Capitalizing on Color

Capitalizing on Color

Christine Ruffolo

 

It’s been about a month since the Embodiment Conference came and went.  Since, there have been many claims and a good amount of evidence that the headpiece to the summit, Mark Walsh, isn’t a great guy.   As someone who spoke at his summit, I’ve been sitting with possible courses of action (which includes whether I should take action at all).  My default is to avoid conflict and direct my attention elsewhere.  I’ll do my good over here and leave this bad over there.  This time, though, my friend was involved.  The gnawing didn’t leave.  I needed my personal relationship with Dare to act as a tipping point.  (That too, I understand, needs further unravelling.)

My privilege to escape and disassociate is attached to my whiteness.  Wanting to do the right thing and being sure what that right thing is is also colored by that whiteness.  Though I don’t share the same ideologies as Mark, I also have a collective platform.  In a twisted tethering, when I look through the contributors on this site, the vast majority are white and all of them have light skin.  (Coincidence?) People who hope to help others start with best of intentions.  The larger the platform the more people you can reach, the more help you can give, and the more good you can do, right?

 

Beyond immediately dismissing, divorcing, and distancing myself from a person and its entity, I wanted to examine what might make us similar.

 

To not become what is hurtful and disliked, I must gain a better understanding of what actions and behaviors cause hurt and dislike.  What is exploitation, and what is promotion?  How does one give everything that made them what they are their just due, and how does one try and lift others up without inadvertently (or intentionally) riding on the backs of their efforts?  Instead of scrutinizing Mark, I chose to put myself on trial, and take a long, hard look at what I am trying to do with the network that is TM.

 

1.  Why are white people represented the most here?

The trainings and systems I have invested in have all been lead by white people.  It is their faces I see circling the work I am interested in, the ones in the audience with me, and the ones who approach me or draw me in to approach them.  While I have admittedly tried several times to specifically diversify my attentions to People of Color, I always ended up seeing them as statements or attempts, that never stuck.  I don’t want anyone to feel like the ‘token’, nor do I want to specifically go after black and brown people, because the motives there feel insincere and more to placate white guilt than to go through the organic process of mutual interest.  Admittedly, I see a lot of me in the people who have ended up here, and likewise they must have seen something in me.  The answer to reaching people is always to go to them.  I must and will get better at peering in (and eventually knocking) at different social spheres.

2.  Why do people say yes to joining?

Big picture, I think I did the same as Mark.  Though I was invited to present out of accident, a kind lady (an associated underling of Mark’s) contacted me and said, “Hey, we’re doing this thing.  A lot of people will be there.  Want in?”  My email was then passed off to a well known movement person who messaged me via facebook with details.  There were numbers and money making proposals.  It would be free to view and pay to watch the recording.  I was told this was how it was done.  The chance to present to a large swath of eyes was exciting.

The vast majority of those that contribute to thinkmovement did so simply because I asked.  I did not have eyes to offer them, but I did offer up the anti-capitalist notion of giving it all away and making everything free — we would be the counter culture to everything we disliked (and was hurtful) about the fitness industry.  There were no quotas, no tit-for-tat arrangements, just be you and submit what you wish when you wish if you wish and I’ll do the rest.  Then I asked folks to get in a room together and we really came to be.  CareLabs have shifted everything I thought I knew about being with and learning from one another.  It feels like friends much more so than affiliates.

3.  What do I gain by investing in this?

People.  People I can talk to and pay attention to and bounce ideas back and forth.  I joke that I think I may have inadvertently created the family I always wanted — supportive but offering as much space as you need.  To have a group that I trust and can have honest conversations with has really blown the doors off to what I thought was possible.  I’ve never been one to admit I need people, but I do, and this path of learning and navigating is certainly better with them.

For the embodiment conference, it was an established audience and the chance to possibly get paid for presenting.  (I did not.) It felt like all honor and no risk.  Plus, I would have another presentation to add to my arsenal of offerings.  It felt electric in my Aunt’s basement. (She had better internet.).  A chance to speak is a chance to be heard, and to be seen and understood is an underlying wish of us all.

4.  How is this more than just a marketing pyramid scheme?

I have to take my hat off to Mark on this one.  Not only did he earn off everyone’s work, he tallied up one heck of an email list.  And then, post conference, he started marketing to the presenters!  How to be a professional leader in your field, with Ethical Marketing as a bonus gift.  I’m not clever enough to be making this up.

When I dreamed up this site, I did acknowledge that people were likely to share the things they were featured in, and that the nature of self-promotion could help grow the audience.  Initial link shares on social media soon dropped off, and rightfully so, because people had their own seminars and classes and workshops — the things that fed them and paid their bills — to publicize.  The thing is, we’re all fine with it.  Our network isn’t built on shares… I’ll take the few dozen or so relationships that have formed over clicks and likes any day.

5.  How can a series of checks and balances be created and/or sustained?

Having no money involved or exchanged certainly helps weed out the malaligned.  When there is no compensation for your effort, you have every right to step back or out as you feel called to do.  Relationships are about letting people go and welcoming them back should they be ready to return.  There is no regret or remorse, and when things feel particularly distant occasional ‘hey’s are sent in both directions.   I can only hope that should I wrong anyone they would feel free enough to call me out on it, either publicly or privately.  Furthermore, should we misstep or be headed in the wrong direction, I would hope that could be brought up and talked about too.

I’m not sure how to go about setting this up foundationally, aside from sending out feelers to the group before any big turns or ideas become actualized.  I think it would be interesting to have a member of the group or public take the keys for a spell and direct in the way they think it should go, but we’re still a ways out on making that a wanted reality.  Impact is not the same as intent.  If I am impacting primarily white faces with this work, as the data points to, I am leaving out a huge swath of wisdom, truth, and experience.  I am failing at my objective to make this an inclusive space, welcoming to all, and like any gaffe, need to acknowledge it and find a better way.

I’m not sure Mark is the type to ask for advice, but I think any leader always has the choice of whom to listen to.  Those who are marginalized or left out can efficiently and effectively lead you toward a fuller understanding of objective reality, a skill and perspective vital to those who seek to steer others.  They are the voices you should most heed and pay attention to, not to rebuke and rebuttle, but to hold witness of your true reflection (and where the boat indeed lies).  A refusal to do this emphasizes that you are exactly what you were pointed out to be — the antithesis of embodiment.

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