The events that took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA have not sat well with me. At the same time, I didn’t really know what my duty was or how I could help combat the racism, bigotry and terrorism affecting marginalized populations. I didn’t really think it was my place to get involved. Talking about racism and putting myself in that space has always made me a little uncomfortable but after reading Chrissy King’s blog I knew I couldn’t remain silent much longer.
I grew up in a predominately white superb of Columbus, OH and have always believed that racism was something I didn’t really have to deal with or talk about. I was afraid of the topic and afraid to get into the midst of it for fear of what people who were living it might say to a white-middle class woman talking about the issue. But in reality, as a fitness professional, as a young woman and simply as a citizen of this country I need to get into it and I need to have a voice regarding it.
But this isn’t about me either. It’s about human beings (like me and unlike me in so many ways) who are persecuted and marginalized for the color of their skin, their sexual identity and their gender. In no way do I stand for that. I want to spread only the things that make this world a better place and as a fitness professional that means spreading awareness and knowledge about ways to love your body and treat it right and racism does not allow people of color (POC) to feel emotionally or mentally stable in their own bodies.
Chrissy King puts it in much better words than I can:
“Here’s the real truth of the matter, your role as a fitness professional goes far beyond exercise and nutrition. At least I hope so. I hope your objective is to aid your clients and your audience with overall health and wellness. If that’s not your mission, maybe it’s time to reconsider your career choice?
If it is your mission, then you have to acknowledge that overall wellness also includes mental and emotional well-being, among other things.
As such, you cannot simultaneously help women (and men) with their fitness and wellness while remaining silent on issues of racism and the events that occurred in Charlottesville this weekend. Unless of course, you are only here to serve white clientele. In that case, I guess you can.”
In the gym this morning, ironically, a situation so prevalent to this issue came up. Take note that in no way does the gym promote racism but unfortunately the music of this society does and while one woman was working out this morning she filed a complaint that the gym not use music that uses derogatory slurs. My first reaction was, “This is terrible, they don’t normally play music that isn’t edited, how could this happen?” But my second reaction, after some reflection on the situation was “This is terrible, how can our society be saturated with music that spews condescending words left and right like they’re common house hold names.”
And then I got to thinking more…being silent on this topic is just as bad as the entertainment industry making it commonplace to include deragotory words in the “majority of pop songs” as the woman who filed the complaint put it. And it’s also not right that it took a woman of color to say something about the music, because that probably wasn’t the first time that word has slipped through the speakers.
Saturate the internet, your space, your personal platforms, and show up to defend POC instead of sitting back thinking it’s not your duty to stand against racism, bigotry and terrorism. I made that mistake and it won’t happen again because the only way to combat it is to show up and do something about it.
As a writer, showing up for me is in the words I craft. I had to take to my computer and spread not only my words but other people’s words who have made a difference. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world with his words, Woodward and Bernstein changed the world with their words, Barbara Walters, Amber Lyon, Ethel Payne, Lydia Cacho all changed the world with their words. I have always said that words matter but it has never been more prevalent to me than it is now that words truly do matter. My words matter and your words matter and the best way to fight what is going on in this world is to stand for something and share your words.
As a fitness professional it is my responsibility to help others live the best life they can. That means I help them to manage their stress and sleep, help them get into a consistent exercise routine and I help them to develop a healthy relationship with food. It is unfair for me to preach those things but leave the mental and emotional wellbeing of my clients out. It is unfair for me to preach that being healthy is far deeper than how often you work out and what you eat and not talk about how racism and the oppression POC feel affects their health. It is unfair for me to be silent because silence is complacency.
I hope to never be complacent. I hope to never allow things that don’t sit right with me fall through the cracks. Words are important. My job as a fitness professional is important. My job as a woman fitness professional and a woman journalist is even more important and I wouldn’t believe in what I do or who I am if I was complacent and didn’t fight with the best weapon I have…my words.