Earlier this week, xojane.com posted an “It Happened to Me” piece on race and yoga, and the Internet exploded. If you somehow missed the article, it was written by a white woman who sees a “fairly heavy black woman” in her Brooklyn yoga class and hypothesizes about what she may be thinking and feeling.
The article was full of unexamined white privilege, sizismm racism, and misguided good intentions. It provoked more than 3,000 comments, as well as a whole slew of responses and commentary (Aghori B rounds up some of the best on The Ba– I mean Simply Aghorable). The xoJane editor who assigned the article explained why she did it, and the real identity of the writer (whose name was changed several hours after the post was published) has been outed, prompting her to delete all of her online profiles.
Things have been busy in IAYB-land, so I haven’t been able to write anything here about the whole situation. But I’ve been watching from the sidelines, and not entirely sure about the best way to contribute to the conversation. How do we talk about race, and how do we talk about race and yoga?
Fortunately, the folks at SAAPYA (South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America) have figured out how to contribute to the conversation – and they know that it needs to be taken offline, discussed in a safe space, and open to many voices, backgrounds and experiences. So they’ve organized a panel discussion in New York City on February 13 at the Third Root Wellness Center. This is how they describe the event:
When SAAPYA imagines a safe space in which to talk about race and yoga, we don’t see judgement, we don’t believe in preaching to the choir, we do envision mindful listening, we do envision taking the discussion offline and into a present and physical public. Now, together with key journalist contributors to the xojane discussion from across the country, we are presenting, “It Happened To Me: A Public Forum on Race and Yoga.” On February 13, 2-5pm, at Third Root Wellness Center in Brooklyn, NY, this pre-Valentines Day session will help to use this media moment to actually propel understanding forward. It is too easy to use an online catalyst to further polarize around race. The time is ripe to meet in person, share, breathe, and build ourselves more whole, together. SAAPYA believes that yoga is both personal and political, and that there is no running from challenging truths in yoga. As a South Asian American platform in yoga, we are uniquely positioned to facilitate public forums that encourage the building, not burning, of bridges in yoga.
It’s amazing to see something constructive and hopeful emerge from a messy and polarizing online conversation! And this affirms why the world needs projects like SAAPYA – support their awesome work by donating to their crowdfunding campaign (ending at 11:59pm, Feb 1!).