Following the racially motivated sickening killing of George Floyd I have awakened to the fact that not being racist is in itself simply not enough because it does nothing to help those who continue to experience racism on a daily basis. I am realising for the first time that I must use the white privilege that I was born into to contribute to the change that I, and the majority of us, want to see in the world. The post I wrote on social media about this a few days ago got very little interaction compared to the usual type of posts I share. I have no idea where many of my followers are at in terms of anti-racism. The lack of interaction could be because people who saw it are already actively engaging in anti-racism work so they couldn’t relate to what I was saying, or it could be that the discomfort around the situation makes it difficult to engage with, because lets face it these necessary conversations are not easy. I was unsure about posting anything publicly in fear of saying the wrong thing but realised that continuing to stay silent was helping no-one. Awareness and change cannot occur if these difficult conversations are never had and the fact is that black people have been and are continuing to be killed and suffer because of the colour of their skin, this IS NOT OK.

For the first 8 years of my adult life I had a boyfriend of African-American descent. His Mother had been born to a white Mother and black Father, who had arrived in the UK during the war. She told me many saddening stories about the difficulties she had experienced during her lifetime, involving unashamedly blatant racism, as well as living with the challenge of an absent father during a time that having a child out of wedlock was also seen as shameful. My ex boyfriend’s Mother was an incredibly strong and resilient woman but only with hindsight do I recognise just how deeply traumatic her life would’ve been. I feel sad that she gave me not only an education but also an opportunity to take a stand and say that racism is not OK but naively I thought that because things had become easier for her and attitudes generally seemed to be improving with each generation that eventually we would reach a point where it would no longer exist.

I now see this as a missed opportunity all those years ago and am not prepared to miss another, particularly now that I have a role where I have a voice and platform with which to use it. I am also incredibly fortunate to have the support of peers and teachers who are helping me to understand what I can actually do to actively help in the fight against racism. Writing this blog and starting to share my experience openly is just the beginning of small personal steps towards bigger changes. I am reluctant to do anything that feels like knee-jerk reactivity to make myself feel better and then continue to turn a blind eye so I am in the process of re-educating myself with material that has been produced in more recent years, which will help me to find a way to play a long-term active part of this new wave in the anti-racism movement.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with yoga – it has everything to do with yoga. Yoga is a practice of awareness, where we use the body and mind to connect with ourselves more deeply, it provides us with endless opportunities to shift energy, our state of being and our perspective. It is a practice of self-enquiry which brings what is unconscious to the surface, whether that emotional wounds, memories, or deeply ingrained ancestral beliefs. The movement and the stillness of yoga can give rise to discomfort so we get to see and acknowledge how we respond to that discomfort – can we allow it to move through us, shine a loving light on it? Or do we push on through it to make it disappear so we can go back to feeling comfortable with our familiar preferences and miss golden opportunities to do better and to be better. The choice of whether we acknowledge, learn, heal or suppress is entirely ours. This is the work, yet also the magic, of yoga because we cannot learn without some level of work and we will miss its transformative magic if we do not bring what is learned into our own lives and those of others.

Some of the resources I have found to be very helpful, some of which also have links to further resources:

‘Your Camera Phone Is Our Weapon’: Light Watkins on Why We Need to Talk About Racism

If you have access to Netflix and haven’t watched 13th I highly recommend that too: