My plan was to post this on the year anniversary of writing it, which is May 30th. It can’t wait. I should probably think about posting it every single day, until one day it actually lands in the hearts and minds of every single white person in America.
I have personally spent this last year doing so much learning and unlearning around my own racism and white supremacy. I still have a long way to go. In fact, I started a website called wedotheworkhere.com a year ago and realized very quickly that I was not yet ready and capable of leading this conversation.
I still have a lot of work to do and I'm not perfect at this. But I am ready to share and speak to this again and I am very clear on in who it is I am speaking to: white yoga teachers and wellness influencers.
Our industry is riddled with racism and problematic power structures. For years now we have been able to walk into rooms and spout off lovely ideas and sayings that feel really really good to hear and to say. And we have been able to do that because we have a kind of privilege that allows us to be in that room in the first place and take on that kind of belief system that would have us believe that we can be up to bigger and better things. Because we can, because the systems were built for that to remain true for us.
Meanwhile, Black men are being gunned down and kneeled upon for no reason at all. Black women are experiencing higher maternal mortality rates than anyone else in the country. The Black community is dying of COVID at higher rates than any other community. And Black voters are being suppressed by new laws being established to make it easier to keep the old systems healthy and continuing.
But here we are talking about getting to choose our reality, being in love with our lives, staying positive, doing the work, holding the line or talking about the injustice of not being to just sit in a bar and order a glass of wine. This is racism. I know, I know, none of this is a direct target at people of color. We aren’t saying openly racist things. But here is the thing: the absence of talking about what is happening in the world to other people who don’t have to luxury of walking into these spaces of wellness, ignoring the need to speak to any of it in the space where we are aiming to live up to a “higher version of ourselves”, is racist. And classist. And oppressive.
I took a break from social media a little while ago. I am not going to lie, it was glorious. I got to focus all of my time and attention on me, growing my business and my family. These are wonderful things. But a few months ago I also realized that I was also ignoring what was going on in the rest of the world, specifically in the arena of social change and justice. Yes, I was reading articles and the news. I continued to donate money and sign petitions and have direct conversations with people. But I wasn’t really active in my activism the same way. Because I didn’t have to be. Because that is my privilege.
I chose to come back because somewhere I read how the Black Lives Matter movement couldn’t have happened without social media. I read about how those little black squares that we all posted a year ago actually wiped out an entire library of resources and work that had been beneficial to the Black community and raising awareness. On one hand, you could make the argument that getting off of social media as white people would be a hell of a good thing. We tend to meddle and try to “fix” and make things way worse at times (listen to Nice White Parents for proof of that). And yet, it also alerted me to how important it is as a white woman in wellness and yoga to speak up and make statements in conjunction with the action I was doing outside of this space.
A friend of mine and incredible musician, Celisse Henderson recently shared the following on her Instagram Story, speaking to her white, cis gendered colleagues in the music industry:
“Something to consider…
If you are a white person who is incredibly active on social media when it comes to the promotion of your music/art/brand/ideas etc. but are completely and utterly silent in the face ot the constant harassment, degradation, and death of Black, Brown, Trans, Queer and LGBTQ+ people, I would ask you to not only consider why that is, but how you think it makes these groups of people feel to experience your deliberate silence?
A special note to my many white, cis gendered colleagues- what does it mean to have a career centered around playing pop, soul, roots, blues, R&B, rock country music, (the list can go on and on) created on the back of Black people but choose to be more concerned with losing followers/your brand perception than the actual lives of the people, whom without your career would not exist?
Any of you that know me on any level, know that I say this lovingly, as a real perspective I would implore you to ponder. I am not here to shame you, but to tell you that your apathy is seen, felt and devastating to experience.
Before you post another video of your own content and nothing else, I will leave you with a word that constantly stays at the forefront of my thoughts.
‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but to lose his soul?’”
Friends and colleagues in the wellness and yoga world. I ask us all the same question. You may think that yoga is neutral, that social media isn’t the space for speaking up, but I am going to lovingly tell you, you are wrong. The music we play in our classes to accompany our teaching, how much of it is by musicians of color? The pretty little phrases we are able to roll trippingly off our tongues, we are only able to say them because our privilege to even be able to be in those spaces was built on oppressive systems that allow us to have the money, time and access to even being in those spaces. Neutrality and silence are not only dangerous, but they are our complicity.
I have been most recently and closely associated with the Baptiste yoga community in the last few decades of my career. It is currently and thankfully in the midst of going through its own very necessary reckoning around social justice, sexual misconduct and power. There is this phrase that is constantly bandied about: “Do the work”. I have to ask, what is this work that we are talking about? If it is only getting more closely acquainted with a methodology and kind of personal empowerment that leaves us feeling good in our own skin, but isn’t interested in examining how that skin has been a free pass to even be able to consider a “personal revolution” in the first place, then I am so out and calling it: The continued silence and lack of words, yes even and especially on social media, is violent. And it’s not wellness or yoga. It’s racism.
And for my friends and colleagues in yoga and wellness who are interested in making changes and being radically honest with how our own racism continues to perpetuate and uphold problematic systems, most especially in wellness, begin with this article from The Cut and listen to these stories from Black women in wellness. Follow and donate to Anti-Racism Daily and SHARE their social templates that they freaking create for you! In time, you will become more and more comfortable with finding your own words, but you have to begin somewhere.
Please hear me friends, I am not here to shame anyone. Shame is not a tool for social justice and I know that. But another Black man died at the hands of a white police officer. A woman no less. We have work to do and we cannot actually get to it until we honestly acknowledge our own racism. Again. A year later after we watched one of the most horrible lynchings of our time in broad daylight, on tv, with an entire world watching. What you have to say about it, matters and will be the difference between continuing business as usual, or actually disrupting it.
is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.