You've been accused of cultural appropriation in your spiritual, wellness, or coaching business.
You have nothing but good intentions.
You don't know why people are being so mean about it.
Everything you try to do seems to make it worse.
And you're not sure what to do next.
Your reaction is normal.
Notice how you are feeling, notice where those feelings are in your body.
If you feel afraid, ashamed, angry, defensive, righteous....
If your skin feels hot.
If your blood pressure has risen.
If you are breathing fast and shallow.
Just notice everything that's happening in your body. Notice the thoughts that are repeating in your mind. Notice your reaction.
You need to give yourself space for this, or else you'll react from your reaction and that will make everything worse.
You're a wellness practitioner or a coach. You have tools. Use them.
What do you need to do, to soothe yourself and come back to center?
Do it now.
You need to be grounded, centred, and able to listen to perspectives that are vastly different than yours.
You need to open your heart wide enough to see the pain you've caused.
At this point, you probably still want to focus on explaining your good intentions.
I promise - this is NOT the time to explain your good intentions. Trying to do that WILL make this worse for you.
You have an opportunity here.
This situation can help you grow and learn how to become an ally to the people you respect enough to honour their traditions or practices in the way you are doing.
I understand - you had good intentions, you meant to honour, but people are saying you are NOT honouring, you are appropriating.
This is an opportunity for you to learn what it would look like to ACTUALLY honour, in a way that those you are honouring FEEL honoured.
The temptation for most healers/guides/coaches at this point is to go into spiritual bypass.
I promise you, your answer is here on earth. Stay with us.
DO NOT speak of "one race" or unity or anything along those lines.
The fact is, the people you have been accused of appropriating from have a VASTLY different life experience than you have because white people are treated differently in the world. Calls for unity erase these realities, erase the pain and suffering and oppression of racism.
Which means: ANYTHING you say calling for unity is actually violent. It's a dismissal of other people's pain. A refusal to acknowledge the reality of what systemic racism does to people.
And, to the people who experience that pain every day, it really makes you look like a clueless ass.
This morning, I had an email from one of my students saying "Hey thanks for those new videos you posted yesterday, I am finding them helpful! But I think you uploaded the 7th one twice, so the 8th one is actually missing."
It's true. I made a mistake. I somehow ended up with 2 copies of the 7th video and named them 7 and 8, and then uploaded them that way, and now this person is watching the same video twice.
I said "Thanks for letting me know! You're right, video 8 IS just a copy of video 7! I have fixed it. You can watch the real video 8 now, here it is."
If this person had mentioned in their email that not being able to see video 8 right way had caused pain in any way, of course I would have added an apology and asked what I could do, besides uploading the correct video, to make amends.
We all mess up sometimes. Then we apologize and make amends.
It was easy for me to quickly make amends in the case of the missing 8th video because I didn't have any kind of emotional reaction to what I was accused of.
I didn't waste any time in "HOW FUCKING DARE YOU? I DID NOT UPLOAD THE SAME VIDEO TWICE!!!!!"
I didn't feel attacked, and then react from that feeling and set out to attack my accuser.
No drama was created.
When you've been accused of cultural appropriation online I know it FEELS like something different. It FEELS like being ganged up on and "cancelled".
But really, it's just people letting you know that you made a mistake and your actions are actually doing harm.
Continue to notice if you feel charged, and do your work to calm yourself.
White people respond is VERY similar ways to accusations of cultural appropriation and racism. (You can google it, it's called White Fragility and I promise, everything you want to say to your online accusers is covered there in the descriptions of white fragility responses.)
This is because our nervous systems get activated.
We feel attacked.
And we attack back.
In the Live Your Best Life Industry, we tend to attack back with spiritual by-pass - all the unity talk and accusing your accusers of "being triggered" and "needing healing" and "I'll pray for you" while placing yourself on some kind of spiritual by-pass pedestal where actually you did nothing wrong.
Accept that you made a mistake.
Cultural appropriation contribues to systemic oppression.
This is because cultural appropriation is NOT just about you honouring or being inspired by a thing from another culture and then taking it and using it in your business.
Cultural appropriation happens within colonial systems that oppress the Indigenous population while supporting the non-Indigenous population.
For example, in Canada and the USA traditional Indigenous spiritual practices were made illegal, as a part of the process of colonization. Those who continued, had to do so at great cost to themselves. Even today, the path of a traditional medicine person is about a million times more difficult than the path of a white online coach or healer.
While those laws are no longer in effect, their effects are still very much in effect.
For non-Indigenous people to come along, and do nothing to help Indigenous people mitigate those effects, and just take the spiritual practices and sell them themselves...
Are you seeing it now?
There is no such thing as Cultural Appreciation. The opposite of cultural appropriation is COLLABORATION.
In this industry, most forms of cultural appropriation are about profiting from the theft and colonization of Indigenous practices.
This is particularly hurtful because the Indigenous groups where the practices come from are still living under the oppression of colonization.
Journal prompts for when you've been accused of cultural appropriation:
Continue to do your work to calm your nervous system, not get emotionally reactive, and consider each of these questions with an open mind:
What is your relationship with the culture you are taking this thing from?
How would it feel to speak, face to face, to a person from this culture, and explain why you are selling this thing? Do you believe that they have had the same privileges in life that would allow them to sell this thing as easily as you can? If they are not making money from this but you are, what would you tell them about why that is?
If this person historically lived on the lands that you now occupy, what do you know about how this land came to be yours? What do you know of how this has impacted the original inhabitants who are still here?
Do you understand the full history of the thing you've taken? How was it originally used? What was the culture around it? How is your culture different?
How are you participating in the healing, decolonization, empowerment, and liberation of the culture you are taking this thing from?
Does the way you are offering this thing contribute anything to the people that you took it from?
Continue to do your work to calm your nervous system and read everything that's been said to you. Where did you make a mistake? Of course you had good intentions, but as you read what's been said to you, are you truly understanding the IMPACT of your actions?
If you want to be spiritual about it: this situation IS happening for a reason.
That reason is to contribute to YOU waking up.
Instead of culturally appropriating - you could be COLLABORATING.
And using your good intentions to make amends and build bridges.
This is a part of the work that builds a better world.
I know you do the work you do because you believe in a better world.
And I hope you trust me when I say: the places where you are culturally appropriating are your blind spots and they're stopping you from being an effective helper in creating a better world.
As white people growing up in white supremacy, we're all hooked into it's power.
Un-hooking is the REAL waking up.
This accusation is your opportunity to begin. I hope you take it.