Mindfulness minus action lacks meaning

After volunteering these past few weeks at HCS Family Services with the food pantry and more recently experiencing the justified outrage about police brutality and systemic discrimination against black Americans, I've been thinking a lot about mindfulness.

I've realized that mindfulness isn't just about contemplating or being aware of what's around me. Mindfulness is about taking action because of my awareness. Without this second part, my awareness is meaningless.

In the context of the discussions we are having in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, this means that mindfulness is about claiming to not be racist, but also admitting that I have not really paid much attention to truly listening to black voices and black proposals for change - such as defunding police - much less engaging with them. Mindfulness in this context is about feeling outrage and calling for justice, but also recognizing that this outrage is worthless if I do not translate it into active participation in changing systems that are designed in inherently discriminatory ways.

Mindfulness is wanting to help, but also understanding that this fight is not mine to lead, it's mine to support with my talent, time and treasure.

Where to start? I've got a three-step plan.

The first step is education. Sign up to get on the mailing lists of organizations that represent black Americans' interests. Read "White Fragility" by antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo. My goal here is to get to know the community, learn what can be done at an institutional and legal level, and identify and address the biases that I have so that I change my behavior. This knowledge will help me take meaningful action.

Second, be an informed voter on these issues. Whether voting for sheriff or state representative, research their records, their platforms, their endorsements. I can't just go on party lines. Within both parties, candidates take different stands, and it's up to me to know who prioritizes racial equality.

Third, commit a resource - my treasure, whether it's through donations or my own work. This includes making regular donations to organizations I support, joining one of the emerging local initiatives and marching peacefully.

What's important is that this is a long-term plan, not a temporary diversion that will vanish when the news cycle inevitably turns to the next big story. My daughter and I joined the peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2016. But I've done nothing to follow through on the solidarity I showed that day.

With this three-step plan, I'm hoping that I become an informed, active white ally to people of color, which I believe firmly makes the USA a better place for every single one of us.

- Beth Smits of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].