“Asians take up apologetic space,” writes Cathy Park Hong, in Minor Feelings. Her words speak to my African-American experience.

I attended a meditation retreat, at a center located on a working farm. The women’s dormitory and the dining hall were connected by a narrow pathway, bounded on one side by a cornfield. On the other side, a meadow — grasses, rocks, and holes, perfect for twisting your ankles.

As I returned to the dorm after breakfast, several women walked toward me, going to the dining hall. I stepped off the path into the grass, letting them pass. The same thing happened day after day. Whenever someone approached, I stepped into the ankle-twisting meadow.

On about day eight, the dance became clear to me.

When you do nothing but meditate, eat, and sleep for ten days, you accidentally see what you think of yourself.

I didn’t deserve to occupy space.


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Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes about love and pain. Her latest book is Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room. DawnDowneyBlog.com.