Susan here, coming to you directly to weigh in on a situation that is unfolding in our local wellness community and which I feel is important for you to know about.
Here’s what happened: last week a local yoga studio owner who is white, posted a long Instagram post “reintroducing” herself to her new followers which included among other things, a description of her appearance. To describe her eyes, she used a slur-a “C-word” used to talk about Chinese Americans. I’m not comfortable using it. Many, many people responded to her post, but not to that. Their comments were positive and supportive.
A colleague of mine and one other person were the only people who (very gently) pointed out to her that she might want to rethink how she was describing herself. Her response was to put the slur in quotation marks (as if that made it better, somehow), and to delete their comments.
Then, and rightly so, all hell broke loose. As the situation got more attention, many people in our community tried to reach out to her directly or respond, but their comments were deleted or they were rebuffed. My colleague was accused of defamation and bullying and by the next day the studio owner had doubled down in a video that is extremely disturbing to watch in which she tells anyone who didn’t like the post, tough shit. She straight up says she’s not sorry and then remarkably, says the reason why it’s ok for her to use that slur is because she’s been teased her whole life for looking Asian.
That’s right, she justifies her racism with more racism.
As far as I know, she still has not apologized.
So here’s the deal. The health and wellness community belongs to all of us. We’re the ones creating it. And it has the same problems with white privilege as other institutions. But what’s even more upsetting than this woman’s display of white fragility is what’s always in the background and which causes a disturbing justification by default: the presumption that because our community is organized around a commitment to healing ourselves and others, we are therefore more advanced. Because she is a yogini, her intentions must be pure. Because she’s super spiritual, her actions are above reproach.
And from listening to my friends and colleagues who have experienced racism in our community, she’s actually pretty typical.
There is such an opportunity for her to learn here, and she’s squandering it. She has the option of using the spiritual principles of humility, empathy and compassion. She has the choice to see where she has been limiting her practice and excluding others from her work because of her unconscious bias. Instead, she’s justifying the use of hostility to remain the smallest version of herself possible.
My feeling is this: you have absolutely no business holding yourself up as an example or laying claim to any kind of public forum if you cannot own your shadow side.
Which, by the way, we all have. I thought I was the most forward and progressive woman in the world until my kids started calling me out when I would use language that basically keeps the structure of white supremacy in place. I was shocked–I mean, come on–I’m the groovy mom, the one who went to the camp held by the National Conference of Christians and Jews when I was 15! For one entire week, kids of every race, class and gender lived together and dug deep into our unconscious biases until we could own (and release) them. I thought I was evolved. I thought they were making too big a deal of it.
I had wrongfully assumed there was no learning curve left for me. But there is always work to do here on Earth. The work of learning is the work of being human. I know we are all trying our hardest to transform and evolve. We all want to believe we lead with our higher selves. However, we don’t learn without making mistakes, and without any shame I can say I am never going to be perfect. I can be evolving, but not completely evolved. I can live a life that’s transformational, but I will never be totally transformed.
So the question is, how open do I want my heart to be? How much do I want to learn?
As a white woman, I am part of a protected class (that is, until someone finds out I’m Jewish). I rarely have to do the emotional labor that my POC and LGBTQ brothers and sisters (sorry-siblings) have to do just to exist from day to day.
I’m trying to be a good ally. I’ve learned that for the most part, support involves a lot of listening. A lot of shutting up and sitting down and letting those who are affected lead. However, in this case I feel a responsibility to respond, simply because so few white people did. If you’re white and in the Seacoast wellness community, I hope you do too. Because this is some grade-A white lady bullshit. And looking the other way serves no one.Back to all posts