I thought we'd be further along than this.
I still find myself having trouble falling asleep in my own home after what happened to Breonna Taylor over a year ago. Mark has to double and triple check locks and alarms, and even then I find myself wandering down to the living room, wide awake, and not knowing how to feel differently in my skin. Perhaps it's why I focus so much on joy as a form activism and resistance. They want me to be afraid, and I want me to enjoy every moment I'm alive.
A few days ago, I learned that many of you still cannot see the nuance in cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation, particularly when it comes to fitness classes that are hip hop themed. I feel more sadness and despair than anger and rage. After a year of racial unrest, are we still confused at some of the most basic of ideas? How can we ever move on to more complex systems of oppression if we're still here?
My questions aren't meant to shame you for where you are in your journey. My questions are meant to be a catalyst to dig deeper. Not "get there faster", but really work to absorb and engage in order to change ingrained behaviors. What I noticed right away, and what inspired me to write this letter to you, is that dozens and dozens of people needed me to further explain, teach, and justify... before doing that work on their own.
A quick story:
My physical therapist, Jaxie, makes free video content for instagram; enough exercises so that if you were diligent enough, you could put together an entire program for yourself based on those videos alone... and it would only cost you your time.
I should also mention- she doesn't take health insurance, and her prices are not cheap.
Given her certifications and continuing education efforts, they shouldn't be. I pay for her expertise, healing philosophy, teaching skills, personality, the privacy of her office, and her undivided attention for 60 minutes. The "freebies" on the internet showcase her skillset and thought process, and are not meant to take the place of her private practice.
Why did I share this? :)
When I post anti-racism work (such as the appropriation vs appreciation piece), I'm showcasing my expertise- which is a combination of my lived experience, certifications, and continuing education. I'm sharing a lifetime of being a Black woman as well as thousands of hours of individual study. My sharing does not enter us into an agreement that I will personally solve each and every grievance for free.
If you've been paying attention over the past year, you've undoubtedly seen a call to action to pay Black women for their labor. The cry to stop using us has not waned; maybe you've stopped listening.
Here's what specifically feels icky-
(1. I'm speaking for myself and not all Black people. 2. These lists are not exhaustive.)
- Coming to me before doing your own extensive research first.
- Asking questions that are rooted in absolving you of wrong-doing vs making a greater impact as an ally.
- Wanting the work to be more "black and white", or less confusing. I wish it were as simple as "tell me what book I need to read" but unfortunately, this isn't that. Many Black people wish someone could tell us what to do to stay alive...
- Arguing with me to invalidate my lived experience (yes, this happens).
- Arguing with me when I point you in the direction of researching first.
Here's what specifically feels respectful-
- "Hey Ash, I've read xyz and I still have a specific question. Do you have the capacity? Or could you point me in the right direction?"
- "Hey Ash, I've had a really difficult conversation with my father-in-law about racism, and I'm not sure how to handle it without ruining the relationship."
- "Hey Ash, you said something the other day that doesn't sit right with me, could I ask you to clarify your point?"
You get the idea, right?
Similarly, here are some ways to support myself and other creators of color-
Follow and encourage your friends to follow.
Share, save, and like our content.
Recommend us for jobs and opportunities.
Attend events we participate in or facilitate.
Engage respectfully in DM's and comments (as defined above).
Hire us for freelance consulting.
Without a community of people supporting me both online and privately, I couldn't possibly keep going, because this is hard.
I'm processing trauma and grief, while sharing it with the world, while re-learning about my own Blackness and what that means, while being pregnant in a biracial relationship, while trying to grow a little charity to create more opportunity for our youth.
That said, I thank you for being with me on my journey, as well as opening your hearts to let me support you on yours. I care about how we move forward, and I hope this letter helps us do that in a more meaningful way.