A Call for Inclusion: I’m speaking to you white speakers, coaches and spiritual teachers

If you are in the spiritual, wellness and entrepreneurial arenas, I’m calling on you! Will you create change?

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice, and I’m sure you don’t live under a rock, but speaker lineups in Australia in the spiritual, wellness and entrepreneurial spaces are not diverse. They’re also not very diverse in other western countries either, but because I’m Australian I want to address the elephant in the room locally.

I have posted several times on my social media about lack of diversity, more pointedly — lack of inclusion — in spiritual, wellness and entrepreneurial spaces. I have shared my opinions about magazine covers and morning show TV panels but there’s something closer to home and in the spaces I’m in that I hope to create and encourage a movement on and that’s true inclusion.

I am annoyed that I have to address this IN 2018 — the glaringly obvious absence of women of colour, women with different body types, LGBTQIA people and people with disability in Australian spiritual / wellness / entrepreneurship. Strangely enough, it’s not because we don’t exist, we do.

“White women have been and continue to be viewed as the ‘norm’ the ‘experts’ and gurus and thought leaders on all things female and feminist, yet they cannot and often do not intentionally include women of color into their thoughts, visions, mission, programs and events. Yet many will say they stand for, advocate for, and empower ALL women. Pay attention to who is on the platforms for women, what they are speaking about and who they are speaking for.” -
Catrice M. Jackson, Antagonists, Advocates & Allies.

I think white people have gotten so used to seeing themselves everywhere and anywhere, that the only time a white, able bodied cis-gendered Australian feels ‘other’ is if they are having yum cha and they’re one of the minority (true story!). This absence and lack of trying to create lineups that are representative is daringly inadequate given the multicultural society we live in and this is worn like a badge of honour. It is sheer ignorance to continue this behaviour and this choice. I seriously mean that about the badge of honour and I am deadly serious about the ignorant part as well. Australians always go on & on about how diverse and international our country is, how lucky we are yet, when it comes to spirituality, wellness and entrepreneurship, representation is disappointingly insufficient, substandard and pathetic and the people who are not making representation a key value, are letting us all down and they need to be called out TODAY.

“The next time (and every time after) you go to a meeting, an event, a conference or any gathering, notice who is NOT there. If you don’t see large amounts of women (people) of color, there is a problem. There is a racism problem. There is a revolving door set on high speed. If you truly want women of color in your space, it’s up to you to get them there. And before you do, make sure the environment is ready to receive, support and empower them; otherwise you will set them up for survival and failure. The environment must be anti-racist.”
- Catrice M. Jackson, White Spaces Missing Faces

I have written how difficult it is to have lived just over 4 decades in this country where I was born and raised, looking my whole life for representation and faces like mine and different (but not white) beyond SBS and ABC TV. Don’t even *think* about mentioning the token Asian characters that Neighbours have included over the years.

It is painful to not be seen or valued and you will only ever understand that if you are a biracial, mixed race, Indigenous, black, brown, disabled, LGBQTIA or have a larger than average body. We are the butt of jokes, stereotypes, tokenised. In some cases, sexualised. It has gone beyond a joke as I scroll through my Facebook feed to see the latest speaker or conference lineups and I roll my eyes wondering how blinkered conference organisers are to their whitewashing. Or is this deliberate? I have to ask because we have gone on like this for decades and I call bullshit.

If your speaker / teaching / summit lineups are same old, same old, what kind of quality, diverse storytelling & perspectives and opportunity to hear different stories are you starving and preventing your audiences of learning from?

How valuable is the teaching to those in your audience who aren’t represented?

What does it say about you that you, the event organiser accepts money from all of us, but you don’t include any of us? And if you’ve included one person as described above, just one time, that doesn’t mean you are an agent of change or a champion either. No pats on the back, yet. No cookies for you.

Let me get back to the reason for this post. Inclusion Rider. If you watched the Oscars you will have seen Academy Award Winner Frances McDormand say the words ‘inclusion rider’ at the end of her speech. If you didn’t, I strongly recommend you learn more about what this means and why it is SO very relevant to the industries we are in. Since I saw the speech I have been mulling over how inclusion rider can be adopted in other industries, namely the communities I’m part of or should I say, the communities I think I’m part of but never truly included in.

I’ve mulled over how after 6 years of Gutsy Girl and 3 years of speaking and teaching I’ve received one unpaid invitation and just 2 paid invitations to teach? I’ve hosted and taught over 30 circles and workshops myself. It has been the only way that I have been able to hone my skills and do what I love. I’ve had to create that space for myself. It shouldn’t be the only way and it shouldn’t be so hard for some of us. I’ve mulled over how event organisers can learn from this and be inclusive without tokenising the people who aren’t properly represented at the moment. But the time for thinking is over and it’s time to do something!

This post is a calling in of every speaker, coach, teacher and facilitator who has countless opportunities and invitations every year to speak and teach at an event, both in person and online and paid. I am asking you to change the system. I am asking you to be supportive and to extend your hand to the rest of the sisterhood to make the lineups you are in, inclusive.

This is not the time to be silent, or pretend that I’m not talking about you or speaking to you, because it is you I am asking to do the legwork and create change. Because up to now, I don’t see you doing much of anything that would have us women of colour, diverse bodies, disabled, LGBTQIA spiritual teachers, coaches and biz owners rise with you.

Do you know of a time when white women collectively risked their lives to save the lives of black and brown women, a time when they sacrificed their collective time, money, resources, and energy to fight the system that oppressed women of color?
Nah! There is no such time. Not even today.
- Catrice M. Jackson, The Becky Code

It’s time to get on board or get left behind because in the inclusive communities I am in, we won’t settle for basic reparations or minor efforts. We will liberate ourselves anyway, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could do something too? Wouldn’t it be nice if you reached out and formed connections and built relationships with us, the people you have left out? Because I can tell you, I find it difficult to consider approaching you myself. Because you haven’t done what I had hoped after all these years.

I need to see it through your actions that you are prepared to do what it takes and that means, offering the olive branch. I need to see that you will do more than just share your mates stories and prop them up every time you run an event. I want to see you confess to your ignorant colour blindness. I want to see an apology for why you have excluded us. I want to see you signing up to programs on social justice run by people of colour. I want to see you sharing our work and paying us for the work we do, not asking for free labour. I want to see you writing about what you discover about yourself and tell your skin kin that they too, must be all in. I want to see real change and for you to show me how you are inclusive. I want to see you creating events with storytellers and speakers with diverse bodies and backgrounds. I know I won’t see this overnight, and you probably should know that you can’t jump on the social justice bandwagon of allyship unless you have put in significant time and effort in. I don’t want to see you creating leadership programs on activism when the true leaders in this arena have been doing this work for a long time already. I don’t want to see your next speaker lineup, awash with white. Don’t make the mistake that has been made over and over again. Don’t be a case study on what not to do.

Begin your deep dive with the Reading and Resources for Activists list featuring numerous articles, programs, books and more to get you started.

Take action soon, or be left behind. The revolution began long ago and it will surpass and outlive you.

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