrate how shared joy, abundance, and connection transforms separation, fear, and competition.
  • List the summary stages of racial identity development.
  • Revise our concept of shame as moral injury and shift to empowerment and humility.
  • Apply Polyvagal Theory & mindfulness to prepare their nervous systems to participate in conversations around race.
  • Prepare how to bring up race in session in a way that may offer greater safety for their clients.

About Francesca Marguerite Maximé

Francesca Marguerite Maximé, LMSW, is a Haitian-Dominican Italian-American licensed somatic psychotherapist, mindfulness teacher, anti-racism educator, and award-winning poet/author in Brooklyn, New York. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her Master’s in Social Work from Fordham University. She has been mentored in mindfulness meditation practices by celebrated author and clinical psychologist Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., and has also been a mindfulness student of clinical psychologist and internationally known teacher Tara Brach, Ph.D. More about Francesca and her upcoming events & talks can be found on her website,

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  • Member Only Content
    Unlimited access to premium articles, special podcast series, and other member only content.
  • EPTV Streaming Video Service
    Access to EPTV Original Series and our video library of over 250+ hours of lectures, talks and workshops.
  • Wisdom School Courses
    Access to 60+ on-demand courses plus two new courses every month.