A Privileged White Yoga Teacher Contemplates Juneteenth

Juneteenth

Juneteenth isn’t really my holiday to celebrate.

I have never been enslaved, nor were my ancestors. 

 I can go where I want, do what I want, and be who I am. 

Nobody discourages me or makes me feel uncomfortable. 

That’s because I have white privilege. 

 I have no direct experience of prejudice, or of being treated warily, or skeptically, or suspiciously. 

When a cop pulls me over I am not harassed. 

Nobody watches me like a hawk as I roam the aisles of 7-Eleven. 

Quite the opposite. The cop gives me a warning. People offer to help me. 

If I were a black woman, that would not be the case. 

And if I were a black man it would be even more not the case.

So who am I to celebrate Juneteenth?

As a person who practices yoga, if there is anything I am trying to realize as a result of the practice, it’s that there really isn’t any difference between you and me.

We’re fundamentally the same.

It’s hard for me to access this perspective most of the time because I’m so distracted by all the social and economic mayhem I have to negotiate every day. 

The only place I can manage to get to that perspective is on my yoga mat.

When I take regular scheduled breaks from social and economic reality and close my eyes and just concentrate on breathing, and stretching, and paying attention to the floor and the walls and how much space I take up and how much energy it takes to move through gravity, I can access that vantage point. I can see from this perspective that you and I are the same.

I know from this place that when you are enslaved, I am enslaved, and when you are set free, I am set free. 

It’s from this yoga-induced space that I know we both feel pain and we’re both going to die and for that last reason alone, we need to celebrate every and all wins.

And Juneteenth was a definite win. For both of us. As humans.

It must have been such a rush to have somebody ride into Galveston, Texas, and announce to the slaves that they were free. 

I can’t even imagine it.

My only experience with not being free is when I was imprisoned in my home during the pandemic. 

 For over a year I couldn’t just blithely walk out the door without doing a lot of risk assessment. 

Walking the dog? Low risk. 

Shopping for groceries? Alarms got triggered.

I felt something I was entitled to, that was mine by virtue of just being born, of just being a human being, had been taken away.

I don’t think I could have adapted to that kind of confinement in the long term.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to. I got my freedom back in a year and a half.

So now I think to myself: If I went crazy not being free for a mere year and a half, how do people do it who have to make risk assessments every single day for ordinary activities like walking a city street, or shopping at a Walmart? How do they manage to put up with this for their whole lives?

I can’t even.

So, as a privileged white woman who has never experienced not being free, maybe Juneteenth isn’t my day to celebrate as much as it is my day to honor

Juneteenth honors everyone’s right to be free. And when you’re free, I’m free. 

And when we’re both free we can meet, and connect, out here, in this warm Juneteenth sunshine, both of us living our free lives, as we were always meant to be.

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