Updated: May 15
The idea was simple enough. Spend a week to "center the voices and lived experiences of folks of color", particularly people doing body positive/body liberation work. The challenge came from @jessicawilson.msrd and @blackandembodied. Different white people who I follow participated in different ways. The basic idea was to mute your own content, and reshare content from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) content creators. The challenge ended with the suggestion to reflect on the experience of the week.
In thinking about writing this, I have been mentally chasing my own tail. On the one hand, I am learning that we need to do more centering of the voices of people in BIPOC communities. Often, white people will shift the conversation to make it about ourselves. On the other hand, I believe it is important for us to engage in this conversation, to talk about the difficult things. I have also seen critiques of white women's perfectionism, particularly in the context of antiracist work. We want to be perfect allies. And dude, I have a competitive streak a mile wide; I want to be the BEST ally, the most knowledgeable, and I don't want to make any mistakes or missteps. The reality is there is no such thing as a perfect ally, allyship isn't a contest, nobody is handing out gold stars for doing the best job. All that said, here is some of my reaction to the challenge.
Honestly, it was refreshing to see some different content from a more diverse group of people instead of my normal feed of just people's running/yoga/lifting photos. I found some really incredible people who I would not have otherwise come across, posting really challenging content. Stuff that makes you think a bit. That was a delightful and refreshing change. It is frankly pretty freaking sad that it takes a challenge of this nature to make me actively seek out content from BIPOC people.
During the course of the week, I was sad to see well-intentioned people (well, I think most of their intentions were good) engaging in behaviors that further harmed some of BIPOC people who they were reposting. At times, I became afraid to repost content fearing that I was "doing it wrong" (see perfectionism above). A few things I found to be a general rule of thumb: sharing other people's content to your stories with attribution and without specific permission is generally okay. Sharing to your own feed usually needs permission. Always be sure to attribute the work to the original source. I'm not sure if there is specific etiquette around this, but this seems like a good rule of thumb. Another harmful behavior I observed was white folks trying to work through their own questions and struggles with racism in the comments section of someone's feed. I can say without hesitation, that isn't really the place for it. Where is the place for it? My very honest recommendation is to talk to some antiracist white friends. I did just this thing last night on a Zoom call with a few other body postive trainers. I was able to talk through a few sticking points that was struggling with together with other people actively trying to be antiracist and working to dismantle white supremacy. If you're trying to do this work, you're going to encounter stuck points, and you want to have some people you can work through that with.
I think it is important for all of us to think about what we're going to actually do moving forward to dismantle racism. Here are a few things that I am committing to right now.
I am taking a webinar next week about antiracism in fitness with Chrissy King.
The trainers who I had the call with last night and I have agreed to make this recurring, so that we can continue to discuss and be accountable for how we plan, as predominantly white trainers, to engage in antiracist work.
I realized that I have a lot to learn about the origins, intersections, and differences among body positivity, body liberation, HAES (Health at Every Size), and intuitive eating. I plan to learn more. This did not all begin as a white women's movement, and I need to learn more about where we came from and how these movements got here.
One of the themes that I observed a lot during the challenge was a call to PAY Black women for their work. I have always supported Black owned businesses, but not necessarily actively sought them out. I will seek out more Black owned business, particularly with respect to continuing education. Often, Black people with great expertise only get hired to do training on diversity or cultural competence, when they are experts on many other subjects.
Keep talking to my kids about systemic racism, white privilege, and their role. At times, I have felt like this part was sufficient. I am coming to believe that while this action is critically important, it is inadequate by itself.
That is my commitment to you, and to our community. I've seen it said repeatedly, it is not enough to just not be racist; we need to be actively antiracist. I am telling you now that I am not going to do this perfectly; I may say inadvertently offensive things, but I am going to keep learning and doing better. I hope you're on this journey with me.