I’d like to address that.
First of all, using the term “safe space” in context of meeting the needs of the dominant group - white folks - is directly harmful. The term "safe space" was coined by marginalized groups as a way to come together to communicate their experience of oppression and injustice. Saying you need a “safe space” as a white, privileged person is not okay. The world is your safe space. White people are not under the threat of racism, discrimination, and violence and should not claim the concept of “safe spaces” as their (our) own. In direct contrast to what a safe space truly means, coming together as white folks to discuss policy that harms marginalized groups is dangerous. Please stop using the term “safe space” to feel better about voicing your political views as a white person.
In regards to our Yoga Girl® Community groups, we open these up as dedicated spaces to share from the heart, but the intention is not for that sharing to spread harmful ideologies that could potentially cause harm toward the rest of our community, especially people of color. We welcome and encourage political discussions in our community as it’s imperative not only in the yoga and wellness world, but also in everyday life, as policies and leaders have a direct impact on the livelihoods of millions of marginalized people around the globe. Refusal to acknowledge injustice, personal privilege, and implicit bias can be violent, whether done consciously or unconsciously. This is why it’s so important that we stand up for equality and inclusion, especially as yoga students and teachers, immersed in a practice that stands for unity.
Secondly, and it’s really important that I share this: Yoga Girl® has spent the past years working toward a very clear goal of inclusion, equity and diversity. I don’t talk about this all the time because I don’t need a pat on the back; it’s not something we are doing for recognition or likes but an undercurrent that lies beneath everything we do for the simple reason that it is where our hearts lie. It’s part of our mission and purpose. We believe everyone should be included. We believe everyone should have the same rights and freedom. We believe everyone should be free from harm. And we believe that the healing tools of yoga and meditation should be available to those who need it the most.
When we launched the updated platform in 2018, making the platform accessible to ALL, launching our scholarship programs for BIPOC and people having suffered trauma, and making these healing resources available to the people who truly need them was our number 1 objective - and it is a path we have remained on since. Through continued education and coaching we have come a long way, but this is lifelong work. Just like yoga, the daily practice of fighting for true equality never ends.
Hearing from white women in support of the Trump administration's policies that they no longer feel that the platform is a safe space for them to voice their opinions is a sign that the work we have been doing internally is showing on the outside. It means the work is working. We have spent the past years working hard to make sure the platform is safe for BIPOC. My priority is there. This is why we have paid moderators doing round-the-clock work in our Yoga Girl® Community on Facebook and other Facebook groups, and it’s why I am so vocal on social media about the work still to be done. Now, do I wish I could trust the Facebook groups to always be a safe space for people of color, without having to spend money on moderators to ensure they remain so? Of course. But since it’s a majority white space, I can’t (and the harmful comments we have seen posted this past week proves it). There are thousands of people in the groups dedicated to this work who do it in the appropriate, BIPOC-led spaces. There are also some who haven’t yet begun scratching at the surface of anti-racism work. However much I want this community to be for all, and for every opinion and comment to be welcome, we have never, and will never, allow racist commentary in any Yoga Girl® space. Allowing white women to voice harmful opinions without any sort of regulation would be directly harmful to the people of color present in the group (and it’s not a conversation I ever want to hold space for).
Doing anti-racism work individually and as a company has been challenging, both emotionally in untangling the conditioned racism within, and financially in walking away from collaborators that don’t align with our views as strongly as we have needed them to. Saying "no" to companies who don’t do the work at the same level has been painful, especially in a year of financial struggle, but the reward of knowing I am running my company from a place of integrity is priceless. I am a white woman with a massive audience teaching a practice from a culture that isn’t my own. Honoring BIPOC and using my privilege for good is quite literally how I sleep at night.
My brother called me yesterday asking “Do you really have to be the person who shouts this stuff off treetops all the time? Isn’t it exhausting?”
Absolutely, yes. There is nothing that brings me more anxiety than voicing my opinions in a way I know will cause a week of drama and hate in my DM’s. I hate it. But it is incomparable to the pain and struggle that BIPOC experience living their entire lives in the trauma of systemic racism. Incomparable.
I am not perfect - as I make mistakes on this journey, (which I have many times, and undoubtedly will again) I promise to listen to people of color as they correct me and guide me forward. I owe it to every marginalized person out there to do my best, and speaking as loudly as I can on these issues is the best I can do right now.
I’m writing this now not to cause more division - because I know some of you feel that way; like I am purposefully excluding people from our platform or going out of my way to make you feel unwelcome - but to make it very clear where we stand as a company. You can read our manifesto here. It’s several years old, but every word of it rings as true today as it did when it was originally written. Republican or Democrat; Conservative or Liberal, white or non-white, I invite you to grow with us. To use the triggers you experience in this conversation as an invitation to go deeper. To listen to Black folks when they tell you what hurts. To acknowledge the work to be done inside of yourself, and to use the yoga practice not as a way to hide from discomfort but to allow it. To explore it.
The way forward is together, but please know that marginalized voices have priority here and the safety and wellbeing of BIPOC will always trump your need to voice your opinion as a white person (pun intended!)
For an extensive list of resources to learn from, click here. I recommend you read every book, follow every account, and listen to every podcast episode. Here - now - is a good place to begin.