STATEMENT FROM JENNIFER KELLY, YOGI TREE CENTER FOR GROWTH OWNER/TEACHER, AND MARY (FATEHBIR KAUR) JACOBSON, YOGI TREE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER/TEACHER:
Silence Is NOT An Option
The murder of George Floyd was a tipping point in a long history of brutality and violence by police against Black people in the United States, which speaks to a much larger sickness and evil that permeates our society. The trauma and injustice endured by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as LGBTQi, and other marginalized populations is a stain on all humanity. We must take responsibility for our part in this problem and do the internal and external work necessary for change.
The Yogi Tree has always welcomed students and teachers of all backgrounds to practice yoga and to gather together in community. Despite our long-held values of equality and diversity, we resemble the majority of yoga studios in Los Angeles as a predominantly white community with an orientation to white privilege. Therefore, we now believe that it is not enough to say we are inclusive, that “we are all one.” This historic moment is calling us to pivot toward the more proactive, loving action of cultivating an anti-racist space. We must take this opportunity for specific action in our studio, among our teachers and students, and in our trainings and events. In this way we will begin to support and elevate the non-white voices, perspectives, and leaders in our midst. We humbly acknowledge our complicity in white supremacy and how so-called “conscious” communities like ours have propped up toxic systems and racial injustice. For this reason, we have taken two immediate steps to lay the foundation for ongoing, substantive changes:
- We are listening, learning, and following. Clearing the fog and recognizing our privilege is a relief for some and a shock for others. White people must unlearn assumptions and behaviors afforded to them by their privilege, and engaging in this process exposes the white fragility that shuts down progress. Because we are a predominantly white studio in demographic and in culture, we believe our goals cannot be met unless we confront this white privilege and fragility in ourselves and others. Otherwise the insidiousness of systemic racism in our spiritual community will prevail.
Please visit our Anti-Racism Resources page for materials to begin your learning on this subject matter. Anti-racism work will not be accomplished quickly or superficially. This effort requires commitment over time. While engaging in our personal work to confront white fragility and white privilege, we support the following agenda taken from Ben & Jerry’s, whose full-throated dedication to anti-racism is the most recent development in their commitment to racial and social justice. While we are only beginning our work in this area as a community, we want to provide unequivocal communication about where we stand on the issue of white supremacy, its manifestation in systemic racism, and our role in it.
Our Society faces an urgent need to take concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms. To do that, we are calling for four things:
First, we call upon President Trump, elected officials, and political parties to commit our nation to a formal process of healing and reconciliation. Instead of calling for the use of aggressive tactics on protestors, the President must take the first step by disavowing white supremacists and nationalist groups that overtly support him, and by not using his Twitter feed to promote and normalize their ideas and agendas. The world is watching America’s response.
Second, we call upon the Congress to pass H.R. 40, legislation that would create a commission to study the effects of slavery and discrimination from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. We cannot move forward together as a nation until we begin to grapple with the sins of our past. Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation were systems of legalized and monetized white supremacy for which generations of Black and Brown people paid an immeasurable price. That cost must be acknowledged and the privilege that accrued to some at the expense of others must be reckoned with and redressed.
Third, we support Floyd’s family’s call to create a national task force that would draft bipartisan legislation aimed at ending racial violence and increasing police accountability. We can’t continue to fund a criminal justice system that perpetuates mass incarceration while at the same time threatens the lives of a whole segment of the population.
And finally, we call on the Department of Justice to reinvigorate its Civil Rights Division as a staunch defender of the rights of Black and Brown people. The DOJ must also reinstate policies rolled back under the Trump Administration, such as consent decrees to curb police abuses.
Unless and until white America is willing to collectively acknowledge its privilege, take responsibility for its past and the impact it has on the present, and commit to creating a future steeped in justice, the list of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end. We have to use this moment to accelerate our nation's long journey towards justice and a more perfect union.
Learn More About Anti-Racism