If you're white and you practice yoga, you're probably a racist. Well, okay, you might not consciously be a racist, but you are contributing to "white supremacy," argues a Michigan State University professor. Also, there's a serious "yoga industrial complex" that must be addressed.
In a co-authored article titled "Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation," Religious Studies Professor Shreena Gandhi claims that “yoga practice in the United States is intimately linked to some of the larger forces of white supremacy" and is “tied up with colonialism.”
The piece was coauthored by "anti-racist white Jewish organizer, facilitator, and healer" Lillie Wolff.
Lamenting our current "consumerist age," the women argue that the economic benefits of businesses surrounding all-things-yoga come with a steep price of black exploitation and offensive cultural appropriation.
"Yoga contributes to our economic system, but never forget this system is one built upon exploitation and commodification of labor, often the labor of black people and people of the global south," says the piece.
"Yoga, like so many other colonized systems of practice and knowledge, did not appear in the American spiritual landscape by coincidence; rather, its popularity was a direct consequence of a larger system of cultural appropriation that capitalism engenders and reifies," they continued. "While the (mis)appropriation of yoga may not be a life-threatening racism, it is a part of systemic racism nonetheless, and it is important to ask, what are the impetuses for this cultural 'grabbing'?"
And about that flourishing "yoga industrial complex":
"This complex socio-political reality of the U.S. is key to understanding how the cultural void of white society is intimately mixed with white supremacy, capitalism, and globalization; and it is within these oppressive structures that cultural appropriation and the yoga industrial complex flourishes," say Gandhi and Wolff.
"Few white people make the connection between their attraction to yoga and the cultural loss their ancestors and relatives experienced when they bought into white dominant culture in order to access resources. Many Europeans did not fully grasp what they were giving up and what they were investing in, yet many did, and most who arrived on these shores chose to stay here rather than return to their home country. Few white people make the connection between their love of yoga and their desire and ability to access traditions from historically oppressed communities of color," they add.
According to The College Fix, the professor's post was published on the online resource center called Praxis Center. "The website appears maintained by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at the Michigan-based Kalamazoo College."