Controlling the Controllable: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
If you look all around our world right now, we see a lot of talk around anti-racism initiatives and how Black Lives Matter at a time when they should have always mattered. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are topics on the tongues of so many folks in this space. Many humans, like myself, are calling for freedom for ALL [marginalized] humans in our country. I can see it now; your head is spinning, and you’re wondering, “How does this all fit in with me?” I’ll try to shed some light on that for you with one essential component of focus to keep this very concise: control the controllable – this means YOU.
Believe it or not, it’s true.
Yep. Racism is real. We have to start here. I can only help speak the truth to you if you can let this realization soak in. Marginalized folks, a.k.a. black and brown folks are and always have been suppressed in our country since the beginning. Our country’s founders utilized classism as a means to use free labor from fellow humans, prioritizing the whiteness of their skin as a means to tie folks to bondage. As a result, slavery happened. I am a descendent of that institution.
Wait, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Katrina, and I’ll be your imperfect inclusivity guide as we increase our knowledge of social justice work in the wellness space and begin the self-work to love fellow humans empathetically.
On “paper,” I am a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, Youth Exercise Specialist, Women’s Fitness Specialist, Nutrition Coach, AFAA Group Fitness Instructor, and Wellness Educating also studying to complete my Master of Science degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion (Nutrition). I am a content creator and host of the “We Speak” series on the NASM/AFAA social media, channels leading community and culture for certified professionals in community groups.
I come from the world of working in a corporate setting for 15 years before getting into the fitness industry. In that experience, I was able to work with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion amongst working professionals in my management capacity. When offered the opportunity to delve into that work, I knew I wanted to contribute to humans fitting into the world with more belonging in any capacity possible. Why? Because I’d lived the opposite of that life all of my life.
I am the first-generation product of a Chinese immigrant (my mother) and the fourth-generation product of enslaved roots. My great-great-grandfather on my father’s side was our last known enslaved ancestor, who was owned by a white family in the south. This ascendance means that my given last name (I’m married now, so I go by my husband’s last name) was that of the white family who owned my great-great-grandfather. I have no known roots to where my Black family came from in Africa. All I know is that I did ‘23 & Me’ and that half of my genetic makeup is from the Ghana region of West Africa. Most African Americans and Black Americans in the United States have stories no different than mine.
You’re here reading this piece, friend, and I appreciate your willingness to “listen.” You can control you, boo. Let’s start there. You can start by thinking to yourself, “Fellow humans in this country had their freedoms taken from them, and there’s not been a solid resolution for all of the wrongs for these times in history – let me do what I CAN DO.” That’s it.
Everyone has a different mode of taking a stand for this virus called racism. Some choose to protest, online, and offline. Some decide to educate (like myself) and share stories so that voices of marginalization amplify above the noise of the world that tries to keep them quiet. Other folks can choose to educate themselves to ensure their actions are the opposite of so many in the past… to create a future is one that encompasses hope and a different path for our human race.
Taking the time to read this post means that you want to do SOMETHING. That, in and of itself, goes against everything that we see in mass media and our past. Revolting against complacency is admirable.
Diversity: Embracing a variety of folks.
Who is in your circle of support or influence? No, really. Let’s list them out. Here’s where we dive in – face first. The only real way to gain knowledge is through experience, Albert Einstein said. So, we must share our experiences with those most different from us to truly embrace diversity. Diversity means that there are all varietals of humans represented within a given space. This can be in a workplace, community, friend circle – any circle of people. Listing out your community doesn’t mean that you’re not a diverse person per se; it merely shows you where your holes are and where you may need some more variety in folks that influence you. Your thoughts, opinions, and actions are controlled only by YOU; they’re also influenced by those closest to you.
Equity: Leveling the playing field.
So, if racism is real and we aren’t as diverse of a world as we hope we’d be, it’s only logical that the playing field isn’t even. Not in the least bit. Remember, black and brown folks have been repressed since the dawn of our country’s creation. We have to, as a society, look at that and realize just how impactful that uneven balance in humility has played out in workplaces and communities. If black and brown humans aren’t able to access a fitness space, for example, is there any wonder why there may be higher health risks and issues in any given community where they live?
As a personal trainer and wellness coach, I’ve had to learn to understand that I can’t drive my business solely based on making a buck. We all need to make a living, yes, but we can all do the right thing and look to serve folks around us as best we can. Adjusting pricing to allow flexibility and reaching into communities that we may not otherwise serve are two ways to do just that. Donation-only classes, donation-optionable workshops, scholarships to have members help other humans access wellness are unique new ways I’ve seen fellow humans step up and look to seek more equitable solutions in their work.
Inclusion: Ensuring a sense of belonging.
As humans, we just desire to be loved and to belong. When we don’t, we spur to anger from misunderstanding. I come from the experience of NOT belonging to most of my life. Remember when I said that my mother is Chinese, and my father is Black? I grew up in a community where I was “the only” besides my sibling. We didn’t know we were “different” until everyone around us made us feel that way. We were ostracized for not being just like everyone else, when [essentially] we naturally belonged if it were not for our racist and classist society.
Conquering our internal biases allows us to get away from societal and social “norms” that have been driven into our heads to classify fellow humans. Differences are to make us each unique and beautiful and to give us ways to learn about one another; they’re to divide us or make us judge one another based on them.
How can we create environments that foster belonging? We can make sure all individuals are welcome, no matter their shape, shade, and size. We can make fitness and wellness spaces less about performative goals and milestones and more about unification and community wholeness. We can look out for one another and take time to empathize with others around us genuinely.
The moral of the story:
I’ll let Maya Angelou have credit for this part of this piece –
“Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.”
… yes, it’s that easy.