I’m sure by now many have read about the latest incident at elephant journal: the posting of a video entitled “Yoga for Black People” and what occurred when a black woman spoke her truth about it. I won’t rehash the incident but you can read about what happened and the aftermath here and here.
Chelsea has written an eloquent open letter to Waylon Lewis.
While I don’t want to send more traffic to a site that I consider toxic, I feel I have to put in my two rupees because the way Chelsea was treated was certainly not the first incident of that kind for EJ. I also had an incident with EJ and its yoga editor last year over the Tara Stiles controversy. I also experienced a Waylon “apology.” You can briefly read about it here. I wrote:
“I felt blindsided and betrayed. He did not feel it necessary to ask my permission or even to ask my opinion before he wrote about me. While he apologized to me months later for writing the story, it did not matter at that point. Intention is everything and you can’t unring a bell. To me his story brought to light what this modern yoga scene has become: us v. them. The rightous v. the unrightous. The purists v. the modernists. Old v. young. Thick v. skinny. The Lulus v. The WalMarts.”
Once again, the issue is not as simple as it appears on the surface. Just like Judith Lasater’s letter to Yoga Journal was not about the Toesox ads with Kathryn Budig, and just like the whole Tara Stiles thing raised deeper issues to be questioned, the issues that Chelsea raised were not just about the posting of a one stupid video.
Once again, as with the Toesox and Tara Stiles’ incidents, someone who speaks out against the status quo is chastised, told to get over it, to lighten up, and OH MY GOD, the worst insult of all, “you don’t have a sense of humor.”
That’s what every guilty party yells when someone calls them out on their nonsense — “What? Who me? What did I do?”
Calling something a joke as Waylon did doesn’t make it any less important. EJ is truly a dysfunctional household when an attempt is made to shame and embarrass the ones who are calling out the perpetrator.
What irked me more than that video was that Chelsea was told to shut up — by Waylon and EJ’s readers — after standing up for what she believed in. She was told, basically, to get to the back of the bus. This reaction from so-called hip readers of a supposedly cutting edge online “yoga and spirituality” site? Please. You can read in this post the typical responses when someone questions EJ’s status quo.
There must be something “wrong” with our outlook, there is something “wrong” with us. We are patted on the head with the comment “lighten up, honey, it’s no big deal.” Yes, it IS a big deal in the larger context. I was labeled a “radical feminist” by the yoga editor of EJ during the Tara Stiles thing — AS IF that’s the worst thing you can call an outspoken woman (besides calling her a bitch, that is.)
Dare I ask, what ever happened to just saying “I’m sorry” and leaving it at that instead of trying to justify bad behavior, instead of making excuses? It’s called empathy. Waylon — having been raised Buddhist as he loves to tell everyone — should know that empathy is one of the things that is cultivated in a Buddhist practice. It’s the basis of compassion. With all the posts about mindfulness on EJ, one would think that Waylon would have read a few and would spend a few mindful moments contemplating the repercussions of his actions before clicking “publish.” Karma, Waylon. Don’t blame people for “kicking the shit” out of you (in comments) when your own actions brought it on.
Waylon’s response to Chelsea was that it was “just a comedy video.” Using that logic, one might justify the use of the N word by saying “it’s just a word.” Yeah, it IS just a word but a loaded one that offends people. Does that mean because one doesn’t find the N word offensive they can use it? And then tell others who are offended by it to lighten up? That really helped Michael Richards’ comedy career.
How about posting a video of “Yoga for Muslims” or “Yoga for Mexicans” or any other “Yoga for [fill in the blank]”? Racial and ethnic humor is a sensitive subject and it takes finesse. Some can pull it off and it’s funny, others can’t and it’s seen as racist. Don’t shout down the ones who find some “jokes” offensive.
The “Yoga for Black People” incident is just the latest in a long line of incidents that show how Waylon needs to clean up EJ’s act.
Take your own advice, Waylon: walk your talk.