I wrote an entire draft before this moment, and realized I was writing prematurely out of a feeling of urgency rather than from a place of reflection and discernment. So here I begin again, after absorbing the last month and a half as fully as I can up until now, and with the idea of posting a Part II when I have more to share.
The death of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the many other Black lives that have been victim of murder by police brutality and misguided individuals and groups, has the entire country’s attention. The general public, activists, influencers, and the media have put a spotlight on these issues, and it has invoked conversation, debate, and in many cases, divide among members of our communities.
I’m not here to talk about the debates or divide, but more about where I stand and how I’m moving forward. When we talk about Black lives and government reform, we are talking about human rights. It would be against everything I am as a human being, wellness practitioner, and member of my community to not make a statement – no matter how much my knowledge and stance is in its infancy.
In case the rest of this piece doesn’t meet your attention, I’ll cut right to the chase: Black lives matter, the United States’ systems and legislation disproportionately affect the Black community (along with countless other under-represented communities), the government has far too much control over our lives with little to show for it, and many of us need to do better. I need to do better.
I don’t know what it was that woke me up this time; maybe at 32 I’ve finally grown up, and maybe my yoga practice has given me a new lens to see what I’ve failed to see up until now. I can tell you what kept me blind, for certain: privilege. The privilege of my olive skin to be accepted as white, allowing me into white spaces and conversations without anyone batting an eyelash; the privilege to tell myself and others that “I don’t do politics” because the government is corrupt and there isn’t anything I can do to change it; the privilege to think that small conversations about racism and being kind to others in my immediate surroundings is enough to do my part in society; and the privilege to stay comfortable, and move throughout my practice of doing good for the greater good at a snail’s pace.
Well, guess what? Doing anything for the greater good of all people at that pace isn’t doing good at all. It isn’t and hasn’t been enough, and I’m sorry for ever thinking that it was. When I committed to my yoga practice, I also committed to doing no harm. My blatant ignorance of the suffering of Black and Brown communities, along with a lack of action, puts me on the outside of that oath. Enough is enough.
Now, I’m going to leave my feelings right here because (1) I have only begun to swim on the surface of them and it’ll take some time to unpack years of learned thoughts and create avenues to change behaviors before being able to have an intellectual conversation about them, and (2) because they are deeply personal to me and my experiences. As a Lebanese American (and individual, in general), my cognitive and behavioral methods of change will be vastly different than others. Our life experiences will require some variance from one person to the next, and navigating these experiences are not a “one size fits all” approach.
So how do I plan to move forward?
First and foremost, by never turning back. Yes, we must look back to understand the systems we were born into, but we must also commit to doing everything in our power to not revert back to the error in our ways. Changing thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes requires a substantial amount of deep, inner work. If you have yet to begin inquiring within, any allyship you outwardly express or do is performative. It’s essentially impossible to act righteously without looking yourself in the mirror and unpacking a lifetime of learning.
Does this mean that I have performed at times? Probably. I try to share content that I find helpful and informative, and voicing my demand for change is absolutely from the heart; but I also understand there’s an entire layer beneath what I’m outwardly expressing. I have a lot of work to do, but I refuse to let that deter me from rolling up my sleeves.
I’ve also committed to listening to the Black community, educating myself on past history, learning about and engaging in current events and politics, and demanding justice and reform every time it’s needed (and hopefully before it’s needed). As you’ve probably realized, I have a lot to learn, so my hope is in the coming weeks and months to share any valuable resources with my social media community (and to add resources to Part II). I have already begun to delve into some American history through reading the work of scholars, and am not too surprised at how much I’ve learned through my own research compared to a government-controlled curriculum.
Furthermore, I pledge to be more particular on who I purchase from for goods and services: prioritizing Black-owned businesses, small businesses, and doing some fine-tooth combing by learning how the businesses I buy from impact their communities. If we’re going to live in a true free-market, we need to be more mindful of who we are buying from. And as a new entrepreneur myself, supporting small businesses should be at the forefront of my economic impact.
Finally, I am working on how I can incorporate all of this into my yoga teaching. Yoga is about union, community, and thinking about something bigger than ourselves; it would be an injustice and disservice to leave this discussion out of the practice. Bare with me as I learn how to do this appropriately. But rest assured, it’s coming.
And as I begin to finish typing, I want to be sure to add that I’m doing all of the above without any judgement on others. At this point in my journey, I have no business judging others on their thoughts, opinions, or actions. Those who understand and care about the injustices in our country are on their own path, have their own spectrum of knowledge and action, and are usually open to constructive conversations about this topic. Those who don’t care or don’t agree in the slightest aren’t going to entertain those who do, and my judgement won’t make things any better. My aim is to do as much as I can without causing any more divide that is already apparent in our communities.
I didn’t write this to be helpful, conforming, or to seek validation. I did it because I feel it, and we cannot express anything about the current events unless we actually feel it in our soul. So if you feel forced to post certain content on social media, to choose a side, or to do anything that you do not believe in with your heart, know that doing so is performative, and you’re going to burn out faster than you started. It might be time to put the phone down, look in the mirror, and dive within. You’ve got some work to do, darling.
And so do I. I’m full of questions, mistakes (past/present/future), and a whole lot of learning and unlearning. But I know where to start, and I’m ready to add value to the collective.