June 27, 2013

We Are All a Little Racist. Some of Us More Than Others.

Most people were shocked and appalled by what Paula Deen got caught saying last week.

Were you really all that surprised by it?

A “Southern Belle” over the age of 60, raised in the heart of the Deep South? Really?

I’m not sure if Paula Deen and her brother Bubba even understand why what they did was so wrong? It was something that they’re accustoming to saying. I am sure they speak like this all the time around their friends and like-minded people.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m disgusted by it and think we, as a society, in no way should turn a blind eye to it. I definitely think she should be held accountable for her actions.

This is a great learning opportunity for all us to sit with our own prejudices. Let’s face it, we are all a little prejudiced.

Prejudice means to “pre-judge.”

We all do that! I know I do and I’m working on it. If you don’t consider yourself prejudiced you certainly have been racially or culturally insensitive at one time or another in your life. I know you didn’t mean it.  Let’s face it, it’s just the way it is.

Being prejudiced is part of history. It’s woven into the very fabric of who we are. I have spent most of my life feeling it in one way or another.

I remember the very first time I felt it on a much bigger scale. It was on one of our biggest family vacations; I remember driving through Tennessee and Georgia on our way to Florida in the early ’80s and just feeling like anything could happen. It was this tight, strained uneasy feeling that being different was a threat to our safety. A black family with foreign license plates (I’m Canadian) driving through the southern United States was uncomfortable to say the least. It was the one of the very first times I heard my father called the “N” word loudly in a very public place. It was frightening.

For all of my life I have been defined as a minority. The definition of minority to me means “less than.” I internalized that for a time and it kept me limited in the way I thought about myself.

I think the intention in creating this word was to  identify different cultures. Unfortunately, it just grouped all of us non-white folk together in a homogenous lump. It created the feeling of us versus them, and we were going to lose badly. The incident with Paula Deen reminded me of just how far we have come in a very short amount of time. The civil rights movement is really not all that long ago. Now there is a black president in office.

When I look at the world today, it’s far more diverse and socially conscious, especially in the last 10 years. I attribute that to education, technology and to a more diverse work place. In the past, we wouldn’t have heard about Paula Deen’s comments on such a worldwide stage. It would have simply been swept under the rug and perhaps not addressed at all. It’s great to have a front seat to see how the world is evolving.

The word “minority” will need to be retired very soon. Shortly, in North America there will be no distinguishable majority.

In December of 2012, the New York Times reported that “according to Census Bureau projections released Wednesday, no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of children under 18. And in about three decades, no single group will constitute a majority of the country as a whole.”

It’s time to embrace diversity in all forms. It’s time to become more culturally sensitive and aware of the world around us. Soon you will have no choice.

We are living in exciting times. So, as individuals, how can we change our ideas and be more open to experiencing diversity?

By being more conscious of the world around us, more conscious of the language we use and the people it affects. As a yoga teacher, I am always trying to encourage my students to think outside the box. I want people to see that in front of them are other souls who aren’t any different. We are more the same than we are different. Diversity in all forms is not to be feared.

It starts with being bold. Yoga has taught me that life outside the box is far more interesting. If you want a change of perspective, cultivate a yoga practice. When I say “yoga” I don’t mean a physical practice. I mean start living in the moment and experiencing life in different ways. Yoga is really about living life unbound by external influence and being able to trust your heart. Yoga poses on their own are not necessary to live in awareness. If we live by the teachings, we minimize our chances of being prejudiced and culturally insensitive.

Yoga teaches us:

  • To do no harm,
  • To be kind,
  • To be truthful,
  • Not to steal,
  • Not be jealous of others
  • Not  to live a life of excess
  • To have pure heart
  • To surrender to all that is

Remember the power is within you to change what you see and how your react. Embrace what is!



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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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