Reconciling Large Scale Racial and Social Injustice with My Career Choices
In the last few years, I've grown more and more frustrated with what's happening politically and socially in the United States. I'm horrified by the perpetual violence against African Americans, I'm deeply disturbed by the current situation with immigrants in Texas, and I'm even more distressed by the fact that most of the people in the professions that I work in (myself included) don't have to notice, care, or be involved in any of these issues. Let me unpack that a little.
I am a white, heterosexual, middle class white woman that plays classical music and teaches yoga and pilates. If that isn't a magical combination of white privilege, I don't know what is. Yes, I've been sexually and physically assaulted before, and yes that was horrible, but overall, I operate in circles with privileged audience members who can afford classical music concerts, and with clients that can afford personal training. Studying classical music is a fantastic thing, but it tends to be the study and performance of deceased white male composers, for a high paying, affluent, often aging white audience. I love music and performing, but it upsets me that it only connects with a fraction of the world. Pursuing classical music as a career is prohibitively expensive and not particularly well paying- most of us spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in school tuition, then invest another $20,000-50,000 on instruments and auditions, to win a job that will not pay back any of those debts particularly quickly. Financial struggle in classical music is a very present reality for many people. The mental bandwidth for other people's social and racial justice issues is minimal when you're struggling to financially function.
In the last presidential election, a few of my white, male classical musician friends did not vote, as they felt that their vote didn't matter. Aside from doubting the efficacy and veracity of our elections, their inaction is white privilege- their lives aren't endangered on a daily basis, they aren't worried about being pulled over and shot by a policeman, and they can comfortably live in their bubble without many consequences. Many of the musicians I've worked with are not involved in social or political issues, which is not to say they don't care, but that they don't have to care. They have the luxury of ignoring these issues because their lives and their families' lives are not directly impacted.
I love teaching yoga and pilates, but teaching boutique fitness is also a very privileged career. A pilates apparatus class or private is prohibitively expensive for many people, and yoga studios and gyms are in affluent neighborhoods or cater to a specific demographic. I don't know how to reconcile these issues in an easy way. I believe these movement practices to be potent and profound for everyone, but I also know that in most of my teacher trainings, there have been few, if any, minorities. Most of my private clients have been white women, although group yoga classes have been considerably more diverse than pilates classes. I love writing and maintaining my blog, but I also feel like a horrible person for wanting to write about shoulders and movement when yet another innocent black woman has recently been murdered or that hundreds of immigrants are still separated from their children.
Basically, both of the careers that I love come from a place of privilege and elitism and it breaks my heart. I don't know what the solution is for me, and I don't know how to reconcile these issues within these professions. I see some people doing great work in other communities and I try to support them as best I can, and I keep brainstorming about how to move forward, knowing that I need to make a living as a human being, that I love teaching movement, that I love performing, but that something needs to change on a large scale in both of these fields, and in our country at large.