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Anti-racism homework for white people

Dear white friends in wellness,

It’s time to do the homework that was not included in school nor our training. There may have been discussions in the past and present but we need to take a deeper dive. This is a forever conversation and change requires commitment.

Each day for the foreseeable future, we will be giving you “assignments” in the form of articles, podcasts or videos from BIPOC wellness leaders, sharing their experience and work with anti-racism. Each assignment will come with an action step for you to take. Our hope is that you will engage with these assignments and initiate change in your extended communities. Yoga is rooted in principles such as non-harming, self inquiry and community – and we are here for that!

We’ll be posting the assignments on our IG feed as well as listing them in this blog post daily. We encourage you to give yourself thirty to sixty minutes for each assignment.

Over time anti-racism work will be part of your daily practice, in the same way that you meditate and practice yoga.

– Libby (she/her), Founder of Setu

Assignment #1

We are marching for the safety of Black lives and demanding the defunding of the police because of a history that started decades ago. As white people we have to own that history, acknowledge how we are complicit with it.

Your first homework assignment is to read Ruth King’s letter ‘The Untold,’ which charts the racial history of whiteness. Read it and let it sink in (perhaps journal with a question she provides). Then share ‘The Untold’ with a white friend or family member and have an honest conversation about whiteness, white supremacy, and your racial history.

You can donate here to support Ruth King’s work.

This is only the beginning of recognizing and wrapping our heads around the racial history of whiteness. Keep exploring through authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.

Assignment #2

Today’s assignment is to listen to Rev. angel Kyodo Williams on the On Being podcast and answer the journal prompts below.

As wellness practitioners, we are committed to abiding by the yoga principle of non-harming but we can’t fully do that until we examine how white dominance lives in us and is carried out by us. In this podcast, Rev, angel Kyodo Williams invites us to explore our inner world and asks us to examine our thoughts, prejudices and ways of being saying, “What here is mine? What here did I inherit? What here do I want to carry forward?”

After you listen to the podcast, write down what “facing discomfort and receiving it as an opportunity for growth and expansion” means to you. Commit to doing inner work that leads to white supremacy becoming undone in you. Remember to breathe and create space for transformation.

You can donate here to support Rev. angel Kyodo Williams.

Assignment #3

It’s time to cover some terminology to understand your relationship with race. Whiteness is a culture you benefit from and by not acknowledging your connection to it, you sustain it. Today’s assignment is to listen to Michelle Cassandra Johnson define terms like whiteness, white privilege and hear what she says about creating racial equity vs inclusion. After listening to Michelle Cassandra Johnson, journal about (1) how you see your whiteness and (2) how have you or have not centered justice in your classes? How can you center justice in your practice going forward?

Visit Michelle Cassandra Johnson’s website to find her book, which should be required reading for all yoga teachers, along with links to her events and a way to donate to support her work.

Assignment #4

In yesterday’s assignment we heard Michelle Cassandra Johnson say, white culture is the air we breathe. You may be noticing how white culture has an invisible code of being that you benefit from. Today’s assignment is to examine how white centering happens through dominant culture by reading Susanna Barkataki’s blog post “Why the Heck Are You White Centering and What to Do About It.”

Let the reading sink in and write down your answers to the questions Susanna asks at the end of the post. “How do you work on centering BIPOC voices? How do you work on decentering whiteness? Both inside and out?”

Sign up to train with Susanna Barkataki – she offers 200 and 300 hour RYTS. You can donate to support Susanna’s work by sending money via Paypal: susanna [at] ignitebewell [dot] com.

Assignment #5

Welcome to assignment #5 in anti-racism homework for white people. To date, we’ve covered important terminology and looked at the culture and history of whiteness. Today’s assignment is a call to action. Subscribe to Nicolea Cardoza’s daily anti-racism newsletter to get actionable steps you can take each day to practice anti-racism. Nicole is a mindfulness teacher and wellness entrepreneur who plays an integral role in increasing the health equity of communities across the US. 

Her newsletter includes:

 ⚡️ “An urgent and tactical action you can take to practice anti-racism each day”

⚡️ “Insights on the systemic and interpersonal practices that uphold white supremacy and systems of oppression” 

⚡️ “Clear and tangible resources to support your education”

Share her newsletter with friends and donate to support her work.

Assignment #6

This assignment calls upon an important skill you’ve cultivated as a yoga student – awareness. Your homework is to read what Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts has to say about the interconnection of yoga and social justice. “Chelsea believes that we can use our yoga practice ‘as a tool to go deeper and understand ourselves, and the ways in which we are contributing to systems of oppression, or benefiting from systems of oppression, or how we want to transform it.’”

After reading ‘What it Means to Show Up: Chelsea Jackson Roberts,’ take a few minutes to journal about your yoga practice. Who is in the spaces where you practice? Who is on the leadership teams of your studios? How can you contribute to transformation in those spaces to reduce systems of oppression?

You can donate here to support Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts’ work.

Assignment #7

As we live through a time when the US president is prioritizing the economy over people’s lives, if we look more closely at our wellness spaces we’ll see how the business of yoga has been prioritized over BIPOC people’s lives in those spaces. One of the ways we can transform our wellness spaces is through repairing our interracial relationships and acknowledging our relationship with the lineage of the practice. 

Your homework today is to listen to Layla F. Saad’s Good Ancestor podcast episode with Michelle Cassandra Johnson and Kerri Kelly. When you finish, write down your answers to the questions below and talk with your fellow wellness friends about your answers.

📝 As a white person, what are you willing to give up to dismantle the system of whiteness? 

📝 How do you relate to the idea of yoga being transformational versus transactional?

📝 Can you name one messy step you can take to more fully engage in your personal relationship anti-racism?

Support Layla F. Saad’s work by buying her book Me and White Supremacy.

Assignment #8

Perhaps you watched Ava DuVernay’s film 13th and felt angry and frustrated by the prison industrial complex. Maybe you’ve taken action and taught yoga in detention centers or jails. Today let’s take a look at the intersection of mindfulness and the criminal justice system.

Your anti-racism homework, is to listen to Oneika Mays talk about taking her yoga and meditation practices into prisons and detention centers and what she believes is required for change to happen in our society. [Link in bio] After listening, write down your answers to the following questions and talk about them with friends.

📝 How did what Oneika shared impact the way you see your relationship with the criminal justice system? How did it impact the way you see your relationship with the practice of yoga and meditation?

📝 How can you start sharing your privilege and power? Name 3-5 clear ways.

Support Oneika’s work by purchasing one of her joy t-shirts from her online store.

Assignment #9

Thank you for continuing to do your anti-racism homework. Today you are looking at an important example of white centering. Your homework is to read about Optical Allyship, a term coined in 2018 by Latham Thomas, a doula, author and wellness practitioner. Recently, Thomas’ term was explored further in a Bustle article. Please read both.

White people’s tendency to think they are doing anti-racism work, while they are actually carrying out optical allyship is why you are doing this homework. This assignment is a reminder that the impact of your actions is not always the result of your intentions. You can cause harm when you don’t mean to because white culture guides the way you do things.

After the reading, journal using the prompts below. 

📝 Write out what true allyship looks like. Sit with this definition and recall how your actions align or don’t align with it.

📝 Have you been an optical or performative ally? If so, how?

Donate here to support Latham Thomas’ organization Mama Glow.

Assignment 10

Today (June 19) is Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating a significant day in America’s history – one that Black people have celebrated since the 1800s and few white people have paid attention to until this year. Your antiracism homework is to learn all about it.

Here’s an introductory description from the Juneteenth website.

“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.” 

🔎 What you just read only begins to describe Juneteenth. From here, visit the Juneteenth website and read further.

Afterwards, take a few minutes to write your thoughts in response to these questions.

🖊 If Juneteenth is new to you, why is that?

🖊 What does learning this history or taking a closer look at it make you realize about what you were taught in school or by your family about the the end of slavery?

🔎 Want to learn more about the history of race in United States? Read books and articles by Ibram X Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.

Assignment 11

Protests are quieting down, some cities are in phase three of reopening and that includes yoga studios. White studio owners, how are you going to integrate your anti-racism work into the way you lead your studio?

Today’s anti-racism homework is to read Octavia Raheem’s blog post “Dear white studio owners.” Octavia Raheem is a studio owner, former teacher trainer, current mentor and published writer. She is the owner of Sacred Chill West, a studio in Atlanta, GA.

After reading her post, humbly and honestly write your answers to Octavia’s questions.

🌞 Do Black teachers and students feel welcome in my yoga space?Why or why not? 

🌞 Does the way I train and orient teachers, managers, and staff support an authentic and welcoming environment? 

🌞 Do I embody welcomeness?

Support Octavia Raheem’s work by buying her new book Gather.

Assignment 12

Today we are looking at where we are moving from – what is inside us that is guiding our decisions. Resma Menakem, a therapist and trauma specialist identifies a distinction between intellectual and bodily knowledge of racial identity. White people tend to intellectualize their understanding of race and that is not leading to healing – exploring what one’s racial identity feels like in their body will.

Your homework is to listen to Resma talk about this on the On Being podcast.

Afterwards write down things he said that resonated with you. And answer: Can you identify white body supremacy trauma in your life and how does its impact show up in your actions?

Assignment #13

A year ago Yoga Journal told Nicole Cardoza that she would be on the cover of their next magazine issue. After her photo shoot and feature article were prepared, the magazine ran a survey online asking readers if they’d prefer seeing Nicole, a Black woman, on the cover or a white woman who had been on several past YJ covers. This was horrific on many levels and disappointing to witness. Your homework today is to read Nicole’s account of this experience on Quartz

After reading, write responses to the following.

📝 How can you make your wellness spaces inclusive to people of all racial identities?

📝 Ask the studios where you practice or teach about their plans to make their spaces safer for people of all racial identities.

Assignment 14

In 2017, Tracee Stanley wrote about building capacity in uncertainty. Her wisdom is relevant today as we live through a pandemic and fight to defund the police. She wrote, “Build your capacity for discernment, to see what is true and what is not. Build your capacity to know what to do, when to do it and how. If we can see clearly and cultivate stability we will know what actions to take and we can navigate life and it’s obstacles with more ease and grace. But we must have the awareness, strength and steadiness to accept and process what is in front of us.”

Why is capacity building important for white people? It enables you to continue your anti-racism education even when it reveals aspects of yourself that you didn’t want to see and it enables you to keep fighting for justice when transformation seems far away.

Your homework is to read Tracee Stanley’s article and write down her 6 steps of capacity building. Commit to one of them for the upcoming 40 days.

Assignment 15

“To create inclusive communities, we have to start being honest about where we’re at and what we’re struggling with. A lot of white practitioners want something to do that isn’t that. Because that’s the hardest—and also the most critical—thing to do for those conversations with one another to happen.” Lama Rod Owens

Today’s homework is to read an interview with Lama Rod Owens to further understand what is meant by creating safe wellness spaces where BIPOC are respected as their whole selves.

After reading the article, write down the parts that resonate most with you and why.

Assignment 16

“For yoga teachers—the majority of which are white in the US—being sensitive to racial difference, and being able to talk about it is crucial. The tendency to say ‘we’re all the same’ in the name of being equanimous isn’t helpful.” – Dr. Gail Parker

Yes, yoga means union but union doesn’t erase each person’s unique identity nor does it ask everyone to meet some idealized version of what a person is, as determined by the dominant culture. 

Your anti-racism homework today is to read Dr. Gail Parker’s words on race based trauma in yoga spaces. After reading write down your answers to her questions:

🔎 How am I being impacted by the culture I live in? Is it cutting me off from understanding other cultures?

🔎 Might I be the one creating trauma? What is my role in the system of racism?

You can support Dr. Gail Parker’s work by buying her book Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma.

Assignment 17

You’ve likely noticed that as you stick with your anti-racism work, you are seeing how you’ve been complicit with white supremacy and the necessity for the work becomes more real. You may be feeling challenged in ways you didn’t expect. All of this is part of the process of addressing bias and supporting anti-racism. If you listen to it and allow it to change you, you will grow and expand your capacity to show up more fully for the BIPOC wellness community.

Homework: Alongside your personal education here are 5 ways you can support BIPOC yoga teachers, anti-racism educators and wellness business owners.

👉 Buy tickets, promote and attend wellness events led by BIPOC about racial justice 

👉 Attend marches and rallies lead by BIPOC leaders

👉 Ask the studios (managed by white people) where you practice or teach how they’re acting on their commitments to change. Hold them accountable for staying on track.

👉 Attend a race and resilience or anti-racism training led by BIPOC

👉 Offer your resources in support of work being done by BIPOC leaders

Assignment 18

“The global anti-racism uprisings have ignited a much-needed reckoning among many mindfulness practitioners about what they can do to address systemic racism. For me, the most powerful response is to transform our own biases as an extension of our mindfulness practice.” – Anu Gupta

Anu Gupta is a graduate of the Mindful Yoga & Meditation Teacher Training program at Spirit Rock and sits on the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies board. His article in Ten Percent Happier asks for personal inquiry around bias, how to uncover them and how to address them.

Your anti-racism homework is to read Anu’s article and answer these questions.

👉 What biases about BIPOC do I hold?

👉 How are those biases shaping my personality?

👉 Have those biases become part of my identity?

👉 What is one thing I can do to break my bias each day?

Assignment 19

Yoga is a practice of self inquiry and it enables us to tune into self-awareness. When you mistake yoga for a way to disassociate yourself from life’s challenges you are missing the practice. For white people this can lead to harmful actions such as spiritual bypassing. 

Today’s homework is inspired by Constanza Eliana Chinea (She/Her), a Latinx certified Yoga Instructor, Founder of Embody Inclusivity and Co-Director of Yoga Teachers of Color. Your assignment is to listen to her on the Speaking of Racism podcast.

After the podcast, journal about the following points:

📝 Investigate the motivation behind your yoga practice.

📝 Consider the ways you’ve talked about anti-racism. Have you centered whiteness? How?

📝 How can you actively support BIPOC anti-racism educators without centering whiteness?

Assignment 20

“Belonging is not about bypassing crises so we feel better within our individual bubbles.” – Sebene Selassie

The practice of yoga builds our muscle for discernment and helps us see clearly systems that unjustly oppress BIPOC and LGTBQ people. As white people, it can be easy to retreat into yourself or think your yoga practice is just for your own wellbeing, even when you see these systems at work. But the world needs you to be awake and contribute to the collective by doing your inner work to uncover how these systems are at play inside of you.

The anti-racism homework for today is to read Sebene Selassie’s blog post and listen to her on the Ten Percent Happier podcast. Then answer the following questions.

✍️ How are the forces of white supremacy at play in you? (Be brave and dig deep)

✍️ Journal about where you come from – your ancestors, the land, the culture. 

✍️ Answer Sebene’s question: “What is it you do and don’t understand about your own delusions of separation?

Sebene Selassie is the author of ‘You Belong: A Call for Connection’ and a meditation teacher in Brooklyn. You can support her work by purchasing her book.