Dear Skinny White Girl Who Does Yoga,
I hope you’re well after the treatment you’ve been getting online. Tonight, I read your article, and as I’m sure you can imagine, I was upset with you. In your article, you surmised that a heavy set Black woman, never before seen in your yoga class, was somehow hostile towards you because you are a skinny white girl. Through your discomfort, you interpreted her actions to be one of anger, tragedy, and despair that, for some reason, was solely directed towards you and your “tastefully tacky” yoga outfit.
You then had an epiphany of sorts. What that epiphany was, I’m still unclear. Perhaps you got your first introspective taste of intersectionality; of how body image for Black women is particularly brutal and confusing. Or maybe you acknowledged how African Americans cannot enjoy modern delights without causing the suspicion of the white privileged elite. I will not venture into your newly found socio-political understandings, because it’s not my place. That’s for your own spirit to decipher.
However, I will say, that you speak to, and are indicative of, many of the problems surrounding race relations in the 21st century. As a society, we’d like to believe that race is no longer a circumstance we must understand. We somehow believe that the modest inclusion of people of color in sectors once closed off to us translates to equity.
But you are yet another sorrowing example of how white privilege further isolates people like me. I’m not heavy set, and I will not venture into the perspectives of someone who is, but I am a woman of color…a Black woman, and your words frustrate me.
If you look through your piece, it was entirely about you. You perceived imaginary hostility towards you. You assumed that there was hostility towards you. You further assumed that the invisible tension was based solely on your skin color and your shape. I don’t know the woman who you documented in your piece, but I think I can give an alternative perspective. Perhaps she was uncomfortable because she had never done yoga before. Maybe she was confused as to way you were giving off negative vibes in a peaceful space. Maybe she cared nothing about your story, or your feelings, as she was mentally and spiritually centering herself.
Maybe you were not a variable in her equation.
You did recognize that your imagination was running wild. But what you failed to recognize was the white privilege from which you spoke, assumed, and imposed. You took no responsibility for your discomfort. You, instead, placed your unreasonable onus onto others. You noted that, if you were a Black heavy set woman in a yoga, you wouldn’t want to be placed under a microscope. So you then decided to ignore her existence. But you insisted that tensions were still running high all because of this tragic fat Black woman.
People, regardless of what they look like, do not like to be disavowed. If you were concerned about her safety and security as much as you profess, then maybe you should’ve comforted her. But no, she was too hostile to approach, a hostility that you and your privilege designed.
You ended your narrative with undeserved pleas for sympathy. You victimized yourself. Your privilege allowed you to be a victim of a crime that you committed. And, while I do not agree with the names you have been called, I completely empathize with the criticisms you are now receiving. If I may be forward, you were disrespectful.
But, you did mean well.
I don’t know you or your background, but what I gather from your words is that you are deficient in cultural exposure and illiterate in racial language. You probably have little understanding of systemic racism which lives in the annals of white privilege. You probably adhere more to tokenizing than diversifying. And you’re probably at a stage in life where you’re confronted with harsh realities, like the fact that a Black woman dared to do yoga in your safe space.
If I can register some words of encouragement, I’d say that you’re on the right path but you have a very long way to go. At least now you’re thinking, and the feedback you’re receiving, though harsh, have merit.
Racial dialogue is difficult, and we all must be careful about the words we choose to express our innermost thoughts. I find it tenuously admirable that you even dared to post this essay. I say tenuously because, I believe your reasons were inherently selfish (you were trying to promote your epiphany, after all).
If you wish to engage in cross-racial dialogues, you have to stop being selfish. Your privilege is unchecked, and you benefit from it every single day. We do not need you to further use it to tell our stories, interpret our emotions, and undermine our complete and entire existence. Please refrain from doing so if you truly wish to ease those racial tensions that you create.
A Black Millennial