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Casting a Wider Net, Examining Race in Technology and Design

22 May

Dia J. Penning // Casting a Wider Net // MX 2015 from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

In case you missed my talk at Adaptive Path’s Management Experience conference.

We are calling everyone in to make a world that works for everyone. Through bringing people to table, through letting go of fear, through breath, and love.

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Being other: In yoga, art, and life.

31 Jan

Ok, first you must peep this nonsense:

There are no Black People in my Yoga Class and Suddenly I am Feeling Uncomfortable.

I am absolutely sure that Jen Polachek (she received such a virtual bashing that she has changed her byline to Jen Caron) had all the best intentions in mind. In fact, in her last paragraph she breaks it down by saying “…And while I recognize that there is an element of spectatorship to my experience in this instance, it is precisely this feeling of not being able to engage, not knowing how to engage, that mitigates the hope for change.” The problem is that in her attempt to connect to us, the reader, she failed to see that there are many, many lessons in this experience (really yogic lessons, worthy of about one hundred and fifty dharma talks).

The ones that I take away, for myself, after wanting to ream her out royally, is that the world is an oh so complex salad bowl of racial stereotypes and interactions. That we are all full to the brim with wanting to effect change and playing the victim when things do not go our way. And, that the most yoga lessons I learn are not on my mat, in a class, but in my interactions with people on the street, people very different from me. That the room in my body, cultivated by asana, makes space for breath and gives me the room to see things differently. That breath allows me to slow down and develop a connection to so many living things around me.

Today, I spent about an hour at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland. I met a great group of people to talk about next possible steps with a stellar exhibit the Griots of Oakland (check it out really, it will blow your mind). We talked about gender, we talked about age, we talked about the complexity of working in collaboration, and we talked about race. And, we talked abut how race is so very complicated. In brain studies we have found that many people do not even register people of color, that their brains act as if they are staring at a blank screen (there’s a little bit of reality for you).

As “good” liberals, living in “good” liberal parts of the world or the country, we think we are having open and honest dialogue about race. We try to engage in something that we think will make a difference. We try, as Jen did, to comment on our own f*cked up experiences and feelings in relationship to race. But the thing is, we are all so scared to really pull up some floor and pull it apart. Not just a dialogue on a national level, or tet-a-tet on a personal level, but to really talk.  Talk and risk being stupid, in the hopes that someone may have something to teach us.

What are we to do about all this race inequality in the world, let alone a yoga class, if we can not see others as fundamentally human? If we cannot extend ourselves and open our mouths and risk being vulnerable. Not to place ourselves as a victim but to be open and empty, willing to know nada and to learn from others experiences. Recognize, it is OK to be angry, it is OK to be panicked or stressed, or confused. All of these things are OK because we can use our cultivation of breath to support us through them. To Jen and anyone that feels like her, in a yoga class OR even walking down the street, can you use your yoga to recognize your human connection, please.

Just breathe, ask a question, and find out if your assumption was true. And then do it again, and again, and again, each and everyday.

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