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Kansas City MO 64131

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Filtering by Tag: white

WHITE

Cindy Maddera

We received the results of my mother’s DNA test months ago. It came back saying that my Mom’s DNA is 79% England, Wales and Northern European. The other 21% is from Ireland and Scotland. There is not even a smidgen of Native American or African American. My Mom’s side of the family is white and they have been in the Americas since the 1700s. They were part the group of European settlers that ended up in the Mississippi and Louisiana areas. I am sure that means that at some point, I have some ancestors that fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War and it is possible that I had some ancestors that owned another human being or beings. This is information I suspected before doing any research on the family tree just because of how entrenched into Mississippi my family on both sides seems to be.

Sometimes genetics is not the only thing that can be passed down the generations. Racism, for instance, is a learned behavior that can pass along the generations. I had some family members tell me some pretty racist things whenever we visited Mississippi, things that they were taught by their parents, which their parents learned from their parents and so on. I had more than one cousin tell me how lucky I was that I didn’t have to go to school with “any black kids.” I remember looking at them in confusion because I had no idea why that made me ‘lucky’. I still don’t know why that made me lucky. If anything, the lack of diversity in my childhood was a hinderance and I’ve been trying to make up for it in my adulthood. Whenever I have an African American person show up for one of my yoga classes, I get ridiculously over friendly. “Hi! Welcome! I’m so glad you you came to this class!” I go above and beyond to make them feel comfortable, which means I am probably making them uncomfortable. I do the same thing at work, particularly when I cross paths with an African American women. The other day, I passed a young African American women in the hall and I was all “Hi!” and even waved at her like she was my best friend. We do not know each other.

Part of it is that I am desperately trying to convince this population of people that I am on their side. I’m one of the good guys. I am begging them to please do not be afraid of me; I am not dangerous. The other part of me is hoping that I am being encouraging. I want diversity in these white saturated areas because science and yoga are for everyone and I am desperately trying to make amends for my ancestors. I know that my behavior is a symptom of growing up surrounded by white, but I am trying really hard to show that the cycle of passing down racism can be broken. Because every day there is a news story about some white person doing something hateful and racist. White Nationalism is now a thing. Radio hosts are encouraging lynching raids. An uncomfortably large number of white people think that racism is A-okay.

Not this white person.

It is useless to apologize for my whiteness. I can’t help genetics. But I can make my life more diverse and welcoming. I can be a shield against the hatefulness. I can break cycles.

GUILTY

Cindy Maddera

Someone recently posted this blog post by Rumya Putcha at Namaste Nation on a yoga teacher Facebook group I am part of. It is a very eye opening read and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Rumya Putcha discussed the mis-appropriation of 'namaste' and cultural appropriation of upper class white women and yoga. Yoga is thought of and marketed as a white woman's domain. I have become hyper aware of the lack of diversity of people in yoga studio classes. I will be sitting on my mat, waiting for the class to begin and I'll look around the room. We all look alike and this makes me very uncomfortable. I don't tell you that to garnish some kind of sympathy or "Oh, no Cindy. You don't need to feel uncomfortable." I DO need to feel uncomfortable. This should make me feel out of place. 

“When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. … You’re conditioned this way. It’s not because your hair is a texture or your skin is light. It’s the fact that the laws and the culture tell you this. You have a right to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, be however—and people just got to accommodate themselves to you.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

My first exposure to yoga was in a gym setting. In fact, I did not attend yoga classes in yoga studios until yoga teacher training. Yoga was/is a workout option. There was no talk of the spiritual side of yoga or stories of the Gods who inspired these poses. The teacher said 'namaste' at the end of every class and we just nodded our heads in response. I didn't know the meaning of that word. I just assumed it was some sort of goodbye/thank you/blessing. Like ending a prayer with 'amen'. I have a giant Ganesh tattoo on my back, not because I am Hindu, but because I like elephants and was attracted to this Hindu God because of his elephant head. I did do my research before having him permanently placed on my body and I love this tattoo. But I do question what right I have to put Ganesh on my body in such a way. It is hard to admit because no one wants to admit to being part of the problem, but I am part of the problem. 

I see my mistakes and I'm working on being part of the solution. My roommate in college was full blood Cherokee. She used to invite me to her home in Stilwell Oklahoma mostly because she didn't have a car and missed her family so much. She would say "Drive me home this weekend and we'll have Mom make Indian tacos and we'll go to a stomp dance." I always agreed because her family was so nice and I loved going to the stomp dances. The dances would run late into the night and into early morning and I watched for hours as Cherokee men and women danced in a circle. I would help my college roommate tie on her tortoise shell shakers that fit the length of her shin and was always surprised by the weight of them. The dances were beautiful and mesmerizing but I never participated unless my roommate specifically dragged me into the circle. I was very aware that I was an outsider and that I had no claim to this culture.  This is how I should also approach yoga. I do not lay any cultural rights on yoga. It is a gift that has been brought to our Western society, a gift that should be treated with more respect. 

I chose to teach yoga at the Y because I thought it would be the best way to bring the benefits of yoga to a more diverse group of people. I teach my students how to move safely into yoga poses and to challenge themselves physically. I teach my students to focus on their breath and how linking your breath with your movement aids in calming the mind. I encourage my students to find joy in their practice. I do not teach the spiritual side of yoga. We do not chant or "om". I still say 'namaste' at the end of class. I don't know if it is the right thing to do any more. I say it, fully meaning the sentiment behind the word: that which is beautiful in me salutes that which is beautiful in you. But my students don't know that this is the meaning of namaste. This is another mistake on my part. When you know the meaning and reverence of something, you are more likely to be more reverent with that something. You are less likely to toss around a sacred word like namaste.

This is true for all languages and cultures.