The following is a response to It Happened To Me: There Are No Black Women In My Yoga Class…with references from At the Bar, KazzleDazz, A Belle in Brooklyn and An Open Letter…
Let me start off by saying upfront that I am not a woman, a womanist or feminist, and I am not here trying to speak for black women. I will not assert my male privilege on a current hot topic, but if I do, I apologize in advance.
But anyway, the hot topic comes from an article from XO Jane from Jen Caron, a white woman who went to yoga class. This woman seems to have had an uncomfortable day, because there was a heavyset, young black woman behind her. Why would she feel uneasy? Read this:
It appeared she had never set foot in a yoga studio—she was glancing around anxiously, adjusting her clothes, looking wide-eyed and nervous. Within the first few minutes of gentle warm-up stretches, I saw the fear in her eyes snowball, turning into panic and then despair. Before we made it into our first downward dog, she had crouched down on her elbows and knees, head lowered close to the ground, trapped and vulnerable. She stayed there, staring, for the rest of the class.
Call me crazy, but wouldn’t the ‘fear’, as Caron puts it, come from being in a yoga class for the first time surrounded by white women. But maybe not the way the writer thinks. Perhaps it’s due to the strong possibility that – I dunno – there are white racist women in the class, including herself, who would take one look at this woman and all the classical conditional racism would spring up. Maybe, just maybe, most of these women didn’t want her in class not because she’s heavier, but because she’s black.
Also, why would the Caron think the woman behind her was staring at her? Maybe she was looking in her general direction, perhaps at the instructor in order to know what to do.
Because I was directly in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at her every time my head was upside down (roughly once a minute). I’ve seen people freeze or give up in yoga classes many times, and it’s a sad thing, but as a student there’s nothing you can do about it. At that moment, though, I found it impossible to stop thinking about this woman. Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.
You know what’s funny? White women seem to think that black women are jealous. They think all sistas do is think about white women and how they want to be like them. Yet, we see articles and letters from white women boasting how they’re above black women. We also see white women get tans, braid their hair and get lip and butt implants. Who has who on their minds?
What I got from this paragraph sounds a lot like white female supremacist egotism. But when you read shit like this from white females who try and fail miserably to garner sympathy and understanding, as you read in the article in question, you will find something even more crazy. More on that in a minute.
But in the midst of all the fake white liberal outpouring, this part caught my eye:
I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.
That part reminded me of the infamous letter to black woman written by a white woman. You know the one:
I am a White female who is engaged to a Black male–good-looking, educated and loving. I just don’t understand a lot of Black females’ attitudes about our relationship. My man decided he wanted me because the pickings amongst Black women were slim to none. As he said they were either too fat, too loud, too mean, too argumentative, too needy, too materialistic and carrying too much excess baggage.
Before I became engaged, whenever I went out I was constantly approached by Black men, willing to wine and dine me and give me the world. If Black women are so up in arms about us being with their men, why don’t they look at themselves and make some changes. I am tired of the dirty looks I get and snide remarks when we’re out in public…
…Right now I’m a little angry and that is why I wrote this so hurriedly. Don’t be mad with us White women because so many of your men want us. Get your acts together and learn from us and we may lead you to treat your men better. If I’m wrong, Black men, let me know.
I noticed that in the entire letter, the woman gave no explanation whatsoever of why black men would want her ass. Instead, all I got was a diss to all black women because they, according to her, can’t compete with white women, namely her.
In the paragraph I spotted, I noticed that Caron admits to recognizing her body as being skinny and white after she suspects the black woman behind her was looking at her, tearing her down in her mind just for that reason, or so she writes.
Going back to white female supremacy, which is expressed in the XO Jane article and the letter to Sister 2 Sister Magazine, I saw a connection. Both white women placed white female privilege and supremacy based one fact, that they’re white females. One woman showed off her privilege in yoga class after feeling like she’s silently targeted by a thick black woman. The other, in the letter read and responded around the world, just defended herself from “angry” black women by throwing them under the bus for not being or behaving like white women in a white female supremacist tone.
It seems to me that the Caron was going by assumption alone. She assumed the black woman was jealously starting at her body. To me it sounded more like paranoia than anything else. And that anxiety may be due to her racist assumptions regarding black women, one of them being that they hate white women for their bodies. I wouldn’t be surprised if Caron thought the woman was going to kick her ass.
My only advice to the writer of this hit-and-miss article for race relations is to make sure she check’s her racism and not jump to conclusions. The black woman she thought about probably wasn’t thinking about her or how good she (the writer) looked. This black woman also probably wasn’t ashamed of her own body. (Maybe she just wants to do yoga like the rest of you in that class.) But Caron thought she was based on only her presupposition alone.
The premise is a nod to the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype which is a byproduct of racism. Caron can not make such judgments and then proclaim to be concerned by getting in others’ faces with your privilege, especially if you assume too much. If this woman wants to contribute to social change, she has to realize one irrefutable truth. White women are not God’s queens of beauty. And neither is she.