Why do I need a People Of Color only space?
I cant even begin to explain how many times I have sat down to write this blog post and then I delete what I wrote. There is something seriously wrong with that because that is just not me. Usually the first thing I write is what I keep.
I ended up calling a dear woman of color friend, who I did not have to explain myself too. I simply told her “there is just too much to say and not enough room to say it.” She says “don’t condense it.”
I looked at her through my phone ( we were video messaging) and I said “what?”
She said “Do not condense it, just organize it.”
I really thought I would be able to come on here and quickly express why I have found healing in POC spaces, but the truth is…it is so much deeper than a blog post. I’m talking there is years of books, quotes, personal experiences, dreams that just came rushing to my brain every time I tried to sit down and write about this. However, the truth is…there is no way I’ll get this all out in one post. I looked at my friend and said “I done gone down the rabbit hole again.”
I know what I can offer. I can offer a quick sneak peek. I can turn this into a bonafide article, a video vlog, or even a series. I will figure that out later. I just know there is no way I’m getting this all out in one post. I’m done trying! Here is what I will try to do….
There are several works at play when it comes to POC yoga spaces for me and why I find them beneficial…and of course most of this is coming from the lens of a psychotherapist. I will give some key ones that come up for me…and I figure I will find time to go into more detail later. But for now…here is where we’re at….me giving a quick run down of my brain. 😊
There is the Polyvogal theory – This theory addresses how our nervous system responds to outside stimuli and how our social experiences help us adapt to our environments. In short, our nervous system responds to how people treat us. If we do not feel completely safe our nervous system is not at rest. A nervous system that is not at rest has a lower chance of being able to focus, reflect and process internal dialogue. External stimuli in essence declare war on the brain, the body responds in a fight of flight mode...and our brain processes less stimuli, because ...well...its too busy trying to find a way to protect us from the outside world.
There is the trauma informed approach to therapy – this form of therapy takes into account how a person has the best chances to heal, via the nervous system if things are predictive, if things are routine, and “familiar” and if we are comfortable. We can heal from trauma in an environment where things are routine and predictable and there are little to no “surprises”.
There is the work of Erick Erickson; he coined the term identity crisis. His work focused on how one identifies themselves and how self concept is self-actualized and formed. He professes that our identity of self is highly related to how we are perceived by others. Basically, if momma said you were pretty growing up, you walk about thinking “Im pretty.” You create self identity based on how you are viewed by others.
I’ve also had the work of Peter Levine and Bessel Van Der Kolk PHD roaming in my thoughts. Their work focuses on trauma and the nervous system, how our experiences shape the chemistry of our physiological state and our brain.
And another…the issue of the African American soul and the lack of self esteem. I've loved the works of Bell Hooks, and Nathaniel Branden - and they both advocate self love, self acceptance, and self esteem. I love them specifically! I have to hunt to works regarding African American self esteem!
There is no way I can roll all their goodness into one blog post. But I will say this…
When I am in a POC yoga space, I do not have to deal with implicit biases. I do not have people asking to touch my hair. I do not have people look at me as if I am a stranger in my own land. I do not hear music that I’ve never heard before. I do not feel like an outsider. I do not have to worry about someone asking “what are you? What nationality are you?”, and I don’t have to worry about someone telling me “you should teach trap yoga” or “I wish I had a big booty like yours.” I do not have to stand out as “different” and I do not have to change how I talk in order to “fit in.” I don’t have to show up on time without people glaring at me ( LOL), and I don’t even have to explain what CP time is. I don’t have to worry about anyone hyperfocusing on me because of the color of my skin or the nature of my hair. No one focuses on “differences”. I blend in. My nervous system relays to me “everything is alright. You do not have to resist here. You can heal here.
I have spent and continue to spend my entire life resisting the stereotypes in the classroom at work, and in the boardroom, and on the telephone, and in the park when a cop car strolls by, and at the doctors office, and at my child’s school , and when I go to the bank, and when I drive in my car, and when I go to the “acclimated part of town”, and when I write an email, and when I take a telephone call, and when I….oh no…
My thought in POC space is ...
"You resist all your life girl, but you can let your guard down here. You are not here to resist. You are tired and this is a place where you can heal.”
It is familiar to me when I am around people that look like me. (Polyvagal Theory)
It is calming to me when I know I don’t have to answer any questions regarding my “otherness”.
It is a relief when assumptions are not made about me based on my skin color.
It is a break from the constant cognitive distortions that I have day in and day out.
I do not have to think outside of what I see.
I do not have to listen to anyone saying something to me that has me feel as if I am an alien and I do not belong because I am the “other.”
When I go to a POC space…particularly a wellness space…I have the best chance of being well because my nervous system is in a relaxed state...because I am around what is familiar.
And it’s a relaxed state because I am not surrounded by things that remind me that I must constantly resist anything to make me feel like I do not belong, that I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, not skinny or fast enough, that my hair is not straight enough, blonde enough, or that I will never be at home in my own land.
I look like everyone else.
My nervous system signals to me that I am in a safe space. And no words need to be said.
If I have trauma (which most people of color do just because of the media ALONE!!)…I do no have to process words. I can just open my eyes, look around me…and feel my guard drop simply by what I see.
I see a sea of colors.
That signals to me that I am safe.
That signals to me that I can rest.
Resistance is taxing on my mind body and soul.
And I am tired.
I will say it again.
I AM TIRED.
I need rest, sis. Pure and simple. I need an escape from the respite and the POC space is where it’s at!
My psyche can rest in spaces where I am not constantly reminded that I am misnomer. POC spaces do not reinforce to my psyche the messages I am exposed to day in and day out about what it means for me to be a black woman...and there is conflict because most of what I SEE in other spaces is not true for me as a black women. The discrepancies are taxing on my wellbeing. I feel as if I can let my guard down in spaces where I am not the only brown girl in the room and there is not much I can do about that because ....well….the way my nervous system is set up.
The experiences I have had do not outweigh the things I am told. My nervous system registers my experiences before it registers anything else that is said to me! You can tell me how beautiful I am all you want, but is that how I am treated? Do I have the world, collectively, treat me that way?
I need to experience what it feels like to be calm in a place that I come for healing. And I can best do that in spaces where I feel “at home.”
So until my physiological responses match with what I want...which is to be calm...I will go where I don't have to put in energy to be calm.
Cause did I tell you I was tired?
I wont apologize for seeking refuge.
And by the way....Me getting my rest in spaces where I can easily find it is my act of resistance.I wont be apologizing for that anytime soon.