A conversation this weekend made me think. I was talking with friends, an old female friend and a new male friend, who were both white. The conversation started with Bikram yoga, then evolved to talk about Khemitic yoga, then evolved into a conversation about racial appropriation.”There’s a part of me that really admires Bikram Choudhury,” I said. “He was smart enough to see that (white) westerners were coming over to India, learning the asana practice of yoga and he put together a specific sequence of yoga moves, got a trademark, and branded it. He is a person of color who kept his tradition with abundance, and shared it with others.”
Our conversation deepened and we began to dive deeper into the conversation.
America is based on a system of buying low and selling high. Over and over again in this western world the creative ideas, music, culture, religion, resources of brown people have taken by others and “transformed” into something “new”.
Those “others” receive the benefits while the brown folks are left dumbfounded. Those “others” talk about nothing being new in the universe and “oneness” while they sit in their country homes or at brunch while the brown folks who “inspired” the work can’t feed their children.
This practice of racial appropriation for profit, is a huge factor in the racial divide in this country. The blunt impact of being the victim of racial appropriation is, that it kills trust.
Here you have a trusting person of color who shares their tradition with someone from the west in order to facilitate healing and reach out to their common man, or to keep their tradition alive and they end up giving it all away. The westerner is expert at copying the tradition and taking it out to their western communities FOR PROFIT. Even taking on the costumes, the language, the dance, as if the westerner created the tradition without sharing the wealth.We talked about the difference between young American artists like Elvis who copied black artists and profited while saying about black folks, “The only thing a nigger can do for me is shine my shoes and listen to my records.” European bands like The Rolling Stones always tributes their blues icons, but never paid the artists who inspired their creativity anything.
It’s about Trust.
My friends heard me. Why? We trusted one another enough to be, real. My female friend who I’ve known for several years asked questions to gain understanding about Racial Appropriation and why people are upset about it. My new friend dove in with challenges to my points which opened my eyes to his perspective and deepened understanding.
We had a conversation about an institutional problem in society one on one in community.It’s about integration. Ask yourself these questions,” Are all of my friends the same ethnic background as I am? Do I feel helpless when I hear stories of racial injustice in America?” If your answer is yes to both questions…why not consider integrating your life.
Why not make a conscious effort to have friendships with people who are not the same race, gender, sexual orientation as you are.We get so locked into the idea that we must be with our own ethnic group and we are missing opportunities to enrich our lives. What if we lived in a world where people could share cross culturally and mutually benefit from sharing? What if we could support one another’s creative efforts cross racially in the spirit of equivalent exchange?
I know that when we do look beyond superficial external differences we find more connection. Sometimes the person you least expect to be your ally…is…your ally.
Think about it. If you are living an integrated lifestyle please share how you did it in the comments section below.
In my next blog I’ll be sharing 10 ways to live an integrated lifestyle.