Is your Spirituality Intersectional?


by: Toshia Shaw
Originally posted here 

This past weekend I spent some lovely time in Sedona, Arizona…well Cornville, Arizona to be exact. I had the pleasure of leading a workshop during a spiritually infused, women’s retreat. I arrived early, and when the other women arrived I quickly realized I was the only woman of color (WOC) among them. Usually this would make a person feel uncomfortable; but I’m used to being the only WOC in my professional circles. However, when it comes to spirituality I have to ask is it intersectional?

I hear a lot about intersectionality these days; especially when it comes to feminism. Which is what I’m all about. Being a WOC on the front lines of fighting violence against women and girls I’ve learned what it’s like to not have your rights be intersectional. But I digress, that’s another post for another day.

I’m a Reiki Master, and Intuitive Energy Healer. The spirituality circle in Las Vegas, Nevada where I live isn’t that big and the people that are in it really don’t look like me. Let’s take for instance the Hay House writer’s convention that I attended a month ago in my hometown; the amount of people of color who attended could be counted on one hand. I prepped myself beforehand by scouring their website in hopes to find one face that resembled mine, but I came up short. I have always been different growing up. My first best friend was white in elementary school, so color didn’t really bother me. However, when my family moved to Memphis, Tennessee all of that changed. I learned pretty early about separatism and staying with my “own kind.” So I went with the flow all throughout middle and high school. Once I became a young adult and entered into the military I made friends with the girls that I had things in common with regardless of their color. The few times I returned home on military leave with these friends we damn near got ran out of town. We would go out at night and there was nonstop hate from both races, black and white. I learned to hide dating non black men in the South. When I moved briefly to Atlanta, Georgia and dated outside of my race I got accused of being a traitor to black men, and questioned by my peers. Even worst, when I moved back to Memphis, Tennessee and performed spoken word poetry on the circuit, my non black friends would show up and I caught the brunt of it. Again, I had to accept that there would be people who didn’t approve of my race-mixing so I did the one thing that made since, I stopped giving a f—.

Fast forward to adulthood and my decision to honor my spirit by embracing spirituality and letting go of religion. I am once again the “token” black girl amongst the scene. When I attend a reiki circle, or meditation class I still look for a face that resembles mine, and I usually come up short. Let’s go back to the Hay House writer’s convention, where are the POC authors who were published? When I ask people their thoughts on this they meet me with, “Well, There aren’t many POC who are into that sort of thing.” What? That couldn’t be further from the truth! My social media is filled with spiritual people who are into “that sort of thing.” But where is the representation? As a hopeful Hay House author do I even have a chance? Will my color stop me before my first paragraph is finished? At the writer’s convention many people had a standoffish disposition and downright outwardly racist behavior. Really? I thought it was a writers conference for spiritually minded people? Umm, that isn’t very spiritual now is it? New Age spirituality just like religion has a racist divide. It amazes me that the people who are writing books, manuals, and how-to’s about being at peace, do no harm, and unconditional love are not referring to my spirit, only that of someone who looks like theirs.

Now back to this spiritual retreat that I attended. We went to a sweat lodge being held by an indigenous man who is held in high regard in Sedona, AZ. He is warm and inviting, as it is being held at his home. The participants seem to be taken aback that I’m there. One man in particular wanted to know who I was and where I came from. Undoubtedly, feeling as if their sacred spiritual ritual had been encroached upon. I find it comical that these hippy people are fawning at the host, and another indigenous man’s feet who is an elder held in high regard. The white people are singing the words to this Indian song louder than the Indians themselves, saying the salutations and of course keeping a close eye on me. They were curious, “Will she be able to stick this out?” Well, I stayed for one round of sweating before caving to cooler air, and the chance to move my legs without other sticky sweaty bodies being on them. I watched them watching me. What is it with white people that when they become uncomfortable around POC the first thing they reach for is an off color (see what I did there?) joke? I always handle the jokes with ease since I try to live a life based from spirit and not ego. I don’t allow their being uncomfortable to become about me, because its not. So their joke is left flat with me staring into their cold eyes with a knowing. My knowingness meets their ego. Which has to do less about my skin color and more about their lack of spiritual discipline.

What makes white people feel comfortable following the Dali Lama around, or sign up for the next Deepak Chopra meditation event with Oprah? These are people of color. How is it okay for them to convert to Sikhism, a monotheistic religion founded in Punjab in the 15th century by Guru Nanak, but look up side the head of a black Sikh? Why is it okay for spirituality and non-traditional religion to be intersectional when it involves them but not black people? Non POC should be comfortable sharing a crystal, meditating on the same mat, and facing downward dog in the yoga studio.

Just where does this superiority come from in spirituality? Do I even care? Not really. To be blatantly honest, this past weekend was beautiful. The participants were amazing, and after my workshop on forgiving our past we all formed some new friendships. This is because while there is a such thing as white privilege, many women regardless of color suffer in some of the same ways. We all recognized this by day two.

So if you are “spiritual,” I suggest that you check your ego. Especially, since it has no place in spirituality. Not if you are truly about that life. Because, my spirit can’t wait around to see if white folks are going to accept it. I really don’t care about the color of Archangel Michael, and I darned sure don’t give a rat’s ass if they believe in the validity of my mediumship.

When it comes to spirituality I’m going in with no expectations, or ego. When I am met with others ego it will get checked. I am in my 40’s and I really don’t have time to waste with other people’s problems when it comes to race. If you are a black person and you are spiritual do not hold back, don’t allow other people’s closed mindedness to stop you from attending events that will enrich your spirit. If you are white, is your spirituality intersectional? Are you checking your ego when it comes to race? Are you loving unconditionally regardless of color? What’s your disposition like? Is your vibration the same with POC as it is with your own race? Just some questions to consider.

Love & Light,
Toshia Shaw