[0:03] Welcome to a brand new episode of the Yoga Girl podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in with me today. So, I know I said last week on the show I was going to have a guest this week; we had some re-bookings and some things shift in the schedule, so I’m gonna have a guest on next week and the week following. And, this is, it’s kind of appropriate because it gives me, gives me a moment to speak to you guys from the heart, which I think, I think is in a space we are all in right now. I feel like everyone, everyone has this longing to listen from the heart and to speak from the heart, and it’s showing up in all sorts of different ways.
[0:45] I was excited to, for this week’s episode of the podcast to be a big episode on anti-racism. And I shared last week that I have committed to not having huge conversations around this without having a Black person present to guide, and then this week, I have again learned a lot, so, actually, I am gonna, gonna share a little bit more right now in terms of my own learnings, my own experience as a White woman navigating this, this conversation and supporting this movement from afar.
[1:18] Some beautiful advice that I have received — a woman you should all follow on Instagram is @bexlife, just wanna do a little shout out for Rebekah, she’s been super, super helpful in terms of questions that I’ve been navigating, especially in terms of talking on such a big platform. And today, what I plan to share a little bit about is some mistakes that I’ve made [laughs] and I’m sure a bunch of you guys are like “yay!” I feel like, I feel like there are so many people making so many mistakes in this conversation all around, and I think that’s evident, like it’s obvious that that’s about to happen: if everyone knew how to do this right, then we wouldn’t have this issue, right?
[2:00] So, it’s not just…and that’s a learning and a big takeaway that, that I’m taking. A few of the people that I’ve learnt the most from that I’m going to be kind of touching on and sharing about a little bit more in this episode is Rachel Cargle, I’m sure you guys follow her already, I had her on the podcast a little while ago, I think a year and a half maybe, may two years? [Laughs] I gotta check, my memory isn’t so good, but it’s been a moment ago. And Layla Saad, whose book I’ve shared a couple of times, Me and White Supremacy. It’s a book I, I come back to again and again, I’m reading it again right now but taking more time with the book than I did the first time around.
[2:40] But, so a big thing that I have learned is this: that we are all going to make mistakes, and that the issue of racism isn’t just something that sits in a far away place, which is kind of how I grew up, and I’m sure many of you listening are going to resonate as well; I grew up with this idea of, of “there are racists, and then there are non-racists,” and that’s kind of how the world is divided. And racists, of course, are terrible people, and they are extreme and extremists and, you know, I would think of the KKK, or the Nazi movement, in Sweden we still have a lot of, a lot of that kind of, that kind of energy lingering , and there are some groups that are still active, and some White supremacy groups, right?
[3:26] So that’s kind of how I grew up: either you’re a racist or you’re not, right, and obviously I am not. Obviously my friends are not, obviously my family is not, and the people that I surround myself with, no one is racist. So, whenever someone confronts you and you have this idea, right, of “of course I’m not racist, of course,” and racism is this extreme thing, right, it only applies to certain extreme, White supremacist type of people, that means that we are automatically excluding ourselves from the conversation. Layla Saad calls it “White exceptionalism,” or that’s the term for this, where we are exempt, right? Like “I’m just a regular White person, I am not a racist, I’m not a part of this conversation at all.” And by exc…you know, by making ourselves exceptional in that sense, we don’t have to participate right? We don’t have to look at our own stuff because we paint the world in black and white: it’s either you’re racist, or you’re not.
[4:17] Which I think a lot of us have learned now, you know, that is not the case. And the bigger issue isn’t just these extreme groups that of course still exist, and the KKK and horrible things they are, that are all around, but the day-to-day, integrated, racist structures that we all live in. The face that we are all living with White privilege if we’re White, or White-passing people, that we are living in a, in a whole society where White is the norm, where White supremacy is very real.
[4:48] And for me, you know, in terms of making mistakes because I, I didn’t want to see it that way, I didn’t agree. I felt…whenever someone would say that to me, I felt very uptight, that that doesn’t apply to me. Well if that doesn’t apply to you, then you don’t have any work to do, right? That’s kind of a nice way to bypass the conversation altogether and then leave the responsibility to deal with racism on Black people, [laughs] you know. Like this is a big, big realization that I’ve had that every time that I’ve thought that to myself, that it doesn’t apply to me because I’m not a racist, and racism is something extreme, it’s meant that I haven’t had to have any of those uncomfortable conversations, I haven’t had to look at the, the deep structure in my family, you know, I’m Swedish, my whole family’s White, I haven’t had to look at my conditioning, my upbringing and the ways White supremacy and White privilege absolutely, absolutely has played a role and impacts my life every day, you know.
[5:43] And for me benefitting from that, for me living in the structure of course impacting non-White people and Black people in a negative way. So, Lesson One: Being a racist is not a huge, extreme thing. And we need to all begin including ourselves in this conversation, and actually acknowledge the fact that we are a part of the problem, but that also means we can be a part of the solution, right? If we’re not a part of the problem, that means that we’re not going to change anything, we’re just gonna pretend it’s not real, which, right now, we can’t anymore.
[6:16] So in terms of making mistakes, and this is something that’s so…[laughs] like I’m laughing when I’m sharing that because for me, making mistakes is, personally just any mistake — failing at things, being bad at something — it’s a very sensitive thing for me personally. And, you know, I’ve spent the past year and a half in therapy, going through all of my, all of my inner things, and inner demons, and traumas, and things like that. And a re-occurring theme that I’ve shared on this podcast a lot as well is this, this central core idea that I have that I have to be really great at everything all the time, right?
[6:53] And this has been this huge obstacle for me in this conversation, and I wanna, I wanna share that kind of right off the bat, that we are all going to have big obstacles in terms of how we are able to dismantle the, the racism that the White supremacy, the bias that lives inside of all of us, and it’s all going to relate to big things, of course, that are super, super personal. And for me, this limiting belief that I’ve had, that I have to be great at everything, and it’s been something that I’ve thought since I was little, “I have to be great at everything, I have to get everything right or no one’s going to like me,” like that’s been my big, like a big wound that I’ve had, that I’m really scared to mess up, scared to fail, scared to get it wrong, and also, you know, scared to get called out. Which is a, a bad fear to have if you’re living in the social media world.
[7:41] So, we have seen, you know, left and right, all across social media, since this movement really, you know, became big, people fucking up, left and right. And you know, I’ve had people in my own life and people that I’m friends with in the online space that I’ve had really hard conversations with, and I kind of, like I get their feelings around this, like there’s been a couple of influencer friends that I’ve had that for the first, you know, week or ten days, said nothing. Absolutely nothing. And when I reached out and said “hey, hey, you know, like you gotta share about this, you gotta talk about this.” And I would say something like you know, “doesn’t matter if you’re getting exactly right, but you have to speak, you know, you have to, have to share your views because of course your views are that you’re an anti-racist, of course your views are in support of Black lives and Black Lives Matter.”
[8:29] And a lot of response that I would get would be “yeah, but, but I feel like I can’t do it right, you know. If I don’t post, then people get upset that I haven’t posted, but if I do post, people get upset cuz I, cuz I made a mistake or I didn’t do it right. So it’s easier for me just to not, not be in that conversation, you know.” And I think I had like, five or six people that I had had this conversation with, all who have, you know, fairly large followings online, and I get it. I get it. You know why I get it, is because I [laughs] I was in that place.
[9:00] So I’m gonna share, I’m gonna share a little story with you guys, I’m sure a, I’m sure a few of you maybe remember this time, maybe you were present for this time, but this was a couple of years ago, Lea Luna was really little. I was trying to think back, like when in time was this, but honestly, my memory is, is, is, I don’t know if I should be concerned about it, but time, for me, just is weird. It was a few years ago, Lea was breastfeeding, that’s all I remember. And I had this experience which, which I want to share as a big mistake that I made, being part of this conversation and being a part of a conversation like this one.
[9:35] And I’m sharing this mistake, you know, with all humility, knowledge of how I fucked up, and also, you know, in a sense of it’s, it’s hard for me to, to talk about times where I fucked up. And I realize it’s, it’s valuable that I do that, because it gives other people permission to fuck up a little bit too, right? And I, and I think if it’s something that we all need, and this is something that I, that I’ve learned a lot from, there’s a beautiful human you should all follow on Instagram too, on Instagram, he’s @brandonkgood, his name is Brandon Kyle Goodman. So it’s better to have all of us talking about this, risking being called out on something that we didn’t do perfect and then learning from that, and then changing our ways — which when you look at it like that, isn’t the end of the world, right? — than not talking about it at all, being complicit and silent, and allowing these horrendous atrocities to continue, right?
[10:37] You cannot even compare, it does not, you know, you can’t put them on the same graph, on the same scale: it’s like the discomfort White people feel getting called out on something they’ve done wrong versus the trauma and pain Black people feel literally being murdered. I mean, the, the, the…you cannot put them side by side. So I think as White folks, what we need is a little perspective, you know, again and again, whenever we feel uncomfortable, whenever we feel fragile, whenever we feel like “oh, my God, this is too much for me,” you know, take a breath, step back and look objectively at the entire situation here, right? Our pain is like, it’s a, it’s nothing, right?
[11:16] It’s going to feel like a lot to you, but when it comes to being of service to something greater, we have to zoom out from ourselves, right? And we have to, have to continue to stay super objective with what’s actually important here, which is Black lives, Black lives mattering in this world. Black lives not being lost, right? Not seeing any more of this brutality, of this violence, of this trauma, of this awful shit that somehow we have all just allowed to go on. I dunno, it’s, it’s almost like, like now we have, now we have glasses on, now we can see and everyone’s going “whoa, how is this allowed?” Well it’s been allowed because we haven’t been talking about it, right, because we all said “that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not racist, I’m not one of those extreme people,” instead of going, “hey, this is real, and actually I don’t know that many ex…like in my life, how many extreme racists have I come across?” I mean, very, very, very few that I’ve even known of or heard, I can count them on one hand, like knowing someone who was a, who’s a racist person.
[12:23] But the amount of, the amount of injustice that exists in this world, right, it cannot just be these very few people, right? It can not just be the extremist groups, right? It’s something that, through these micro-aggressions and through these biases that we all hold and through our day-to-day life of living in this culture of White supremacy that we allow, right? That we allow.
[12:48] I remember back when, when, when the Me Too movement became a thing, and I was sitting down with Dennis having a lot of hard conversations with him, especially around, you know, his group of guy friends, and, and I remember the urgency for me to share with him that “hey, when you hear a friend make a sexist joke, like you allowing that, you not saying ‘hey, hey, stop. That’s not cool. That’s not okay,’ right? Or seeing a friend like, catcalling a girl, whatever, any of those like little behaviors that we deemed as little, whenever you don’t speak up and don’t shut it down, you are contributing to the culture that allows for women to get raped every single day.” Right? That’s a fucking epidemic. That’s happening every day, all across the world. And for me to try to convince him for him to understand that that plays a part.
[13:36] And there was a lot of discussion between him and I, because he, he couldn’t see the connection at all, because he had the same idea about rapists that I had when I was little, right? Rape is, they are these super-scary people that they lurk in dark alleys, right, that’s why you should never walk in a dark alley on your way home, that’s why you should never be alone walking home from the bar, blah, blah. But actually, majority of rape doesn’t happen by strange boogeyman, you know, who are totally unknown — they happen between people that we know, right? It’s someone who actually knows the survivor of that, of that incident. So it was like a lot, I know, I’m sure you remember this too, a lot that we had to suddenly relearn, right? And a lot for the men of this world to become aware of, like, “hey, I didn’t know that this was that bad, that this was every day, all the time.”
[14:23] And I feel like now, it’s a similar thing, right? It’s similar in that we’ve had our eyes closed to this massive problem, and now all of a sudden it’s like we can see clearly, we can see all of the suffering, and we have to all understand that those little things that we deem little, right: if it’s hearing a family member say a racist joke, or if you notice some sort of injustice that is happening in your workplace, or any of these things that, that maybe we have let slide, right, that maybe, like, we just allowed because it felt like a big thing to, to address it, right? Well, all of that plays a role, right? We play a role in not, whenever we don’t shut that down immediately. All of this plays a role.
[15:08] And that’s why this conversation is so important right now, that’s why it’s so big, it’s so huge, it should be everything that we’re all doing. Of course you’re, you’re living your life, and you’re taking care of your kids, and going to work, and trying to get your life back together after coronavirus, all this stuff, of course, we’re all doing that across the world. But right now, there needs to be this undercurrent in everybody’s life where we are all doing the work of dismantling this shit that lives inside us and all around us. And that needs to happen all day, right, every day. That you have some sort of component in your day where you continue to learn and relearn.
[15:44 — Commercial Break]
[17:18] So I wanna share this, this, this experience I had, and my own mistake, right, because I feel like sharing this maybe will resonate with some of you in terms of how, in the end, it might be the only way, right? And that’s something that I’ve been sitting with a lot: if there was a way to get this 100 percent right, then we wouldn’t have to have these conversations because that would mean we would have done the inner work, right, and we would know, because we wouldn’t have all this shit happening. But it’s not like that, right? So if you’re listening to this and you’re White, or White-passing, you have work to do. I have work to do.
[17:54] So yeah, this was a couple of years ago, and I was, you know, minding my own business, living my little, little life in Aruba, and I think we were traveling a lot, and we had some tours and things like that, and of course, you know, this is the Yoga Girl podcast, I am @yogagirl on Instagram and have been since 2012, so long, long time. And a woman came into my, I can’t remember if it was first on direct message or first in comments section, but a woman came into my comment section and was sharing something where she was really, really upset with the fact that I was, that I was Yoga Girl.
[18:31] For anyone who was present around this, this situation that maybe remembers, I don’t want to get details wrong, as I said, my memory sucks. And I can’t remember exactly what it was, but she was saying something negative in terms of I’m a White person and I shouldn’t be teaching yoga. And the way she said it was kind of harsh, right? The way she said it was to the point…I’m being kind of soft with my words here, but yeah, it was, it was, it was harsh.
[18:54] And, so what happens in, in, in comment sections, and I think this is not exclusive to me, but, but to all sorts of influencers, is whenever you have one person share something that looks negative, right, or that looks like mean or whatever, you might have several people that jump in to, to help the person they’re following, right? So I remember someone, someone wrote like, “hey, that’s not true. What do you mean White people can’t teach yoga? There’s like thousands and thousands of White people who teach yoga,” and, “Rachel’s a great person, and, “blah, blah, blah,” and it became a whole thread, right?
[19:26] And, it became a whole thing, right; started off from a small thing and it became a whole thing. And then what happened is, is, is Number One: I didn’t see anything right in what she was telling me, at all. Like I didn’t even, I didn’t even pause to contemplate, “hey, is this woman correct in her, in her observation, or is this a real conversation I should have?” And the reason i didn’t is because I felt really attacked, right? And, this kind of escalated and in the end, she started an Instagram account that she named something, something to troll me a little bit, or to, to…I dunno, to me it felt degrading.
[20:01] And she was sharing these videos and photos of me that were Photoshopped, of me standing with my hands to heart, and then money and hundred dollar bills flying around, and telling the, you know, telling the world that I was, like, a super corrupt, horrible, manipulative person, and I’m capitalizing off of a sacred practice, and I am basically the worst person in, in the whole world, right? So, at a quick glance, obviously, you know, this looked like, “oh, a person who’s trolling me,” and that’s how I received it immediately, is I felt super attacked, “here’s a person who hates me,” you know. So I think I responded like, “hey, leave me alone, you know, this is like, I don’t have to give you any mind.”
[20:39] But then the louder she got —because she didn’t stop, right, it wasn’t just one comment, it was a long, long thing that, that kind of went on — the louder she went, the louder the people in my comment feed became. And in the end, and I remember I was sharing something like “hey, there’s a thousand Instagram influencers who do yoga you can go to, like I have all these non-profits, right, and I do such good work for the world, and I have an animal rescue, and we take care of children with this thing, and I’ve always like, I don’t market anything on this platform, I really…” you know, because I’ve always really prided myself in “hey, I do what I do with authenticity.”
[21:16] That’s been a huge thing for me: I do what I do with integrity. I chose early to not have my online platform become a place to market stuff, because I felt this aversion to, to all the yoga brands and the clothing and all the things we’re supposed to buy all the time, right? And I had this idea that “my account’s going to be special. [Laughs] It’s going to be heartfelt, and la, la, la,” you know, I was on a high horse there, I think for a long time. And I was like, upset that “hey, why can’t this woman see that I’m a good person,” you know? And it triggered me, really deeply, because it’s important for me to be a good person, so why is she hating on me? Like why is she creating all these horrible videos and images of me, making me look like I’m some sort of capitalist, like, millionaire crazy person who’s stepping on all the people who made yoga what it is along the way?” Which is like, I felt so attacked, right?
[22:09] And then, other people started chiming in, saying like, “hey, this woman who’s sharing, she’s actually an Indian woman. She’s a Hindu woman…” I don’t want to get her, exactly where she’s from wrong, but she was an Indian woman. And said, “hey,” you know, “she actually has a right to share what she’s sharing, like this is really true. The pain that the Indian community is experiencing all across the world seeing their sacred practice, the sacred, sacred practice of yoga, seeing it completely White-washed, is a huge atrocity, and so traumatic, and so painful, and do you even know, you know, this history of yoga? Do you even know that in India, we were not allowed to practice our own practice? And that it was taken by White people in the West? And now it’s become so White-washed that, you know, we don’t even feel comfortable walking into yoga studios in the United States because it’s so separate from the practice that’s in our culture, that’s ours.”
[23:08] This was just a big conversation, and all this thing, all of these things people started sharing. And then I felt like “wait, wait.” And I remember, I remember there was a moment there in this whole conversation when I was, you know, happy I had all these people on my side, and trying to take down this troll, this person who I just thought was trolling me, who was like, a bad person in my view. “And I am a good person, why can’t she see that I’m good?” So I’m allowing these people to, to tell her “no,” to say “no, this is not correct.”
[23:35] And it became a shit show. Like I, if I can go back to this comment section, which I don’t think I can because, I don’t know if I turned it off, or deleted or what I did, which is also another mistake I made. And we were flying, we were on a plane — I remember because I wrote about this the next day and I was in an airport — and I let the comment section go on. And what happened was that it became evident, because, you know, out of the blue, for me, I thought we had this very peaceful community here at Yoga Girl, right? Everyone is a lovely person, we’re going to disagree on some stuff, but we don’t have any racists here, and I’m definitely not racist, right? Not at all. And it’s very important to me to, to honor the roots of yoga, I think, you know? You know? I would have those conversations sometimes, but not really, right? Not really. Not really. Not really.
[24:23] I was, I think at the time, a good version of, of a performative ally then. So this was a couple years ago, we had just opened the studio, and, and I remember, like I would have these conversations where I would share a post about something, but I wasn’t doing the actual work inside of myself, absolutely not, right? So maybe I would hear something, someone would say, “hey, that’s not appropriate in yoga,” and I would be like, “oh, my God, okay, yes, adopt that, immediately,” but I didn’t actually look at it, I didn’t actually learn about it, I didn’t actually look at “how am I teaching those things, you know, and showing other people how to do those things as a studio owner,” I was kind of unaware, right, I was.
[25:00] And this felt like an uncomfortable conversation to have too, because I knew there was something there that I wasn’t doing wrong…that I wasn’t doing right. So this whole thing became like, for me to actually take this conversation seriously, and to give that woman space and to say, “hey, let’s talk about this,” at the time I was so uncomfortable. I was so uncomfortable with this idea of “what if I’m doing this wrong?” Right? “What if I’m not supposed to be teaching yoga? What if I’m appropriating this culture? What if…what if this is all a huge, fucked up thing, and I have built an entire life based on something that isn’t right,” right? There was a big risk for me there, for me to, to even begin to unpack these things. So instead of doing that, I just shut it down.
[25:47] And I remember it got to a point where people in the comment section who were White people, well-meaning toward me, you know, who followed me for a long time and couldn’t see any of the big context, which I couldn’t at the time either, were saying super racist shit to this, to this woman, to this poor woman, who, at the time, I was like hating her, I thought she was the worst person ever. She was so strong in her language, so strong, so to the point, if you were to just glance at it you’d say like, “that’ a troll,” right?
[26:20] But she wasn’t, and that’ my point, right? It was my mistake. So someone alerted me to “hey, this comment section isn’t safe.” And I wasn’t even reading it; I got to a point where I just, I think I shared something, and then I left it. I put my little, you, like, what’s that bird that puts it’s head in the sand? An ostrich [laughs]. We have a saying about ostriches in Sweden. I buried my head in the sand, like “okay, I’m just not going to look at this comment section and try to get back to my life,” right, with my kid and all the stuff I was doing, and then meanwhile this comment section just blew up with a lot of bad things. Bad things.
[26:55] The equivalent of “all lives matter” was what my comment section was for these posts, or for this post where this was happening. [Sniffs] And then all of a sudden, I found myself feeling attacked from left and right. Like I would get someone would DM me, and then someone would email me, and then someone would reach out to someone that I knew, and all of a sudden I felt like, “Hey, I don’t like confrontation, I don’t, you know, I have a [laughing] really hard time dealing with negative criticism, or negative feedback,” and, and it was like left and right, you know, people trying to tell me something, but what I felt was like in a horrible way, you know, people were like, “you’re, you’re fucked up, this is bad, you’re a bad person.” Right? Where really what they were saying was “hey, there are some things in your practice, and how you’re practicing this, and how you’re teaching this, in the structure of you existing in this world, that isn’t right.” Right? That’s what these people were alerting me too, like not like, at my core, as a human, I’m bad, right? But, “you are playing a role and profiting from this structure that is actually hurting other people and have, has been hurting other people for a long time, and you’re playing a part in that. You’re responsible here. You have responsibility to talk about this in a different way.”
[28:09] I could…I, I was completely unable to take a breath and separate my value as a human being from getting negative feedback, right, because it felt like so much and so intense. And I can also sit here with some kindness today, looking at my life then like, “yeah, I wasn’t able,” right, I wasn’t. If I was, I would have received that whole conversation in a different way. I wasn’t. I was attacked, I felt attacked, I felt little, I didn’t have the, the emotional and energetic space to hold that, right?
[28:43] And then what happened after this, and this is like, it, it’s so, kind of, beautiful how it happened. I can’t remember if I deleted that post, or if I deleted that comment, and in the end — so this is the worst part, not the beautiful part, this is the worst part — and in the end, this woman’s account was deleted. I think so many people who followed me went to her account and saw that she was posting these, this kind of, kind of, kind of terrible things of me, and they reported her as “this is shitty, this is shitty.” And in the end, her, her account got taken down.
[29:14] Which I’m realizing now, you know, I can sit here when I have, you know, having lived it, like, like what’s that saying? “Hindsight is 20/20,” you know. Was a fucked up and really racist thing to do. So when I thought, “okay, this is getting out of hand, someone told me this is not safe. Basically, all lives matter type people, White people, sharing a lot of, you know, White supremacist ideas, a lot of White-centering in this conversation, and then I think a lot of attack towards this woman as well. And when I deleted the comment — or when I deleted the post, i can’t remember now — what I did is I, not only did I, which, you know, I thought I was deleting, I was removing the problem, you know. “Okay, this is a mess, I have to delete it, because then it will be safe, right?”
[29:59] What I did is, there was a lot of people of color who were in that comment section, educating. A lot. A lot of people. I can’t remember how many comments were in this thread, but it was a lot. And a lot of women, I think mostly women of color, who were there, educating, trying to set people straight, trying to explain like, “hey, the person who you think is attacking Rachel is actually of woman of Indian descent who has seen a lot of trauma and pain and suffering from what’s happened with yoga culture after White people took it over, after it became so White-washed.”
[30:35] And it’s, of course, you know, I can see know, like probably all the things that are bad about yoga in today’s world, right, all the bad things, I am like, the epitome — I was, at least — the epitome of that [laughs]. Like I am “Yoga Girl,” like I took Yoga Girl as a name, you know, that’s probably triggering enough, you know, a hundred percent. And there I was, you know, going about my day, teaching yoga to the masses, sharing yoga photos on instagram, you know, she doesn’t, she didn’t know me as person and, and whatever, you know, core values I had, but from the outside, yeah, probably, probably things looked really bad.
[31:10] And that was my fault, right, that I, I wasn’t talking about, I wasn’t talking about honoring the roots of yoga, I wasn’t talking about honoring the culture. I also wasn’t talking about what gos on behind the scenes, you know, how am I teaching this to our teacher training groups and things like that, it was just “here is what it looks like,” and this is what that must be.”
[31:31] So all of that, you know, I took that post or comment down, which is the exact definition, I’m going to go ahead and say, of tone policing. And tone policing, I wanna, I wanna talk about today: the person who has taught me the most about tone policing is Rachel Cargle. Go, go, go, go read her words and, and follow her. Follow her account, also @thegreatunlearn which is really helpful in terms of how she breaks down, she’ll take comments from social media and then, from White people, and then break them down in terms of here’s what’s happening, here’s how, how all of this racist is taking place in these well-meaning White people’s responses, which is teaching me a lot too.
[32:11] But tone policing, that’s what I did to this woman, and it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s something that I would love to be able to take back, which I can’t. But when a person of color speaks about their experience on racism, oftentimes what we’ll hear White people say is “hey, if you don’t scream so loudly, I’ll be able to hear you better.” Or, “if you weren’t so angry, you know, I could listen to you, but with all of this anger, like, ugh, you know, come back to me when you’ve calmed down.” You know, we kind of, we, we, it’s like, it’s like White people are telling Black people that to talk about your experience on this hugely personal, emotional, sensitive, traumatic thing, you have to speak in a way that’s digestible to me, otherwise I’m not going to listen to you.”
[33:03] Can you guys kind of see how bad that is? So Layla Saad, she has a whole chapter about tone policing, I highly recommend it. So it’s not just when I shut that comment section down, you know, I tone policed her, and all of those people that were trying to support me, you know, thinking they were doing something good and nice for me, by saying “hey, if you have something good to share, maybe we should talk about honoring yoga’s roots, but we should talk about that. We should talk about the cultural appropriation, but can you just stop, stop saying it in this way? Don’t be so hateful in these comments, don’t be so mean, you’re just bullying Rachel now,” right?
[33:41] And of course, of course it takes, to be able to take and hold that kind of emotion when it’s directed at you in that intensity, that’s a hard ting to do, yeah, a hundred percent. I think it takes a, a grounded, you know, fairly evolved person to hold that and not react back, which is what I did immediately: “you’re bullying me, fuck off,” you know. When now, if I could, if I could go back, I would have loved to have been able instead, hold space for that emotion, knowing that me as a White person teaching yoga, yes, to the masses, profiting off of yoga in different ways, it’s my responsibility to help support her voice, right, to help elevate her voice, and to hold space for whatever emotion comes along with this really hard topic.
[34:25] Which, at that time, I’d, I was trying to think, how could I really have done this different, I just didn’t have the tool. I had never heard the term “tone policing,” I had never heard the term “gaslighting.” I think this was 2017. Yeah, I, I never, I wasn’t aware. So that, all of that happened. Her account disappeared, which was super sad, and then the beautiful part about this, in the end, or for me, you know, the takeaway that I, that I got, it was a bad thing, bad situation all around, but the good that came out of it was that I started doing that work for real for the first time in my life, right? We changed a lot of things, and I realized there was a lot of things I was doing at that time that i was practicing, that I was teaching, because I was taught that, and I never questioned it, right?
[35:12] I was just taught that this is how we do things, and then I look back, wha are all the teachers that I’ve had in my life? They are all White people. I have never had a person that I’ve considered a teacher that’s been a, a teacher of mine that’s learned a lot from, up until that point at least, that’s really influenced my teaching that hasn’t been White, you know. I didn’t have my big spiritual trip to India, you know, which is a whole other problem [laughing] on it’s own, I think. I didn’t have any Black teachers, you know, when I, when I…here in Aruba it’s also I think, we are in a, we’re kind of in an extreme place here, having such a tiny community here, we’re on a tiny island, we have, you know, I think ten teachers on the whole island here as well, so it’s also a little bit of a different situation.
[25:57] But some things that we were doing at the studio that I would love to share, I have a podcast on this, I invited Susanna Barkataki, who is also a guide on yogagirl.com who is an amazing resource on all things honoring the roots of yoga, on cultural appropriation, on how to responsibly carry on this tradition of yoga that we are borrowing from the Indian community, it’s not ours. We didn’t create this, I mean as White people. It’s not ours, at all. And when she told me that she has family that live in the States, you know, very, very, very traditional, traditional religious Indian women in her family who have practiced yoga, you know, since before they were born, you know, yoga is not only in their soul, in their heart, but it’s in their lineage, in their bloodline, it’s in their ancestry, who feel like they can’t go to a yoga studio in the United States because they feel out of place, they feel not welcome.
[36:51] And when she said that, I remember like, my jaw dropped, like how is it that, how is that, how is that okay? Like obviously it’t not okay, but how is that a thing, right? That the very people who’s culture this is, whose practice this is don’t have space, or don’t fell welcome, in the studios and the spaces that are now profiting off this practice by the millions, you know, all across the world, especially the U.S. where yoga is so, so huge. And that, you know, broke my heart a little bit, and opened my eyes because I was not aware, right? I was not aware.
[37:27] So, okay, I don’t mean for this whole entire episode to be about, about, about just yoga, but I want to share this, not just yoga but about the specific issue because ti can be many episodes. I have an episode called Cultural Appropriation with Susanna Barkataki, highly recommend it, I’m going to share some more resources to learn from on that topic as well. But, so what happened after that is that was my eye-opening moment in terms of, “okay, you know, not just yoga and honoring the roots of yoga and how was I doing that wrong, but racism as a whole, right? For the first time learning those terms, in terms of “okay, here are some things, some weapons, right, that White, well-meaning people use in these conversations about race, speaking to Black people and people of color, that are, that are super dangerous, that are playing a part of the whole, right? Just the same way that Dennis not telling his friend to stop it with his sexist jokes play a part in rape culture and misogyny.
[38:25] Us using these, these, these verbal weapons, right, and, and structuring these conversations in a way that only appeal to us, right, or excluding ourselves from the conversation all together, or tone policing, all these things, that’s the reason we’ve been in this place for so long, right? That plays a part in the police brutality, the violence, the injustice, that Black people face all across the world. Not just Black people, but people of color all across the world, right? All of that plays a part.
[38:57] And, I didn’t know [laughs]. And this was, you know, I’m sharing this with you guys super humbly, like, because I wish I knew. I wish I knew. And, reading, you know, Me and White Supremacy, comes with a lot of journalling prompts where you get to go back into your past, into your life, and look at these different areas, like “how did that play out?” And when I look at my own past, you know, I grew up being told that racism isn’t real. Like I actually had that spoken to me several times from different members of my family. I had one specific family member who was so set in his beliefs around that everyone can do anything, we all are starting from the same place, like privilege was not a thing. I think probably he still believes this to this day, that privilege wasn’t real. That, you know, if you just work hard, doesn’t matter if you’re — and he would say things like that — “doesn’t matter if your purple, brown, pink, whatever. Everyone has the same prerequisites to just work hard, you know? And you can make it in this world.”
[40:01] And I was taught that from a really young age. And also that, you know, that racism is only this extreme thing, it’s only far away, ti’s only crazy people, and that we are, we should all be colorblind, right? We should all pretend that we don’t see color, we should all just pretend that color isn’t real. A book I’m reading now, it’s I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown, she speaks about this in the one, I can’t remember, one of the first chapters in her book of that book as well, but being colorblind, which I thought my whole life was a great thing.
[40:31] When I was, so I lived in a very, very White neighborhood, or was born in a White neighborhood, and then when I was ten or eleven, we moved to the inner city in Stockholm, and the schools I went to were super diverse, and most of my friends, I actually attached myself then at the time to the culture that wasn’t Swedish. Which I can see now, I’m having a lot of realizations about that, too, but all of my friends, I had very few, you know, White, Swedish friends going to these schools, so I had friends form the Philippines, and from Chile, and from Iraq, and from Turkey, Somalia, and from Japan, friends from all over. And, we were really, you know, being colorblind was supposed, that was supposed to be a thing.
[41:16] And I remember, you know, no one ever sat us down, even int he school, right, where everyone was from everywhere, to talk about race, or to talk about that fact that “actually, hey, we’re all a little different,” [laughing] you know, obvious…it was obvious that we were all a little different, we looked a little different, our cultures are different, you know, these structures are different, but that was never a thing. And Sweden is very, I think only Swedish people can really understand the Swedish culture of not wanting to stand out, not wanting to cause a ruckus, you know. Also in school, everything is very vanilla, very “hey, hey, hey, we’re all getting along here,” right, even though we weren’t.
[41:56] And I remember an encounter that happened on the school yard where a White boy and s Black boy started fighting. And it was a whole thing, and I think the White boy said something bad, it was like a racial slur, something about his skin color, it wasn’t, you know, the N-word or something because then I would have remembered, but it was some sort of slur, something bad. And I remember it was a thing that this had happened. And when I think back to it now, I think what was a thing was that the White boy addressed, you know, this boy’s Blackness, like he said something about the color of his skin, and the teacher was appalled, and it was a whole thing and, and we had to have a talk about it in school, and like, and I remember they really pointed it out, like “no one is different here,” right? “Everyone is the same, we can’t see any color, there is no difference.”
[43:45] And looking at it now, it’s like probably what would have been helpful would have been to have some conversation around race. Because, the reality of those situations is that the kids that were from the non-traditional Swedish families, or the non-White Swedish families, they lived in other part of the city, you know? I can really remember that, that the, the White friends I had lived in the nicer part of the city, and then when I went, you know, to go to play with my friends from Chile, or my Somalian friend, go, go to her house, her mom’s house, we had to go really far, we had to go on the subway, like all the way to the suburbs.
[43:19] And, and I never reflected on why is this, why is it like this, right? Why is this neighborhood where people have more money, why is everybody White over here? And then over here, you know, everything was so, so segregated, and still is to this day. And there was never any conversation around the fact that, “hey, there’s something in the structure here that isn’t fair,” right? And maybe this whole idea of pretending that we can’t see color, which somehow, again, exempts us from having to have this conversation, that’s not necessarily a good thing, right?
[43:48] It’s almost like everyone is so scared to even, you know, look at the fact, to risk looking inside, realizing that we have some racial bias, you know, we have some bias inside of us that we just go to that, that colorblind thing, “we are all one at the end of the day,” and that is also a big thing in the yoga community. “We are all one, there’s no difference, everything is the same, oneness, peace, and love, and light.” But the truth of the matter, the reality of that fact: it isn’t the same, right? Obviously oneness as a sacred idea, as a spiritual belief, you know, is beautify, and real, right? If you zoom out on God’s level of thing, we are, you know, we are all one, we are the same. But in the human reality of our society, things are not the same, right?
[44:38] That’s why, when I went home to play with my White friends, we, they lived in much nicer houses than I went to my Black friend’s, or my friends from Turkey when I was growing up, we went to the suburbs and, you know, it was a whole other different thing, you know? It isn’t the same, oneness only works once we address the injustice that is here. So preaching oneness and love and light, and all is well, it’s bypassing the suffering that so many people face every single day, right? And it’s also like a convenient thing for the White person to say in wellness, right? “Do you have to talk about that?” And I had that in the comments a lot as well, “can’t you just talk about yoga?” Right? “Isn’t yoga unity?”
[45:24] Well yeah, but how can we talk about that when that’s not reality? When literally, Black people are murdered in the street for no reason every single day? We see this injustice everywhere. Something that I think about every day, and I cannot get it out of my head, and it’s a good thing it’s stuck in my head, is that a Black woman is four times as likely to die while giving birth in the Western world, as a White woman. Can you just wrap your brain around that for a moment? Wherever you’re from, wherever you’re living: a Black woman is four times as likely to die giving birth as a White woman, you know? That’s statistics, that’s fact.
[46:05] So, when that’s a reality, you know, how can we at the same time say, “love and light, love and light,” you know. Of course we can’t, we can’t. And saying “love and light,” and saying “oneness,” and, and “we are all one,” and “stop talking about politics,” that’s being a part of the problem, and thats allowing for this violence to continue moving forward, right? So I think it’s so important, especially for anyone, I don’t know, maybe there’s someone listening now who’s triggered that there, I have a whole podcast now talking about these things when I could be talking about [laughs] what could I be talking about? Yeah, whatever else, as if somehow talking about our problems is going to make your problems worse, right? That is not true. To fix this injustice, to fix this, we have to look at the wound, we have to unpack the wound.
[46:49] It’s kind of like, it’s like we have this huge, huge, huge wound in all of humanity, right, around racism, around inequality, around all of this injustice, around slavery and everything that was never repaired after that, and we put, like a pretty, little, pink…like pretty little White skin colored BandAid on top of that and went “look at this, everything is wonderful! We don’t se any color, we don’t have any problems, everyone is one,” right? But at the same time, you’re saying that sitting in your White skin. I’m sitting my White…I was sitting there, sitting in my White skin, having no problems, so of course, if you’re privileged enough not to have to experience the racism, or the injustice, then it’s really easy to, to go back to love and light and “why do we have to talk about this?” Well yeah, if it doesn’t affect you it’s easy to sit there and be quiet.
[47:39] And I feel like we have to get to a place now, as a collective, where we move through that discomfort. And now, you know, with the Black Lives Matter movement, I had a little revival of those feelings from then, so some of the changes that, and this is also something that, and I stopped talking about it. This is another mistake I made, and a huge flaw, and I think a part of me was like I had, you know, Susanna Barkataki on the podcast, and we invited Susanna to be a guide on yogagirl.com, so we have some beautiful content around honoring yoga’s roots on the site that we didn’t before. We have a diverse group of teachers, that I feel good about, but you know, a lot of things shifted after that conversation.
[48:22] That’s what kicked off our scholarship program, where we, we give BIPOC a space in every single YTT, and every single, every single teacher training, retreat, trauma healing group, we have a scholarship to Black people and people of color. And we never did that before, that would not have happened if it wasn’t for those mistakes that I made, and that hard conversation, and that woman, right? Like, I wish I knew her name, and I shared that on, on, on several podcasts before, like I said that then: “if someone, if she has a new account, I would love to share it so she can get it back.” But I don’t know where she went, I hope she’s well.
[48:59] But she propelled that change, right? And I don’t think any of that change would have happened if she would have sent me a kind, graceful, eloquent email that fits my White brain well saying “hey, can we please have a conversation around properly honoring yoga’s roots if you’re a White person teaching, teaching this to other people?” You know? That would have gone in my junk mail probably, you know? I wouldn’t even have given that a thought. I, like I, and I say that like, ashamed to say that, but yeah, that’s the reality of things. So thanks to her speaking really loudly, right? Getting really fucking angry, like all of that, that change happened.
[49:41] For the past, yeah, almost three years we’ve offered free yoga to the Indian community in Aruba, or anyone from the Indian community who wants to come practice with us, as a reparation. We changed a lot of things around our teacher training, we have a whole big section of our teacher training now that’s directed, or dedicated to properly honoring yoga’s roots, you know — we never taught that. I mean of course we teach the Yamas, and the Niyamas, and the Sutras, and the Eight Limbs, and philosophy and things like that, but, you know, not the practical component of “how do we apply this when we go out into the world as White people teaching this to other White people?” No, you know?
[50:22] And that is why these conversations should always happen with a person who should be centered, right? We could have never achieved that change without Susanna guiding us there. And just now, just as now, we are never going to achieve that change without the guidance of Black voices. That’s why we can’t sit as White people going around in circles on “how re we going to solve this,” right, because we have these problems inside of us, right? So that’s a dangerous thing to do.
[50:46] And, and when the movement gained a lot of traction, and, and I started sharing and started posting about it, one of the first things that happened was that I made a mistake [laughs]. Immediate. And I felt really strongly like, you know, “we did so much wok around this. We have a whole, you know, like diversity, inclusivity pledge, where we talk a lot about equity, we do all of this stuff in our programs and groups, scholarship, we spend a lot of money every year to make sure that we can hold space for people, for BIPOC, and, you know, the I stop talking about it. You know, and I just did. I wish I didn’t, I wish I would have kept that going, and kept that flame burning all the time, right? That it wasn’t just “hey, we had this six month space, and then we did this and we fixed all that problems that we had, and we’re fine now.” We’re not fine. Right? We can’t be fine, as long as there are people suffering, we can’t just be fine.
[51:44] So it’s my responsibility in this space to keep the flame burning, to not get lazy, to not allow other things to become more important, to not allow, you know, my own discomfort to be more important that Black lives. No. So now that, that one of the first things that I, that I shared online these past couple of weeks ago, a couple of posts talking about it, sharing some resources, like really decided “oh, my God, I cannot, I cannot allow myself to not be here now, you know, no way.” And I felt that, there’s discomfort here, and I know there are still a lot of “all lives matter” people, but not as many. I don’t know if they all left [laughs] because I’m not seeing them around anymore, but, you know.
[52:31] And after sharing for a little bit, for a couple fo things, I wanted to share something that was a little more personal to me, and I had this little video of, Luney’s kissing me, and I wrote something about, you know, we have to, we have to protect all children the way we protect our own. And I was kind of debating, like I wanted to write something that kind of touched on the movement, because I didn’t want to be tone deaf and just ignore it, but I also didn’t want to only post those things, this was like the first or second day of things, you know, in the online world shifting.
[53:00] And then, I really remember, like, debating, like, “oh, my God, should I put the Black Lives Matter tag, you know? Because I want to keep saying “Black Lives Matter,” I want to keep talking about Black Lives Matter, I want to keep pushing Black Lives Matter,” but then I had a moment where I was like, “I don’t know, is that appropriate for this post? Mmm….” And then I thought, and I thought and then I thought, “okay, well I think it is.” And I posted it. And then, almost immediately, a Black woman wrote me, “hey…” and I don’t think she was a follower, I think she found it through the Black Lives Matter tag. She said, “hey,” you know, “I see your post, I see it’s well-meaning, but here’s actually what’s, what’s, what’s true is that this is not related, this does not related. This is centering Whiteness, you’re centering yourself adding the Black Lives Matter tag on something that is not relevant. Can you please remove it.”
[53:47] And I was like “oh, my God, yes! Of course! Thank you.” You know, and I removed it. Ad still talked, I think spoke to her a little bit for the next couple fo days. And that was that, and then, of course, you know, the next thing that happens is that there are many, many, many, many self-appointed, White allies in my DMs, in my comment feed, telling me I’m a terrible person, and I cannot believe you did that, and “oh, my God, you totally fucked up here,” and that was really the first, you know, first week of talking about this and navigating this as a White person was dealing with the pain of White people. Dealing with the pain of White, self-appointed allies, White people who have decided that “I know better than you,” and maybe they do, you know? Chances are, they do, they’ve probably been learning this longer than me, you know, but it became this huge, huge hindrance in terms of, in terms of continuing that education and continuing that conversation forward.
[54:49] White people trying to teach other White people how to do everything right, which is again coming back to that same dangerous thing of we shouldn’t be learning from White people. Like no one here should, should go to another White person or say “hey,” you know, “Yoga Girl is teaching greta things on anti-racism,” I cannot teach anybody shit. Right, I can share my mistakes, and hopefully you can learn there and not have to repeat those mistakes. I can share resources from who I’m learning from, I can share my observations, you know, this path that I’m on, but I am a White woman, I cannot teach anybody jack shit about how to be an anti-racist, I cannot. You have to learn that from Black people, you must.
[55:30] So, that is like, a, a, a big, big realization of mine was “hey, the more time I spend going in circles with these, with these White people telling me I’m doing it wrong, is time I could be spending listening to Black people speak,” right? And every time I answer one of those comments in the comment section, I bring more attention to it. And who was it, it was Rebekah again, yeah, @bexlife, make sure you follow her, she’s a, she’s a great resource. She told me “hey, you don’t have to go to every fight you’re invited to.” [Laughs] And I love that so much, like “hey, look at what we’re doing, look at all these White folks going crazy, being dramatic, going back and and forth, ahh,” and at the same time, there’s like, missing the point over here. Like here is the focus, stay on track, don’t get distracted, stop talking about al your own stuff, right? Stop like, making your thing the most important thing, and making your discomfort the most important thing, and come back to the matter at hand.
[56:30] And the matter at hand is, there’s suffering out there and it’s really intense, and it’s really awful, and it shouldn’t be that way. And if you’re a White person listening to this, you can be a part of the solution by acknowledging that you already are apart of the problem. I am a part of the problem. I have been a part of the problem my whole life, and it was , it was inconvenient for me to acknowledge that, so I haven’t. And the only thing I can do now is, okay, I can own those mistakes that I’ve made, make sure I don’t do them again, and the continue doing this work, continue keeping this flame alive all the time, not just when it’s trendy, right? Not just when it’s a thing online, but in myself.
[57:17] And something that’s, you know, it’s a good thing to come back to, like “hey, you know, you can be a really good person, like with a genuinely good heart who only wants the best for this world and still have things to work on inside of you, right? And still benefit from this society, and still benefit from White privilege and still play a role in the structure that allows for this violence to happen, like those things can exist at the same time. So, all of us to get a little space around the, around the, the wound, right? That woundedness that everybody has.
[57:55] Like me, back then, those years ago, when I couldn’t separate, I couldn’t separate “hey, someone’s telling me feedback, but it feels negative, so it’s making me feel like a bad person. And when I feel like a bad person, I can’t listen, it’s too painful for me, so I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna cover my ears and walk the other way,” right? That doesn’t do anything, doesn’t serve anybody, right? Also it’s not tending to my wound, right, it’s not allowing any growth for myself, and it’s keeping those structures in place that are super harmful for other people, right? There was an opportunity to listen there.
[58:28] So how can I, all of us right now, like every moment you encounter, if it’s someone commenting on your feed, right? And here’s the thing, if I can get back to like apiece of advice, so this is what I’ve learned from and continue to learn from these amazing people, like Rachel Cargle, like Layla Saad, like Austin Channing Brown, it is that when a Black person speaks to you, however they’re speaking to you, just listen, right? Just listen. Even if it comes off as angry, as intense, as overwhelming, as an attack, as a call out, you know, whatever it looks like, whatever it feels like to you, just listen, right? Don’t react, don’t go into crazy drama, don’t block, don’t delete comments, don’t, you know, cater this conversation to meet your needs, but just listen. Just listen. Just listen.
[59:26] I wish I had learned earlier, and I’m sharing it with you with the hopes that, that you really, really take it to heart. Black people have been doing this work for centuries, you know, protesting peacefully. Petitions, trying to change legislation, trying to change, you know, things in the workplace, trying to peacefully, you know, march so man, so many years of, of, of trying to do this quietly, and now it’s not quiet anymore, right? And asking someone to, to express, or to share their trauma and their pain, and to do it with a smile, and quietly, and eloquently, is super violent.
[60:10] So if you can find it in you to, to, to take deeper breaths, all throughout this conversation, right? To continue doing your own spiritual work, so you feel grounded in your own body; the more grounded we are, the more able we’re going be to actually hold this space, to actually create this work, and to actually see what’s moving inside of us, and what to shift and what to change. If we’re not doing any of that work, yah, you’re going to spin off into space, and you’re going to feel like everything is an attack the way I felt back then, right? Everything is not an attack. So if a Black person speaks, listen. And remember, it’s not about you.
[60:46] That’s kind of a, isn’t that like a relieving thing to hear, you know, for once? Like, “hey! Whatever you’re feeling as a White person in this conversation, you need a little, like snap your fingers or something, you need a little nudge just to like “ah, flashlight,” like, “lightbulb moment: it’s not about me.” That’s a big thing to remember: it’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. But the work here is to collectively try to make a long-lasting change for good, right? Where we eradicate this bullshit that’s happening all over the world that we’ve allowed to continue happening for so long.
[61:25] And this is it, right? Where we don’t look back at this as the time where we almost changed something, but where we were part of that change. And you do that work within you and around you, all at the same time. So, to close, to the Black people listening, to the people of color listening to this show, I see you, I hear you, I am here to lean, I’m here to listen, I’m here to do this work, and if anyone from the BIPOC community has a specific ask of me, and I’ve shared this, you know, in DMs with people that I know, but with this platform, we can make specific change in different ways, hit me up, and I’m so, so, so available to serve, to promote your classes, your programs, your workshops, your voice, your writing, the Yoga Girl community, we, we’re here for you, We really are.
[62:20] And to the White people listening, let’s, let’s rally, yeah? Let’s rally, let’s keep the bigger picture in mind. And remember, we are all in this together, but this is our job now, right? It’s up to us. SO let’s go! Let’s go. Thank you so much for listening, thank you for giving me the space to talk and share and vent, and yes, to the Black folks listening, if I have made any mistakes in this podcast in terms of how I share, or how I speak, or anything specific, I am so, so welcoming that feedback. You can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you do, thank you so much for your time. And if not, I will continue doing this the best I can. Thank you all. Yoga Girl podcast will be back next week.
[63:14] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. For resources on honoring the roots of yoga, I highly recommend you follow Susanna Barkataki on Instagram, as well as Yoga Is Dead Podcast, you can listen to the podcast that they’ve made, they’re great, and @anothertamilqueen. To learn more on how to be an anti-racist, on Instagram, please follow @laylafsaad, @rachel.cargle, @theconsciouskid, @mspackyetti, @professor_crunk, @nowhitesaviors and @ihartericka. Thank you so much.
[63:59 — End of Episode]