“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” –Edmund Burke, British Statesman and Philosopher (1729-1797)
“You know, where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start …” –“What It’s Like” by Everlast
I want to talk to you about race and racism. Not a thing that I feel is an area of expertise for me, nor even something that you would want to hear my opinion on. But it is important in this time of truth-telling and the revealing of ingrained cultural norms that just simply must end. We must choose one side or the other.
The days of thinking you can sit comfortably in the middle and just “love everyone” are over.
I’ve thought about holding a peace vigil; but how can you pray for peace without justice? I’ve thought about asking Black and Brown yoga teachers to post to this page; but they are seriously busy fielding questions from White people like me, who have been shown tragic and uncomfortable truths and are just waking up. Our Black and Brown friends are tired.
Part of sparking this conversation is about being uncomfortable, but also finding a way forward. There is less than zero time to waste. Someone’s child, someone’s father, someone’s sister; their lives depend upon us speaking up, and acting up.
The weeks leading up to now have revealed an uncomfortable and devasting truth about this country and justice. Or the lack of justice. The statistics have always been there; the Black and Brown friends and neighbors and celebrities talking about racism. Prison and poverty numbers. History being whitewashed, edited back, numbed down. I personally have learned so much hidden history in the last few weeks my head is spinning.
But I think it was the videos that did it.
In the time of COVID, we are watching a lot of videos. And never forget, those killers would be walking free with their edited view of events as the record if it had not been for the videos.
It started with Amaud Aubrey; being hunted down in broad daylight as he went for a run; shot and killed. And knowing those men just walked away (they were eventually charged; but that still means very little unless justice is actually served).
Watching George Floyd being murdered, right in front of our eyes. The police officer, with his hand in his pocket and his knee on his neck; all casual like he has done this a hundred times. Everyone standing around, helplessly watching. Listening to him crying out for his mother. Watching him die.
In this same span of a couple weeks Breona Taylor is shot and killed in her bed; a mistake. But that mistake didn’t keep her boyfriend, innocently sleeping beside her and rising to defend them both, from being charged because he shot back. No charges have been brought against the officers who killed her. Seriously, if that had happened to your child would you accept the response of “oops, wrong house y’all.”
No. Hell no.
Is it that we have more time to become outraged because more of us are in front of these screens? Is it because the people who are marching have less to lose? Because Black and Brown people are already suffering more because of this virus; it is stealing more of their souls and exposing so many of them routinely in their livelihoods.
What could speak to the yogi more than the phrase “I can’t breathe.” But in this conversation, we also must talk about how very “White” the yoga world is.
It reminded me of a moment a few months back when I was teaching yoga at the local juvenile prison. This one particular young man was very vocal and seriously intrigued by the yoga philosophy, poses and breath techniques I was teaching. He asked if he could come to yoga classes when he was released and I said, sure, of course. I have never turned away anyone for lack of resources. We can always barter or figure it out. But then he asked “But, well … will there be anyone that looks like me?” He was pretty tatted up and also had Brown skin. I told him yes, there are people that look like you. Not a lot of them, but some. And there are plenty of students and teachers with tattoos.
How do I make these practices and these spaces more accessible for Black and Brown people in our area? How do I spread the word about yoga teachers who are BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color)? How do we become a safe space for EVERYONE?
I don’t know yet. But I know that there is a much work for us all to do. Many of my friends have taken action and created ways to learn more. They are forming book clubs, posting historical articles; raising money and raising awareness. I personally have done a lot of soul searching. A lot of introspection and awareness of times I could have spoken up. I could have made a difference. Where I was afraid to call someone out on a racist remark or comment.
Which brings me to one of the real conclusions many of us are arrived at; it is not enough to not be racist. We all must become Anti-Racist.