8 quotes from Black women in health that reveal the field's pervasive racism

Most industries are fraught with racism and bias, but racism within the medical and wellness industries is particularly problematic, as the way people are treated in these spaces can often directly affect their physical health as well as their mental well-being.

The Cut recently interviewed Black women working as leaders in the medical and wellness industries to better understand the the microaggressions, hostility, exploitation and discrimination they have experienced and are facing in their field. Below are eight quotes from those interviews. 

  • "A classic experience in the wellness world is wanting to be seen to be good and right and wanting to do racial justice work in a superficial way that allows white and white-passing folks to 'do something' without actually making the major shifts required for authentic anti-racism," Rachel Ricketts, a Toronto spiritual wellness author and racial justice educator, said.

  • "I cried out of anger, out of hurt, out of frustration that this is still the country I live in," an anonymous California physician said, recounting the time a patient called her a racial slur in front of a group of her colleagues. "That, despite our 'progress,' at any given time I can be verbally assaulted simply for being Black. I later spoke to my attending physician and requested that I no longer be the medical student who rounds on this patient every morning. While he did reassign me, looking back … that was the very least he could have done. There was no advocacy on my behalf for the trauma I had just experienced."

  • "My biggest challenge has been the exploitation of my work and image," Sara Clark, New York mindfulness and yoga instructor, said. "A very white publication is still circulating photos from a photoshoot I did with them in 2014 to sell a false sense of diversity. Once these companies own your work, they will utilize it for their profit only and for as long as possible."

  • "My teacher (a white man) avoided any conversations about race, explaining that he wanted to 'stay out of politics,'" Chauna Bryant, a Washington, D.C., pilates instructor and breathwork guide, said. "It is impossible to heal and feel supported in a space that will not acknowledge or discuss racism."

  • "There have been many white wellness individuals who reached out after George Floyd was murdered and the protests began — asking for guidance, asking for information on how to be better, do better, change," Los Angeles spiritual guide Aja Daashuur said. "My first response is always: 'Take some time to do your own research, and then we can talk.' I'm not here to be your Black or brown Magic 8 Ball or encyclopedia on the history of systemic racism, but I am open to talking once you have begun diving into your own work."

  • "When we do call out folks for stealing our work, we are given a half-assed apology and folks expect us to just receive it and go on our merry way," Jimanekia Eborn, a Los Angeles trauma specialist and sex educator, said. "No! People have to be held accountable for their actions, especially if they are making money off of our work, our backs, or our likeness."

  • "[T]he most triggering kind of racism has been the silence that I encounter when I highlight an injustice or talk about making wellness more diverse and inclusive," Toronto yoga instructor Rebeckah Price said. "I call it the 'wall of fragility' silence. It's dangerous and makes those who erect it comfortable in their compliance in perpetuating systems of oppression and racism."

  • "I've had a former co-worker suggest that I forget the idea of being a trainer or fitness instructor based on my body type, stating that no one wanted to 'look like a Black girl,'" New York City yoga instructor Tonie Warner said. "I recall the day I went to substitute teach a class at a yoga studio. Upon entering, the teacher who taught before me, having never met me, greeted me with, 'Hi, are you the new cleaning person? The supply closet is in the back.'"

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