Why Undoing Whiteness?

Last month I posted the monthly Undoing Whiteness classes on social media and received a lot of questions and feedback. As I continue to process and integrate the feedback I want to address some of the questions that arose. I will continue to write and share my own questions, grappling and process around the work of justice and equity, and I hope you will too. 

What is an affinity space?

Affinity space, or sometimes called caucus space, is when people who are assigned the same social membership get together to work towards justice and equity. Caucusing can happen with a variety of social memberships (i.e. people of color, white, queer, straight, etc.). Caucus space has been used for decades in racial and social justice movements, and Rainier Beach Yoga is committed to both caucusing and multiracial work.

Why “undoing” whiteness?

There has been a call for white people to name our whiteness for decades now, and this is an opportunity for white folks to face our socialization under white supremacy and how it shows up in the body, mind, emotions, relationships and all social systems. Facing whiteness is about being in process with the implicit and explicit norms that maintain white supremacy, and this exploration is to discover and bring awareness to how those norms operate within and around us. Interrogating whiteness means that we no longer hide from the conditioning of whiteness, and we name and take responsibility for the ways white supremacy advantages and dehumanizes us.

Who am I accountable to?

I am accountable to my mentors of color and white anti-racist guides. My approach is informed and inspired by bell hooks, adrienne maree brown, Ijeoma Oluo, Robin DiAngelo and personal friends and colleagues (both white and people of color). I also work directly with Reverned angel Kyodo williams, Leticia Nieto and Shelly Tochluk. I will continue to learn for the rest of my life. At times I work with people of color and other times I respond to the mandate to address white supremacy with other white people.

Is this a safe space for white people?

This is not a safe space or a brave space. This is a bold space, and a space to be challenged and to find your edges. I can not and do not guarantee comfort.

Why are you reading a white author’s book?

I am deeply committed to bringing in a variety of voices, and there is always something in each session that comes directly from lessons from mentors of color. The book we are reading at this time is written by a white cis woman. Our work is to learn from her journey and also to critically examine that work for how it may still be perpetuating white supremacy. We are committed to listening to both POC and white voices.

Can people of color attend?

Everyone is welcome.

How can a Yoga class work with undoing whiteness?

This is not a class of physical yoga postures. The word yoga means union and wholeness. White supremacy gets in the way of finding union (both within ourselves and with each other). My awareness practices, including yoga, have deeply impacted my own interrogation of whiteness, and I offer the things that have helped me. I am forever a guest to Yoga and also understand that using a colonized practice to face whiteness is evidence of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is another aspect of white supremacy that I want us to face. We do this through a variety of tools and methods including: awareness practices, theater, embodiment, writing, art and discussion. It is important to continue to examine the ways I use Yoga practices and the impacts this has. I am committed to deepening my understanding of how Yoga has been historically colonized in the West by white people-and how my training is a part of that which I can not get away from it.  

Why are you doing this work in a gentrifying neighborhood?

Gentrification is one of the most destructive ways white supremacy is currently operating. Here is a list of ways white people like me can work towards repair:

  1. Support POC-owned businesses
  2. Get to know people of color in the neighborhood.
  3. Support POC teachers
  4. Support POC caucus space
  5. Do not interrupt or question the need for POC caucus space
  6. Learn about the impacts of gentrification
  7. Offer reparations
  8. Offer free or low rent
  9. Hire people of color and pay a living wage

Rainier Beach Yoga is committed to these actions. It is clear these actions will not end gentrification as this is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed systemically.