Speaker: Rhonda Magee

Addressing Social and Racial Injustice with Compassion

Rhonda Magee is a teacher of mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions for lawyers and law students, and for minimizing social-identity-based bias. A full-time faculty member at the Jesuit University of San Francisco since 1998, and a full professor since 2004, she is dedicated to exploring the inter-relationships between law, philosophy, and notions of justice and humanity, with a commitment to listening to, and retelling the stories of, the impact of law on the lives of traditionally marginalized and subordinated people.  She is an expert in Contemplative Pedagogy, Race Law, Identity-Sensitive Pedagogy, and Critical Race Perspectives on the Intersection of Race and Immigration. 

Professor Magee’s writing and teaching is inspired by a commitment to education for effective problem-solving and presence-based leadership in a diverse and ever-changing world, and to humanizing legal education. She is the author of numerous articles on mindfulness in legal education, including Educating Lawyers to Meditate? and The Way of ColorInsight: Understanding Race and Law Effectively Using Mindfulness-Based ColorInsight Practices.    

Born in the segregated town of Kinston, North Carolina, and raised in Hampton, Virginia, Professor Magee learned at an early age that she would need tools for "grounding myself for work in a world not created for our success."  While in law school, Magee’s interest in restorative justice, reconciliation, and the contemporary effects of unredressed historical wrongs led her to publish an article in the Virginia Law Review on the subject of the African-American reparations, “The Master’s Tools, From the Bottom Up: African American Reparations Theory in Mainstream and Outsider Remedies Discourse.” It was one of the earliest treatments of the topic in a mainstream legal scholarly journal.  After law school, she discovered meditation as a tool for personal grounding.

“In my own work, I identify, develop and examine the efficacy of a set of practices that intentionally link inner and outer work to raise awareness about race and racial experience in our lives, with a focus on personal, interpersonal, and systemic or structural levels,” Magee has described.

In addition to her scholarly work utilizing mindfulness strategies to uncover and ameliorate racial bias, she embraces mindfulness as a tool to unearth and alleviate other forms of social injustice.  “A commitment to becoming more aware of our interconnectedness leads to deeper understanding of injustice in our midst. It leads to the will to closely examine inequality today—inviting a look beyond individuals to systems and structures, and providing a basis for law and policy that improves all our lives,” she says.  “It reveals, for example, that problems as seemingly disparate as a water quality crisis and the excessive use of police force are caused by the same lack of compassion for our fellow human beings, and can be redressed—and more importantly, prevented—by developing that very compassion.  Engaged mindfulness practices are just one way to increase our capacities to see a role for each of us in ameliorating [structural] inequality. They are one tool for building bridges between disparate causes, concerns and people, and for supporting the ongoing shifts in understanding that are necessary for law and policy that truly provides equal protection and justice for all.  Such practices can be brought into our most besieged communities and applied to our most intractable problems, providing a foundation for social justice work that transforms individuals and the world around us.”

Professor Magee presently serves as President of the Board of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.  She is a member of the Project for the Integration of Spirituality, Law and Politics; a member of the Board of Advisers of the Center for Mindfulness; and a member of the Steering Committee of the Mind and Life Institute.  She contributes to Mindful.org and the Greater Good Science Center.  She is a member of the board of advisors to the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine’s Center for Mindfulness.  She is a founder of the effort to transform the criminal justice system through mindfulness and compassion practices (Transforming Justice).  She has served on the board of directors of a number of other organizations, including the Center for Youth Development Through Law, the National Coalition Against Crime and Delinquency, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, and the Humanizing Legal Education Section of the American Association of Law Schools.

She has made her home in San Francisco since 1998. Among other local civic engagements, she has served as a consultant to the San Francisco African American Historical Society, and to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office on matters of mindful relations with the Black Community.  She is a trained and highly practiced facilitator, with an emphasis on mindful communication, trained through programs at the University of Massachusetts’s School of Medicine’s Oasis Teacher Training Institute, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business Facilitator Training Program.

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