You have the right to grow. No apologies.

The title of my blog today is titled after this quote I saw on Instagram a few days ago:

After having some serious education in certain topics over the last few weeks and questioning the sudden change in myself, it kind of reassured me that it’s ok to change emotions, feelings and thoughts quite abruptly. It’s ok to change your viewpoint and decide you want to pursue something you’ve never thought about before. But most of all it’s ok to change your demeanour.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a podcast about cultural appropriation in the yoga world. It was a concept I have never been exposed to or even thought about before and when the Instagram yoga community started talking about it, I decided I needed to know more. I may touch on the topic of cultural appropriation in more detail at some point (have a gander at the hashtag on Instagram to check it out for yourself). This then led me to listening to another podcast around the topic of race and to how I can be more inclusive and proactive as a white, female yoga teacher in the yoga world. This of course also got me thinking about how I can do this as a performer too and there started a journey on which I am still but an amateur…

On this journey, which I have only been on for a few weeks now, I have learned SO MUCH. Capitals necessary. I have learned about British black history (schools in Britain…where’s this in the syllabus?), white privilege, the ideology of white supremacy, political history, class systems, attitudes to race in Britain and peoples defensiveness around the topic of race in particular. This hasn’t just been through books and podcasts though. Regarding the latter, I have learned through talking to people – or should I say “trying” to talk to people. Often these topics get blank stares or awkward laughter before the person bows out with excuses of “ooh that’s a bit deep”. I’ve found these responses extremely frustrating and I’ve begun wondering how actual activists and POC themselves must feel.

I have a long way to go when it comes to educating myself about race, class and cultural appropriation. I’ve had moments when reading/listening to material where I’ve realised I myself have unknowingly been racist or appropriated someone else’s culture in the past. Damn, I even created a yoga class called “Nama-slay” for the London gym brand Gymbox. I can now appreciate how that could be offensive and potentially cause hurt through the research I have done. I actually apologised for my lack of education/ignorance when I wrote the first draft of this blog. But a wonderful friend of mine read it for me and pointed out a very valid point (that several activists emphasise in their work) – apologies aren’t necessary when your intentions aren’t bad; it’s the understanding that is necessary.

I can absolutely understand where defensive attitudes come from when questioned or called out about these things because the immediate reaction is “but I didn’t mean it like that and I would never hurt anyone intentionally!” But it’s about stepping out of our egos for a moment and just LISTENING. As a white female I appreciate and now understand that I am privileged because of the colour of my skin. If you read this and feel differently then have a listen/read of some of the material I’ve put at the bottom of this blog. By trying to prove what good people we are or by stating that we’re colour-blind, we’re actually adding to the problem. We have never had to think about our race… we have been brought up and conditioned to think that white is the “norm”. So it’s now time to think. It’s now time to listen. We have to listen, we have to be willing to be educated and more importantly we have to educate ourselves. It’s not the job of a POC to educate white people.

A common cop out when it comes to discussing topics such as race or political correctness is “ah you’re always going to offend someone whatever you do”. But I’m not content to put up with that response anymore. It’s an excuse not to do the work and it silences the voices of those speaking up and trying to actively do something.

Rachel Cargle is a student of Colombia University and an activist. Check out her website here and her Instagram account here. On a recent podcast I listened to, she spoke about the term “love and light” that is used quite commonly on social media, especially in the yoga world. To quote something she said (I could quote a hell of a lot of what she says, she’s incredible) that stuck with me “I don’t want your love and light unless it comes with action and solidarity”. She was speaking specifically about when a POC speaks up and a white person bows out of the conversation under the “love and light to you” escape route. But it stood out to me as such a powerful quote in so many ways. People that require our help and our voices need more than our love and light. Financially not all of us can give to every charity or crisis happening in the world but there are other things that we CAN do. We can lift up the voices of those less privileged than us or those already doing amazing work. We can assess the sectors we work in ourselves and ensure there are measures in place to tackle diversity and that POC are getting what they need. We can read books, articles and use the internet to engage with like minded individuals. Another quote that resonated with me, from Robin DiAngelo – a lecturer, academic and author from the US, was “Is what I’m doing creating more union or is it creating more separation?” This a question I am going to continually ask myself from now on both in my work as a yoga teacher and personal trainer and as a performer.

I should mention that a lot of my research has been US orientated too as there are so many wonderful activists from the US that have come to my attention through social media channels. I’ve been focusing a lot more recently on the British side of things (seeing as I live here) and after finishing Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” I just wanted to get some of my thoughts out into the world. My blog so far has been all to do with yoga and wellbeing but I want to open it up a bit. It’s my blog after all 😉

Linking back to the title of this blog, I should explain why I’ve written it. Through reading up on these topics and listening to a diverse range of people speak about them, I have found myself changing and growing in a short space of time. My viewpoints and my attitude have changed and although some of these changes have been uncomfortable I’ve come to understand that there are worse things in life than my own discomfort. These topics aren’t ever going to be comfortable after all. But it’s important to sometimes put our discomfort aside in order to listen and understand.

So let me end by saying this: don’t apologise for your growth or let others stifle it. We have the right to expand our knowledge and we have the ability to change our direction at any point. I’d say really that it’s our duty to grow when it comes to POC and those less privileged. We have to. Otherwise we’re just adding to the system… we’re the ones actually doing the stifling and I for one don’t want to be someone who does that. I’m choosing to grow and in turn, invite others to do the same. I’ve noted some of my listening and reading materials below and would LOVE any recommendations from those of you who have already been looking into any of the topics I’ve touched on.

I was extremely nervous to write this blog. But I’m so glad I have. Even if it’s just a bit of a rant for myself, I’m glad I’ve spoken up. I’m glad I’m growing and I extend heartfelt thanks to those who are allowing me to by letting me chat about these topics and engaging with me about them.

Love, light, action and solidarity…

Jess x

 

 

Resources

Books:

“Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge (UK)
“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Race” by Robin DiAngelo (US)

Podcasts:

-Code Switch
-Call Your Girlfriend- listen to the episode “White Fragility”
-About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge- listen to the whole podcast. This podcast came after the book but you can listen to it before or after reading.
-Stance- listen to the episode “White Racial Identity”
-Yo, Is This Racist?
-From The Heart: Conversations With Yoga Girl- listen to the episode “How To Be A True Ally To Women Of Colour with Rachel Cargle” and for those interested in understanding Cultural Appropriation “Cultural Appropriation with Susanna Barkataki”

 

As I said, I’m still so early on in my education and understanding so the above are what I have come across and been recommended so far. Please reach out with anything else you think I might find useful and inspiring, I’d be so grateful.