Mindful Diversity

Mindful diversity is a positive, two-pronged approach for achieving diversity, equity, and equality in America’s schools. It combines traditional multiculturalism with principle-based diversity rooted in mindfulness.

Traditional Multiculturalism

In his fifth edition of Cultural Diversity and Education, research scholar and “father” of multicultural education, James A. Banks, offers an interesting approach to fair and equitable education called multicultural ideology. Published in 2006, it’s less aggressive and confrontational than current 2020 anti-racist educational approaches, which tend to be more accusatory than celebratory; in 2006, mainstream multicultural education focused on unity over dichotomy, which is no longer the case today, as zero-sum anti-racist philosophies — which seek to deconstruct so-called problematic “Whiteness” — are now heavily influencing policies and perspectives.

Multicultural ideology is a blending of assimilation and cultural pluralism, where the American national identity adapts and develops to become more diverse and pluralistic, yet doesn’t abandon the nation’s core values — the fundamental principles that make America unique and one of the most successful countries in the world. In Cultural Diversity and Education, Banks writes that multicultural ideology is reflected in educational policy that is “guided by an eclectic ideology that reflects both the cultural pluralists position and the assimilation position, but avoids their extremes.”

Principle-Based Diversity Rooted In Mindfulness

Educators who use principle-based diversity rooted in mindfulness believe universal human qualities such as love, compassion, respect, tolerance, and trust are universal, and can serve as a guidepost for healing racial divisions and promoting equality and access to America’s resources, while helping teachers bond and connect with their students in order to better educate them. Divisive identity politics hyper-focused on race are replaced with mindfulness, which not only helps students to concentrate, reduce stress, and manage anger — but has also been clinically proven to decrease implicit racial bias — all of which works to undue racism and makes education more diverse, fair, and equitable. According to an article in UC Berkley’s Greater Good Magazine:

Today, prejudice against people who don’t share our race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or political persuasion is creating an atmosphere of distrust and hostility that is dividing the United States. Citizens and researchers alike are desperate to understand where these divisions come from and how to heal them.

Some answers might be found in the scientific literature on mindfulness.

For those who don’t know, mindfulness is a state of being — often practiced through meditation — that involves an increased awareness of our emotions, thoughts, and surroundings, accompanied by a sense of acceptance and non-judgment. Several studies have suggested that practicing mindfulness can reduce prejudice and bias.

For example, one study found that a brief loving-kindness meditation reduced prejudice toward homeless people, while another found that a brief mindfulness training decreased unconscious bias against black people and elderly people. In a third study by Adam Lueke and colleagues, white participants who received a brief mindfulness training demonstrated less biased behavior (not just attitudes) toward black participants in a trust game.

Using multicultural ideology, in tandem with principle-based diversity rooted in mindfulnessis a more effective and proactive approach to gaining diversity, equity, and equality in American schools. Unlike anti-racism, multiculturalism coupled with mindfulness is not zero-sum, and does not believe the advancement of people of color depends on the disruption, de-centering, or deconstruction of “Whiteness.” Mindful multiculturalism is celebratory rather than accusatory, and refrains from using race to judge, profile, punish, or grant access to resources. We believe opening up to and working with Whiteness is the best way to increase diversity and inclusion, and to develop and expand resources for all people.