Being Black and staying in one piece emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically is an everyday challenge. The microaggressions (small paper cuts) are there every day, and some days it just gets really loud.
Often, I’d have new clients that love me on the phone… and then they’d walk into my studio, and everything changes. They’d go from saying things on the phone like “I feel so honored” to get an evaluation spot with me for a first visit, they’d ooh and ah about “how much knowledge [I] have about the body,” or tell me that their “doctor is so thrilled” that I have time on my schedule… to completely dismissing me, walking right past me, and trying to talk to my (white) receptionist instead, even after everyone in the studio has repeatedly pointed to me as “Tonya.”
They’d cross their arms over their chest and start to interrogate me about my “qualifications” (remember, this is after ooh-ing and ah-ing for a half-hour on the phone) or they’d give me the shocked look with “Ohhh, you don’t look anything like I thought you’d look…” This happens all of the time.
Visiting other studios is also really stressful because I never know how I’m going to be treated. Will I be greeted with a fake smile, a frown, a scowl, someone wondering if I’m lost, or with other clients instantly moving their purses or looking me up and down because I’m not wearing expensive made-in-sweat-shop clothing? Will I be told that the classes are “very expensive”, or told that the classes are probably “too hard” for me so I may want to take something else? Or in class, will I be loudly told by a teacher (that doesn’t understand diverse anatomy) that I’m lordotic when I actually have a pretty flat lumbar, but rather a happy sacral alignment that creates a beautifully round butt (like my entire ancestral line) that looks great in jeans.
Or will I again be physically manhandled in a class by a teacher that is treating (only) me with disdain and saying biomechanically incorrect, snide remarks? Or will they again stop the entire class to have everyone look at me and laugh at my “badly misaligned” spine? Yes, this has all happened multiple times. Hint to Pilates teachers that don’t have a good handle on anatomy: my butt is round, my spine is not misaligned, and I will never find neutral making that damn triangle while lying supine with hands on the pubic bone. So, I’m not sure I’ve “overcome” anything. I just avoid taking Pilates in studios unless I’m in the mood to be subtly or non-subtly insulted.
My inspiration comes from my amazing family and ancestors. My ancestors were strong and resilient. They fought, created, and survived against all odds. My family is part of that great legacy, and I take my place in this lineage seriously. My dad always says that “each generation has to be better than the one before,” that we all have to keep pushing forward. I’m standing on my ancestors’ shoulders, and it’s my job to take these blessings and push them forward for the next generations.
Part 4 COMING SOON.