Unblocking White Supremacy and Fragility in the Wellness Industry

Maryam Ajayi
Sep 7, 2018 · 9 min read

When most people think of healers in wellness, they probably imagine a brunette white women, with a minimalist aesthetic and well curated brand identity — an industry standard for success. As a dynamic healer of color, who practices Reiki and Breathwork, but also works in Tech and admits to drinking champagne and indulging in tacos, I don’t fit that image. Despite the discrepancy between my identity and that of the majority of healers in this space, I still knew that I belonged in the healing world — and became determined to find my place in it.

It was important to me that I serve as an example for dynamic healers, especially the healers of color who want to walk this path. I am not so egocentric to think I revolutionized the world of healers of color by myself. The path that lead me here hasn’t been easy, it still isn’t, but there are so many women who I adore that came before me in the wellness world such as Latham Thomas, Lalah Delia, Maryam Hasnaa, Erica Chidi Cohen, and Chloe Garcia Ponce to name a few, that showed me it was possible. These women affirmed that I can be my most authentic self, while bringing my unique voice and capabilities to the world, but the market is still saturated with the promotion of white perfectly branded women and it’s my passion to help revolutionize representation of the wellness industry.

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It’s not lost on me that the majority of my teachers to date have been white women, but to their credit, they all have deliberately acknowledged their privilege as a means of trying to ask questions for personal growth and empathy. Not only that, they have supported those who can’t by recognizing the work of Black Lives Matter, acknowledging that ancestral trauma is real, and prompting difficult conversations about cultural appropriation.

Sadly, this sentiment isn’t the industry norm and there have been countless examples of white women remaining uncomfortably silent in moments of difficulty. One of the most egregious examples of this problem today is “Manifestation Advisor” and founder of Free and Native, Lacy Phillips.

We all have to figure out the reason why we were put on earth, and I was able to conclude that I’m here to merge the business and new age worlds in large part because of Lacy’s teachings, which revolve around unblocking parts of your subconscious in order to become free and arrive at your “true native essence.” If you’re a patient or friend of mine, heck maybe maybe even a complete stranger, I have probably brought up this work.

However, I’ve begun to notice her absence in prominent conversations about the state of the world; she’s had nothing to say about the constant atrocities coming out of the Trump administration, in particular what ICE is doing to families at the border, #MeToo, or Black Lives Matter. I’m not alone in this frustration. Jordan Pagán, founder of Ostara Apothecary stated “I’ve waited for Lacy to say something about well, anything.” She continued, “To stay silent or neutral is to choose the side of the oppressor, and also an enormous privilege. She has an enormous platform and it takes two seconds to share a link or repost. Lacy could have really helped and yet chose complicity. There are so many other ‘brands’ out there who are talking about this and doing what they can to help, but not her.” When a “brand” with a cult following like Free and Native, stays silent in this turbulent time, the silence becomes deafening.

As Nisha Moodley said on white female fragility, “One of the great lies I believe white women have historically been sold is the lie of their own fragility & innocence…Just say no…If we don’t, that lie of fragility becomes its own weapon of racism, used consciously & unconsciously. It happens when people of color speak and others shut down, get defensive, or feel bruised or victimized by their truth.”

Lacy’s ability to sit pretty in her complicity has bothered me for some time largely because I saw her as an expander whose work I was heavily invested in. I knew my intuition was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t sure what, but two weeks ago, I began to see why.

There are several Free and Native “villages,” which serve as networks for followers from all over the world. After Lacy interviewed Jenna Zoe on her podcast, Expanded (the episode has now been deleted), some of their comments on feminism not only rubbed members of various villages the wrong way, but also prompted them to start a thread on the Free and Native Facebook page.

The thread took off and Lacy eventually responded two days later by posting a video about how it’s good that people were triggered by what she said and that it’s their shadow. Oh no.

Of course, that backfired and more people got involved in the conversation. She posted another video where she cried and made comments about how she is not racist because she doesn’t see color and has a Persian uncle — oh boy — the “I am not a racist because I have a black friend card” too!

Members started calling her out for these comments, particularly as it relates to her use of the word “native” while refusing to address issues that affect people that are well, native. Instead of addressing the criticism or taking this as an opportunity to grow, Lacy and her team started tone policing, blocking and deleting members from this group.

The moment I was finally waiting for happened and Lacy posted a third video thanking everyone for their comments and asking for resources to help educate herself on white privilege. She might have been ready to learn, but it was clear that some of her white female peers in the wellness industry, were not. For example, Dana Scmalenberg, founder of GEM+REMEDY, jumped in to say that all “this” was not why they were on the page and began instigating arguments with other commenters. This clearly was past the point of being a total shit show — members getting kicked out left and right for trying to engage in intellectual and progressive conversation, as a means of trying to help a woman who was past the point of helping herself.

Maybe I felt inspired by Olivia Pope after six seasons of obsessing over Scandal, but I felt compelled to chime in with the hope of lending assistance to another healer (and a brand) I promote and support in my own life and work. As a healer of color, I felt like I could offer real help to Lacy when she asked for resources. I too, was then blocked. To add insult to injury, I also began to see that majority of other members blocked by Free and Native administrators where women of color.

One thing being a Real Housewives fan and ex politico has taught me is to document everything so you can produce receipts. I saw (and have access to) countless posts from women whose words were eloquent and needed. I saw meaningful conversation and an outpouring of people who wanted to help not just the Free and Native society be better, but society as a whole. But I think Lacy saw something different. Allies defending the women of color being kicked out of the group started to get kicked out as well and a disclaimer was posted to the group about bullying. Enter, gaslighting.

Lacy went silent for a few days and then posted another video. This time, she reset the boundaries of the group — stating that anything outside of talking about manifestation would not be tolerated — no talk about politics or social justice issues. That is her right, it is her brand, so do you boo. But, to call the pain she caused in so many of her followers social justice issues does not come from a place of love.

Lacy Phillips is an example of how the wellness industry parallels just about every other industry in America — from the education system, prison system and health system. These comments perpetuate systemic racism. And at the risk of playing into the “angry black woman” card — I am not here for it.

Lacy, you can block me, but I won’t be silenced.

You are not woke if you do not see color. You are uncomfortable talking about race and that is exactly the problem and the sign that you need to continue to do the work. Your discomfort dealing with topics of white supremacy, white privilege, demonstrated unwillingness to admit fault, and refusal to walk the path of a learner when it comes to this area where you are completely ignorant and actively problematic is dangerous. It is congruent to stating you are perfect and have nothing to learn by refusing to address this obvious shortcoming in yourself and your community.

When you walk the path of a healer, a guru, an advisor, whatever you want to call yourself in the public eye you have great responsibility. We cannot minimize or belittle the pain of others. We can’t refuse to work on our own continued growth. We must be conscious of our influence.

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via @pushingbeauty

As my muse Olivia Pope would say, “Do you want to stand in the sun?” Cause right now you are standing in the greatest shadowy bits of yourself you preach about, my love.

And with that I open my heart to you. I open my guidance and forgiveness. Call me. Let’s talk. I want to help you sort this out. I want you to receive forgiveness from the women of color who you have healed and now retraumatized. But, I know you’re not ready to confront this part of yourself — but I pray in due time that changes for you. I hope you grow to want to stop white supremacy in the wellness industry.

This is not the take down of another woman, this is the take down of a standard. As another Free and Native member stated, “I’m not anti-Free and Native, but I do think that having a community that is conscious is important in this day and age and Lacy Phillips has made it abundantly clear that she is not planning to use her platform to effect change of this sorts.”

I want all of her followers who do care to start reevaluating which healers, gurus, and advisors you currently follow. Where do they stand? How do they use their voices and various platforms to affect the change you want to see in the world? Do you want to support yet another white women build a thriving (and lucrative) space for spiritual communities, but only pushes beauty products on you, while ignoring what is going on in the world around them? A leader who is called out for their lack of diversity and inclusion and not only ignores it — but dismisses it? If yes, then DO YOU. ALWAYS DO YOU.

If you want to help contribute to the collective awakening and build a community of consciousness, put your support behind other brands that actually care.

Most importantly — become your own healer. That means doing what is best for you, without relying on the teachings of Lacy Philips, myself and the millions of teachers out there. Your power to affect change starts with you.

For any healers of color reading this — how can we band together to change the face of “wellness,” so it’s not dominated by brands such as Free and Native? While we’re at it, where are my Queer healers at? Where are my healers with disabilities? Where are my allies? We are all in this together. I want to hear your ideas and start working to making them a reality. If we can’t face and solve for these issues in this particular industry, how can we help heal the world?

My people aren’t free, however we are sure native and with that comes deep pain that is difficult to process. But with that pain also comes the sort of magic that has the capability to change not just an industry, but the whole damn world.

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