Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We are in a season of knowing better.
The death of George Floyd and the aftermath have made it so none of us can turn a blind eye anymore. We have been forced to face racism head on in our society. We have been forced to face racism in our studios.
Shortly after the riots took over the country, I posted a video from my hot car about racism in the fitness industry (and other ways where discrimination in our industry is prevalent) which got a lot of feedback; a lot of it being, “Wow. I had no idea.” I was (very) mad at that response initially and then realized that if you’ve never been affected by it (like having to ride to school across town on public transportation in the middle of a blizzard doesn’t make sense to people born and raised in Alabama), then you have had the privilege to not ever have to consider it. An instructor who looks like the majority of their students never has to consider what it feels like to look around and never see anyone who looks like you. An instructor who has never been told, “Oh, before you teach, I need to tell you that this person doesn’t like Black people,” never has to consider it.
Mere consideration is a privilege.
As a Black woman who teaches Pilates and is often (pretty much always) the minority, I am both horrified and hopeful.
I am horrified that people would believe that because I teach Pilates or live down the street from the Pilates studio that I have not or am not affected by racism. I am horrified to have been told “racism doesn’t exist.” I am horrified that people expect me to talk about feet in straps with a straight face and pretend that it’s “all good” when my heart is broken and I am trying not to cry.
I am hopeful because we now know better. I am hopeful because now that eyes and hearts are open, more effort is being put into making our classes and studios inclusive on purpose. I am hopeful because now that we are aware, we can tear down some of the obstacles that have made Pilates be considered a “practice of the privileged.” We can now see how we can use our time, talents and resources to expand the reach of the thing we say we love so much.
And I say “we” because I am not off the hook because I’m Black. I am more responsible than ever to speak up against exclusion, be willing to disrupt “business as normal” to create more accessibility and step up into places that highlight me as not merely a follower of Pilates but as a leader. It is not my job to educate everyone who comes into the Pilates studio about racism. It is my job to be who I am and show up as such in the places where my color will still cause people to question my qualifications (yeah, I’ve had that happen too). It is my job to be a great Pilates teacher, offer great Pilates experiences and kicked the door off of any part of the Pilates culture that wants me to do otherwise.
It is time that we get as bothered by racism as we do about lack of inner thigh engagement.