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I Am Not A Good White Woman, 2020 Steven Heyman Lecture

On August 6th the 2020 Steven Heyman Lecture for APA’s Division 47 will be available – in honesty, I’m both excited and nervous. I gave the lecture to a computer with a green camera light at the top of the screen as my youngest son was napping. It should’ve been easy; though, I grappled with the lecture more than any talk I have given in years. I enjoy sharing with groups but this was a unique experience due to COVID – just me, my computer screen and my thoughts on race (and a little bit of sport). There was no audience, no heads nodding or jaws dropping, no smiles, no eye contact to assure me the participants were still with me or eyes looking down to tell me I’m going too deep too fast.

I felt conflict delivering the talk for additional reasons:

1) I would not share anything that people of color (POC) haven’t been saying for years;

2) I will never “get it right” because I am a White woman on a journey to undue and unlearn decades and centuries of racist socialization (not only my own but also that of my ancestors’);

3) There’s so much to say – how could I possibly keep it to 20 minutes?!;

4) Everyone is on their own racial identity journey no matter their race. This journey can be as fluid as the ripples of the wind. Though, I chose not to walk alongside people on their racial journey. Instead, I chose to name truths as I perceived them in July of 2020;

5) I wrestled with the fact that a year from now there will be things I will feel I should have added and others I should have (gracefully) left out;

6) I reflected long and hard on how much of my own (un)learning, my own getting it wrong, my own situatedness/personal narrative to share; for this talk, I decided this is not the space and it was important to de-center my White story; and,

7) I felt simultaneously humbled and undeserving as I know colleagues of color are doing the work and living the realities of racism; though, there I was giving the lecture.

I attempted to honor Steven R. Heyman and his legacy of social justice in the field of sport and exercise psychology in the talk. I did and do not wish or intend to shame or guilt White identifying colleagues. Though, I am not naïve and realize the lecture may or will for those who have not intimately reckoned with their Whiteness (yet). I welcome colleagues (both White and POC) to reach out to me if you were jarred from something I shared or if you’d like to discuss more. I am especially open to people of color’s critiques and recognize my Whiteness was a tool for opportunity in having the platform to give this year’s lecture.

My intention in the talk is to bring to light how much unlearning we have to do as White individuals. To urge my White identifying colleagues, in particular, not to get complacent, comfortable – to keep toiling for equity. To remind us, we must listen to POC in our professional and personal lives without leaning on them too heavily to teach us all about our Whiteness and the ways we might/do oppress; to step back, to take up less space and let POC lead in sport, to stop devouring opportunities believing we have earned them (my critique of myself throughout the talk), to wrestle with what our Whiteness means in our personal and professional lives and how we oppress others without our knowing. To remind us that we do not earn a pass as a “good” White person because we have a friend, a close colleague, a former teammate or a lover who is a person of color or because we gave a lecture on anti-racism or we have read twenty books on the matter. We never get a pass, we never get to claim to be “woke” (a word co-opted from the Black community that we should refrain from using) because every single day we wake with White skin and must commit to reflecting on our own biases and prejudices and act in ways that honor, embrace, appreciate and lift up people of color without tokenizing them. We will not get it right but we must continue to undo and unlearn racism (in all of its forms) and dedicate ourselves to learning from every misstep we make. Otherwise, we will continue to co-create oppressive systems and spaces by being oblivious to the people we harm and the hurt we cause by our lack of understanding, our refusal to be humble and our denial of people of color’s lived realities.

For the progress in the field of sport and exercise psychology, for all athletes but especially for athletes of color, for our places of work and communities - let’s do better. Let’s begin today with love in our hearts, grace in our words and humility in our actions. Let’s decide to heal from the hurt we have caused others and therefore, have also caused onto ourselves. Let’s do it together - I vow to walk humbly on this existential journey with you. If you hold me accountable, I will do the same for you.

I look forward to learning what you think of the Division 47 Heyman Lecture,

Dr. Tanya Raquel

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