Updated: Aug 9, 2021
As we take on race-related conversations with our friends, family or even strangers on social media, it can get heated. Many folks are raw and exposed, and everything is out in the open. Personally, I am seeing the word 'offense' being used – for example, "I didn't mean to offend you!" and "Stop being offended by everything!"
Truthfully, not much offends me. When I engage in race-related conversations, what I am often left with is not offense, but HARM. Harm is the injury that I sustain due to micro- or macro-aggressions from verbal assaults, personal insults, exclusion in yoga spaces, erasure of my voice and experience in wellness, among many other examples. All of this creates harm in my body. I feel this harm in my chest which tightens each time it happens. My body shakes, my breath becomes shallow. The harm roots in, takes hold and I need to work extremely hard to release it. So dear friends, I wish to talk to you about HARM. As a non-Black POC, I can only speak to the racism that I have endured as a Brown woman, I cannot speak to the Black experience nor do I wish to speak for Black folks. I am also not a race educator, but I have experienced racism and I wish to share my thoughts around harm. If I participate in a conversation with you on social media and you dirty delete your comments, you have erased all my labour and therefore all my efforts to engage and educate and explain my personal experience are gone. In an effort to control the narrative you have contributed to my ERASURE. That is HARM. If you read my heartfelt sharing of my own LIVED EXPERIENCES with racism and how to move forward and tell me that I'm divisive, engaging in fear-mongering instead of bringing people together, you are DENYING my experience of racism. That is HARM. When I speak up about social justice being a direct expression of yoga, specifically an act of Svadharma (individual righteous action) and Ahimsa (non-harming of all beings) and you say my understanding of yoga is flawed, you are then denying my birthright, asserting yourself as the authority and appropriating my culture. That is HARM. You cannot pick and choose which parts of yoga you like. Love and light is indeed one facet but is an incomplete view of yoga. Our traditions are deep, rooted in real-world action and embodiment. Alongside oneness is the upholding of truth, justice, and freedom for all beings. Yoga is about liberation - for all. Your insistence on “all one” and “one love” under the guise of yoga is the whitewashing of a deep practice and its people and is a continuation of the colonial legacy of theft appropriation and erasure. That is HARM. If you tell me that you were Brown or Black in your past life and thus are equipped to speak the truth about race you are spiritually bypassing. That is HARM. If you tell me that racism is a thing of the past, that times are different now and that we shouldn't be speaking up but rather move "forward" or “”beyond” race, that is gas lighting. That is HARM. If you say “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” you are intentionally choosing to invalidate a movement meant to prevent senseless Black murder and centuries of oppression. That is HARM. If you are centering your feelings or guilt, or getting angry at me for speaking up or asking me to stop or change the way I am speaking, to soften my tone or use different words to make you comfortable, this is fragility. That is HARM. And above all else – when I express my feelings of harm, when I share that pain with you and ask you to please acknowledge it and you don’t believe me, or you try and convince me that I am incorrect, or misunderstanding you…THAT IS HARM. And that is the most painful of all. I'm not offended. I'm being harmed. I speak out of deep love for humanity. It is a loving desire for freedom for all beings. This is the true Oneness. Today I take a stand. I am finding my voice and strength to speak up. I will not be silenced anymore. Instead I am firming my resolve and solidifying my Dharma. I will speak. I will rise. I will be who I am for the benefit of all beings. I owe it to my children, my ancestors, my family, my students, my friends and MYSELF. We all deserve freedom, don't we? Om. xo Aarti