I have put off writing this post because discussing race in America is always loaded.
I’m only at the beginning of understanding the impacts of racism in this country and an email can only be so long. But this is an honest, albeit imperfect, piece about my commitment to dismantling racism in wellness spaces through my work and the way I live my life.
Last time I wrote to you, I told you I’d share my current ‘wellness edge.’ What I mean is, what’s pushing me to be more resilient and aligned with what life is asking me to become? We can only be as alive as we are willing to be aligned with the truths which unite our mind, body and spirit.
For me, it’s thoughtfully and intentionally incorporating an anti-racism lens into every aspect of the work I do for the sake of freedom for our entire community, here and beyond.
I believe wholeheartedly that if we want to get healthier, we have to get braver. We have to be willing to take a stand for what matters and be willing to risk opposition and push back for the sake of what’s right.
Last year and currently, I’m prioritizing learning from people of color because most spaces in America are white-centered (including mine!), and therefore, miss out on the ideas, innovation and intellectual stimulation that happens when we listen to diverse perspectives and give those voices decision-making power.
One of the roots of racism has to do with who belongs and thus, who is protected. When it comes to our bodies and living with vitality, I’m most concerned about what type of wellness knowledge we value and that which gets misappropriated by Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, wellness/spiritual spaces, and how racist, hierarchical thinking keeps us fragile and thus, unaware of our collective power in the face of our collective oppression.
I believe racism in wellness spaces has created the biggest health challenges we are facing. The idea that we are separate and not interconnected to each other ripples into believing we don’t share the same air, water and land. When we rank people, we create a sense of “othering,” including by what our bodies look like and weigh.
For example, white supremacy has us believe that white people live in the “good” neighborhoods and that the “poison” doesn’t exist or is dumped some place far away. But the truth is: poison is dumped everywhere.
The industrial farming pesticides, feed and wastewater are dumped where the Southern Blacks live. And the oil pipelines, that fuel the plastics and petrochemicals Big Pharma relies upon, are pumped through lands and homes of the Indigenous people of Standing Rock.
And the “good” neighborhood I grew up in has some of the worst air pollution in the country and high levels of lawn chemicals embedded in the soil, which gave me cancer when I was 13 years old. Twenty-six years after my cancer diagnosis, I’d say close to half the people who live in my old “good,” predominantly wealthy and white, area have some sort of chronic illness and cancer rates have skyrocketed.
Yet many of my parents ill friends and my own high-school friends who still live there, who have had epic family health tragedies, believe what their doctors tell them, “this is genetic” or “we don’t know what’s causing this and this pill (to only mask your symptoms) is your best bet.” Or they still trust the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, having no clue the corporate influence on these organizations.
This trust in mainstream institutions used to boggle my mind until I realized that, when the system has mostly worked for you, you don’t know to challenge it.
We are all suffering and dying, which is why we need to join together.
Another example of racism in wellness spaces: it wasn’t until white people like me started sharing how we use the Affordable Care Act that its popularity soared. The majority of the country now supports the Affordable Care Act in part because white people using it opened them up to the humanity and benefits of everyone having access to health-care. It shouldn’t take white people speaking up for us to suddenly care about our marginalized friends, families, colleagues and neighbors’ health-care.
As I uncover more threads, I’m working to bring an anti-racist lens to our community by having more diverse voices and issues on the Insatiable podcast (Leah, Mustafa and Melissa are a few examples). I’ll continue to donate a percentage of proceeds from my live programs to organizations like Black Lives Matter, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other health organizations run by women of color (e.g., The Firecracker Foundation and 412 Food Rescue will receive proceeds from my upcoming program, Why Am I Eating This Now?) And of course, encourage all of us to vote for anti-racist candidates.
I’m also working to have my website and copywriting include language and images that are inclusive and I’m putting together a survey for our Insatiable community to learn more about the diverse needs of our members and readers – I want to hear from you!
And I’m also continuing to learn and read from marginalized groups – whether African American, Hispanic, Asian or Indigenous. I’m sure this will shift and shape many things, including a membership community I’m working on for people engaged with my programs and how to adapt the licensing of Truce with Food to be culturally-aware.
For now, I’m trying to better understand how the meritocracy lens, which is jet fuel for racism, has caused harm and misguided the conversations in wellness spaces, and explore how can we incorporate the profound and wise healing traditions of native cultures into our health-care and wellness systems in a way that is sustainable and in integrity.
If you’re interested in reading or learning more, here are select resources I’ve learned from. I encourage you to educate yourself on anti-racism AND learn about Black, Brown and Indigenous people’s lives. I’ve included both types of resources below:
- Seeing White podcast series, Duke University (I wish this was required listening in high school)
- Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation, angel Kyodo williams
- The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- I Am Not Your Negro on Netflix
- Insecure on HBO
- Hunger by Roxane Gay
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Philly people will love this one as it takes place there!)
- The 13th on Netflix
- Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
- Dear White People
- Eloquent Rage by Dr. Brittany Cooper
- Desiree Adaway, especially on Facebook
- Insatiable podcast guest Mustafa Santiago Ali on Twitter
- The Conscious Kid (even if you don’t have kids, this breaks down racism into accessible learning)
- Rachel Cargle
- Brittany Packnett Cunningham
I think one of racism’s biggest lies is life as a zero-sum game, in which gains for the marginalized and oppressed means losses for whites. That there has to be a scarcity of healthy food, clean air, water and protection. Nature shows us life is abundant when we honor the interconnected nature of life, humanity included.
I’d love to hear from you about what feedback, ideas and questions you have around dismantling racism in wellness spaces.