Misidentifying Religious Practices as Fully Secular
Chapter 14 advances an ethical argument that respect for cultural and religious diversity and informed consent require transparency and voluntarism. Many school yoga and meditation programs borrow from Asian religious traditions, as interpreted by middle-to-upper-class European Americans, and then target low-income African Americans and Latinos. Such programs risk dual racialization and cultural stereotyping of Asian Hindus and Buddhists as well as American people of color; positive orientalist stereotypes imagine Asians as wiser and more spiritual, while negative stereotypes encourage racial disciplining of black and brown boys to manage classroom behavior. Differentials in wealth and power can also produce hegemony, where interests of one group pass for interests of society. Programs risk cultural appropriation and cultural imperialism by extracting and potentially distorting cultural resources from one socially and politically less-privileged group of cultural ‘others,’ and imposing those resources on still-less-privileged ‘others,’ for the primary benefit of the socially dominant group. School programs sometimes disclose religious roots but are rarely transparent about ongoing religious associations. Informed consent implies that participation is voluntary. Yet coercion is inherent in classroom yoga and meditation, even if opting out is permitted, because teacher authority and peer pressure exert indirect pressure to conform to social expectations.
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