This blog is intended for white readers because I do not really know the experience of (or want to speak for) the BIPOC body or the BIPOC experience.
My goal is to shed light on why white people need to care about self-care for BIPOC. To do this, white people must also care for themselves. As we care for ourselves, we can heal from the racist ideas that have consumed our thinking and our policies/impact on people who are Black and brown. As we care for ourselves, we can allow the hard work of noticing our own biases and racism and learn to sit with discomfort so that we can offer healing and kindness to ourselves and to other white people.
Being anti-racist means white bodies must admit our discomfort and our past. White people must communicate about racism, work on how we understand others bodies of experience, and learn from one another rather than expecting the BIPOC community to do the work to end racism. Racism is white people’s problem to solve. And our wellness is intrinsically linked to the wellness of others. The real causes of racism, white supremacy, and the connection between how we treat ourselves to how we treat others will not be solved but it doesn’t assume that someone else will do our hard work.
In our Radical Wellness video training (which offers 6 CEUs), Meghann Darne, LCSW and I explain more about the roots of self-care and how this can be a revolutionary act.
What is self-care, really?
The practice of self-care has been whitewashed in order to strip people of their common humanity towards others, especially toward people in BIPOC communities. Self-care has been scraped clean of all the deep and meaningful ways we must attend to our minds, bodies and spiritual connectedness, only to be replaced with bath bombs and scented candles.
The origination of self-care as a politicized concept comes from the writer/activist Audre Lord in a 1988 essay titled “A Burst of Light: Living with Cancer.” In this essay, she explores self-care as a revolutionary act for Black women, especially for queer Black women. Black people embracing and demanding their full humanity is problematic for white, racist ideals. We cannot have racism and self-care exist in the same story if only some “selves” deserve care. If we are to believe that all humans’ bodies are of value and have meaning, then racism would be unacceptable to more people.
The interconnectedness of believing in real self-care and true empathy of BIPOC people is Radical Wellness. People need to acknowledge Black and brown bodies as needing, and being deserving of, care, to treat them with real humanity. Consider the two most recent, public, incidents with Daunte Wright and Army Lt. Caron Nazario…inhumanely killed because of air freshener and treated brutally for buying a new car.
Disrespecting the bodies of “other” sometimes–but not always–happens because we as white people also disrespect our own bodies. Distractions that entail superficial ways to care for self are marketed to us all so that people move away from the ways that self-care can change our minds, bodies and hearts.
In our Radical Wellness video training, we explore what Radical Wellness is when we allow ourselves enough self-care and self-compassion. Being fulfilled from within allows for the room needed to care for others and experience true common humanity. Knowing we all deserve attention to self is a radical act and one that white people have a duty to acknowledge is needed by our BIPOC community members. As the practice of self-care becomes more defined and infused with our core values: the more we are drawn toward compassion and empathy for others.
As we watch and experience the news stories about Black people being shot and killed, harassed, harmed and beaten, we find ourselves in disbelief, unless you are Black and brown–in which case you are retraumatized. Radical Wellness is a practice that encompasses feeling and connecting with your body, spirit and mind and takes time, acceptance and kindness. Racism perpetuates the idea that some bodies are worth more than others and this creates self-care practices that aren’t helpful for our culture, our understanding of our needs and understanding the needs of others. White people have an opportunity to change this narrative by speaking out about injustice, by offering care and by acknowledging that everyone needs self-care. When white people care for themselves and allow themselves to admit they have self-care needs it becomes easier to humanize others around us, and to develop capacity to take action.
About the Radical Wellness Online Training
Radical Wellness is a four-part series on self-care. The topics explored help us learn more about our own cultures so that you create a self-care plan that is tailor-made for you. Meghann and I believe that self-care leads to a more fulfilling life and makes us better members of our communities.