With the Black Lives Matter movement marking the onset of change across the US last year, many have been striving to keep the momentum going in their personal lives, businesses, and communities. Of course, many aspects of society are still a work in progress. Even in the field of wellness, there is an existing disparity in physical activity access across different groups. The Global Wellness Institute explains the issue of elitism and lack of inclusivity as a recurring problem of a wellness market pitched too narrowly to wealthy white individuals. Diversity and inclusion matter in every facet of life, but even more so in the wellness space, because it is something that is truly important for everyone.
The Beauty and Importance of Diversity
Diversity and inclusivity are words sometimes easily thrown around without people knowing the difference, especially when applied to real life. The FSU Diversity Office defines it as the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, religion, among many others. Inclusion, on the other hand, is involvement and empowerment, recognizing everyone’s inherent worth and dignity.
Only having diversity as a goal can be harmful to BIPOC—treating different kinds of people like a checklist to tick off is a form of tokenism and performative activism. A true understanding of diversity and inclusivity must come from examining your biases and perception of the pedestal you’re standing on in life.
Jane Adamson’s article on wellness spaces highlights how making space for everyone fosters an environment for personal growth, learning, and confidence—all of which are important takeaways in wellness spaces. In a group with different bodies, backgrounds, and skills, each person can contribute their unique self and make for a richer wellness community.
What to Work On
Striving for representation at all levels of the organization should be a priority. In Beth Ruffin’s feature on inclusion as part of a company’s DNA, we encourage hiring for cultural fit instead of competency and creating a culture that welcomes people. This also goes for welcoming new members into the community. Putting diversity and inclusion into a concrete perspective; diversity is being invited in, inclusion is actually following up, getting to know their goals, assimilating them with the rest of the group, and actively working with them.
For instance, the commercial fitness sector is expanding its reach, but the primary target for most are still those belonging to more affluent, younger, whiter demographics, and those living in wealthy suburban areas. Wellness spending in the US is also substantially higher than in other parts of the world. Commercials, print, and online media also normalize a very white image of wellness which can send a strong message, especially to people at a young age outside that demographic. These are just some of the aspects of the wellness industry that calls to be rebalanced. It isn’t easy—but it’s also not impossible, as proven by these success stories.
The Colorful Movement is one of them — a nonprofit organization that aims to bring diversity into the framework of yoga. Their vision is to increase the growth of black and brown leaders in the community. The organization works to provide resources such as mats, supplies, water bottles, and clothing to make it more convenient and affordable for people of color to practice.
Lauren Leavell talks about her experiences as a Black, body-positive female trainer in a predominantly thin and white industry. “I want people to know that all bodies can participate and enjoy fitness,” she says. And she isn’t alone; many other body-positive black trainers have initially felt both awkwardly visible and painfully invisible in spaces where they just wanted to feel confident. Now they are working to give people of all shapes and colors the acceptance that everyone deserves.
We can dream all we can about how the world can be a better place, but we mustn’t forget that it takes real work and a strong commitment to change to make a difference. It’s up to us to demand accountability, ensure accessibility, and interrupt injustice—especially in places where we foster health and wellness for everyone.
Written by: Amy Summers