Revise and resubmit… more on internalized racism

I’m laughing a little bit at myself this morning. I struggled so hard the other day to tell a story and find the words to describe the form, the character of the internalized racism I have experienced in myself. Then last night I was reading White Fragility, in which Robin Diangelo describes exactly — and so much more succinctly — what I was talking about. There’s a name for it: aversive racism.

Aversive racism is a phrase coined by Samuel L. Gaertner:

Aversive racism is characterized by a conflict between the denial of personal prejudice and unconscious negative feelings and beliefs, which may be rooted in normal psychological processes (such as social categorization).

Basically, it’s an inconsistency between what you say, and what you unconsciously think. Notice, this definition offers that aversive racism happens as a part of “normal psychological processes” and importantly, I will add, socialization into the dominant culture, especially here in the U.S.

So, yay… I am on to something. Now I was to reiterate and clarify points from my post:

  1. I don’t think there’s a way for any white person in the US NOT to have internalized some aspect of white supremacy, and therefore have in us, as part of our thinking, conscious or unconscious, aversive racism.
  2. With that as a given, white people: I believe we can learn to FEEL that incongruence in our bodies. With practice, we can FEEL it arise as defensiveness and use that as a signal to slow down and reassess—what we “know” might be wrong.
  3. It think it’s critical that we learn to do this! Because, as Diangelo says, we may be well-intentioned. But intention does not equal impact, and IMPACT is what really matters here. Are we harming people? Are we unwittingly contributing to white supremacy and the racist systems of power it justifies?

What does any of this have to do with yoga?

I believe that my practice of yoga has given me greater access to and awareness of my emotions as they manifest as sensations in my body.

When my mother died, I began working with a yoga therapist for my grief. Week after week she would ask me, “what do you feel?” And I did not know. This became a central inquiry of my (physical) asana yoga practice: what am I feeling?

Gradually, I came to notice when I was feeling something! I might not know what it was, but I knew it was there, and that was progress!

This ability to notice that I am feeling something is a resource now. In my effort to embody anti-racism, I use it as a signal to slow down and step back; to listen with the knowledge that I, too, have been socialized into white supremacy and my perspective, even if I don’t necessarily understand HOW, has been shaped by those forces. To FEEL that defensiveness arise and pause, I give myself time to make a conscious choice NOT to inadvertently defend something I overtly say I am against.

It’s not about KNOWing theory, or the right words. It’s about FEELING, and allowing myself NOT to know everything. To open to possibility. Because without being open to possibility, we cannot make the change we say we want. That change only lives in possibility.

Maybe all of this is really obvious. Maybe I’m just speaking for and to myself. But, I do hear the defensiveness of other white people who I admire, respect and love… and so, I think I’m onto something… my aim is to break through a little of that defensive shell, also with love.

All that said, this is a strategy for working with people who think they are not racist or who think they do not buy into white supremacy. In a way, this is a strategy for white people who don’t understand that we do actually have a racial identity, and that it is problematic for society. We have a WHOLE other project to take on with the people who are open about their white racial identity and entitlement…

Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REBEL!

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a challenge to boycott buying all new clothing for a year in the name of the climate crisis. My friend is part of an international movement called Extinction Rebellion. They are artists and activists and parents and regular people who are taking on the climate crisis from the level of culture.

I am taking the challenge! (for the most part… I still want to be able to buy activist t-shirts that support local artists and groups and candidates I support).

According to an article in The Guardian, this effort is about reducing consumption overall. The fashion industry (along with advertising) is an enormous promoter of our culture of waste and over consumption:

  • the industry is set to grow by 63% by 2030;
  • 100 bn items are produced each year, “far more than we need”;
  • fashion is a contributor to about 10% of carbon emissions;
  • it is one of the biggest polluters, responsible for the release of a huge amount of microfibres and plastics into the ocean.”

And, there’s a lot that could be said about the fashion industry’s exploitation of women and children as workers.

But there’s another angle to this that I want to shine a spotlight on: the role of compulsory fashion consumption in body shaming and the development of poor body image and self-esteem. Our clothing becomes a source of comparison for all children very early. I’m inspired by the story of a middle school teacher who wore the same dress for 100 days. Part of her motivation was to demonstrate what could be done with the energy we might otherwise be spending each morning deciding what to wear.

Climate and environmental warriors have been promoting alternatives to “fast fashion” for years. If you’d like to support a Texas-based organization doing great work, AND have a FUN, creative night out (in Austin), check out Texas Campaign for the Environment‘s Trash Makeover! It’s always for much fun, and supports a fantastic group doing the hard work on cleaning up our state. Check out this cool video!


Because WE are the weight watchers…

Gotta agree whole heartedly with this op ed from The New York Times, Our Kids do Not Need a Weight Watchers App. 

And this wonderful piece, Weight Watchers is harming kids for money by the amazing Regan Chastain. Get this:

“Their most recent, and possibly most horrific, attempt at a money grab is to launch this app aimed at kids ages 8-17. The app starts with a seven-day free trial, but for kids to continue with their personalized coach, the monthly subscription fee starts at $69 a month. (The adult version of Weight Watchers online with coaching is $54.95/month)

Emphasis added. This really gets to the heart of it, doesn’t it?

Chastain sites some more scary stats:

  • 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25 (SAMHSA)
  • 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming overweight. This concern endures through life. (Smolak, 2011)
  • Among high-school students, 44% of females and 15% of males attempted to lose weight. (Serdula et al., 1993)
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. (Shisslak & Crago, 1995)
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors (ex, skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, purging) (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005)
  • In a decade we saw a 119% increase in eating disorder hospitalizations in kids UNDER TWELVE.

Now, I doubt that most kids who end up subscribing to this app are paying for it themselves. We as the loving adults in children’s lives are implicated in this disease. This app plays to the fears of moms and other adult women that their children might be or become “over” weight, which carries so much more meaning than just having a fuller figure. Do we fear they will be unloved, bullied, unsuccessful, unhappy? Just what WOULD we pay to prevent these outcomes? $69 per month doesn’t sounds so bad.

Or, perhaps even worse, do we fear what it says about us? That we produced or raised a child that is lazy, unhealthy, sloppy, doesn’t care, isn’t good enough—that we somehow failed?

Wow. What a weighty burden for those children to carry!

And they do. Because we do.

I would guess that most people in our culture carry a lot of subconscious assumptions about body size and shape. We apply them to ourselves, and to others. It is PERVASIVE, and often wrapped in a veneer of concern for health (which is challenged rather persuasively by DeAun Nelson, ND in her podcast, Do No Harm). And, as I’m learning, fat phobia and fat oppression are intimately entwined in our other major systems of domination and oppression—and not just sexism/gender oppression, but also racism. There is a LOT to unpack.

As I’ve turned more attention to this issue through my work with Embody Love Movement, I’ve had to confront many of my own ugly unconscious ideas about weight and health. It’s going to be a journey for me, but the first step is catch the thoughts as they arise, question them, and perhaps most importantly, challenge my own rationalizations. I’ll continue to share resources here. Comment or contact me to get involved in this work locally through San Antonio’s own “chapter” of Embody Love Movement.

Please don’t mistake puberty for a health or weight PROBLEM

The statistics about pre-teens and body image are staggering, really:

“According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Pediatrics, over half of 9-14-year-old girls desire a thinner body shape. This matters because body image plays a key role in the development of healthy habits. Girls who have a poor body image, for instance, are less likely to eat a nutritious diet or exercise and are more likely to experience problems with their emotional health. They are at higher risk for dieting, eating disorders, accelerated growth, internalizing unrealistic media images, and engaging in risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol.”

This quote is pulled from an article, “Your adolescent daughter doesn’t have a weight problem. She’s going through puberty” by family nutrition expert Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen.

It really makes me sad to think of girls spending any time or energy at all worrying about their weight or shape as something that determines their value as human beings. But, they are responding to very real pressures and strong messages, both implicit and explicit, coming from the media, their families and friends. We are all part of this seemingly perpetual cycle of self-denigration and shame, and we gotta start being a part of the remedy as well.

What could you be doing to make this change? Be a part of the Embody Love Movement revolution! Check out what we’re up to in San Antonio.


From the (he)Art of a young woman

About once a month I teach a free yoga class for the instructors and staff of a local arts organization called Say Sí. Say Sí’s mission:

SAY Sí ignites the creative power of young people as forces of positive change. We value artists, empower marginalized communities and advance culture.

Every year they do an exhibit of their seniors’ work, and put those works up for sale. I often purchase works from this annual show. The money goes to the students who are now off to college or art school, or adventuring into adulthood with other endeavors.

This year, I was struck by the work of Lee Ortiz. Lee is a mixed media artist born in Harlingen and moved to San Antonio to pursue art further within North East School of the Arts and SAY Sí. As she says in her bio, her “work expands on feelings, ideas, and troubles that she feels are not addressed enough in our daily lives, tackling topics such as eating disorders, self image, mental illness, fatphobia, friendships, relationships, family and how to deal with these issues in a social and political way.”

This tender heart is doing all she can to fight the hurtful messages — both implicit and explicit — about what it means to have a certain kind of body… what it MEANS about our value as a human being. She screams in her work: I am not gross! 

Let’s support this powerful young artist as she launches herself out into the world. She is a brave fighter! Lee will be attending Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as an Illustration major, and I’m sure buying her work will help her a lot. If you are interested in purchasing anything, let me know. I can buy it and ship it to you. We can venmo. 

I am not gross (above) $150

They’re not Gross $150

Things I see online (Skip Dinner) $150

The Calorie Count Grows $200 (SOLD)

You can find Lee for further questions and commissions through these: Instagram: @eeelbee Email: Artstation:


On the matter of birthday donations

Many years ago (in the last century)—1992—I got to meet one of my childhood sheroes, Gloria Steinem. Mom and I went to the Brazos Bookstore in Houston and she signed our books. During her talk, Gloria gave a piece of advice that has always stuck with me. She said your checkbook (remember, 20th century) should reflect your values. Ever since then, I have always given MONEY to causes I care about, regularly.

I really appreciate that Facebook encourages people to give, bundle and promote their favorite causes and charities for their birthdays. However… and please educate me if I am wrong… I gave to one this morning for a friend’s fundraiser, and I got my receipt from Facebook, not from the organization I gave to. I believe the money we give that way gets to the groups. BUT, what it means (or might mean) is 1) the group doesn’t get my contact info and I lose the opportunity to be more involved in that group, and 2) Facebook gets the tax deduction.

I’m not opposed to tax deductions… but with all the millions of donations Facebook is bundling, IF they are getting the credit, they are getting ONE HELL OF A TAX DEDUCTION.

And… I kinda think Facebook actually owes our country a little, after 2016.

So… I’m not doing a birthday fundraiser through Facebook.

If you are in the spirit of giving, though, here are some Texas groups I endorse for your ongoing (or one time) support (with links to their donation pages:


On Immigrant Rights: Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV,  RAICES

On SO MANY things: ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network

Environmental Justice: Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter, t.e.j.a.s., Texas Campaign for the Environment

Reproductive Justice, Rights, Access: Lilith Fund, NARAL Prochoice Texas

Quality Nonprofit Journalism: Texas Observer, Texas Tribune

Worker Rights: Workers Defense Project, Equal Justice Center


There are so many… Please give to someone if you can! If you want to tell me you, great! 🙂