“We have racially conditioned perceptions that operate based on past experiences that are stored in the mind. These include memories, views, beliefs, and fears, all of which stimulate the mind to act or behave in ways that make sense to us. Once we perceive race, the mind immediately scans the memory bank of past experiences to interpret what is being perceived. We then add layers of meaning, and the experience shifts from bare perceiving into something more textured and nuanced. We refer to this in Buddhism as papancha —the proliferation or elaboration of thoughts and feelings. These extra layers added to perception—interpretations , judgments, feelings, fears, and preferences—are all our own mental creations. When layered, perceptions become distorted, sticky, and weighty.
Essentially, we think we know something, then we are off and running—all based on past experiences, preferences, and beliefs. And usually (although not always) it’s all in our minds. When we perceive and thoughts and emotions are simultaneously activated, those thoughts and emotions proliferate, creating a state of fear and anxiety driven by what the mind is believing in that moment. In such moments, we are removed from presence; we vacate the premises of body and mind. And the experience is real, until it’s not. We’re streaming the past live.” — Ruth King, author of MINDFUL OF RACE, draws attention to how racial bias begins with distorted perceptions in this excerpt on Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.