It’s been a minute. I was very sick the first week of June and it took quite a long time for me to recover my energy (in part because I have an 8-month old that still doesn’t sleep through the night consistently). Hence why there wasn’t a Well-Rounded last week. We will resume in July.
This month, there appears to be a collective awakening to the injustice and pain of the racist world we live in. The 2016 election was my awakening into my own racism and the more structural ways racism is in many ways worse today than right after slavery was supposed to end.
As a result, I’m finally seeing more health and wellness professionals speak out about the social determinants of health that I often cite in Well-Rounded (i.e. your zip code determines your health more than your genetic code). This is a step in the right direction.
But assuming health is only an individual responsibility is only one facet of whiteness that is affecting the health of Black, Brown and yes, even white people (although not to the same degree).
I wanted to write this note to all of you to hopefully plant some seeds about how racism is incongruent with health and wellness values in ways that aren’t being talked about in mainstream wellness. While it’s important to focus on anti-racism education, it’s also important to see how racism is integrated into our beauty, health, and wellness ideals.
For starters, whiteness is a set of beliefs, thoughts and behaviors that are American culture. It goes “ways” beyond skin color and is about the choices we make. I’ve come to understand that whiteness doesn’t allow any of our bodies to truly feel safe, let alone be healthy. As I’ve continued on my anti-racism path, I more deeply understand what so many radical Black women thinkers meant when they said that none of us are free until all of us are free.
For example, whiteness includes all-or-nothing/binary thinking (and this is a root cause of why so many of us binge) or how busyness is a tool of white supremacy (thank you to one of my favorite thought leaders Desiree Adaway who taught me this). Being so busy keeps us distracted from more meaningful pursuits which then has us place so much weight on our weight as if that is what will make us feel more confident to make a rebellious ruckus and impact.
One main focus of my anti-racism work has been in facing my own socialization of whiteness. As Desiree says, “When I say all white people are racist I am not talking specifically about your character. I am talking about your socialization.”
In the health and wellness space for example:
- Anti-fatness is part of whiteness and why white, fit women are now centered in the body positivity movement that was started by black, fat, queer women.
- Whiteness is the idea that you can master and control nature, which has given us industrial agriculture (which white farmers have largely benefited from) and environmental toxicity and sky-rocketing rates of disease and decreasing life expectancy in the U.S.
- Don’t show emotion is part of whiteness which is why so many of us then eat, drink and scroll to numb our pain and then don’t have the emotional resilience to do anti-racism work because we feel “attacked” or get defensive.
To understand these connections more deeply, I encourage you to commit to your own anti-racism path. A great first step is to find an area you care about and then find the women of color who are leading in that area and support them. And also learn at the same time. Here’s some of my favorite resources and teachers to get started (I’ve updated these resources since this piece originally went out in 2016).
Whether you want more regenerative farming, doctors to take you more seriously or to accept your body more, centering Black bodies, the most marginalized and unsafe bodies on this planet and the solutions many of these communities have already figured out for themselves, will enable us to think holistically for a more joyful and life-giving culture for all of us (because whiteness is killing white people too). And most importantly, provide justice, liberation, and reparations long overdue to Black and Indigenous cultures.
It won’t happen in our lifetime and yet if we think of time outside a white, linear lens, tremendous healing and quantum leaps are possible.
Let’s do this. Together.