They Don't Look Like Me: The Color Complex in FITNESS
The thought crossed my mind, when I first walked into my gym. Nobody at the reception desk looked like me. Nobody in the pool, locker room or sauna did either. This is not at all coming from a derogatory racial standpoint, rather - a natural feeling of uneasiness, regarding atmospheric acceptance. We're already given the lovely title of "minority." Once you really get into fitness ... you'll discover that you're now a superexpialidocious minority! Let's be real, this can be intimidating. When most are introduced to new surroundings - they seek out people and things that they can relate to. I never saw any other chubby, short, Black girls. However, I ultimately couldn't let that factor keep me away. I can't say the same for a few other people, I've spoken to.
With painstaking obesity rates among Blacks, to many it seems like a given that we aren't in droves, getting it in at a local Y. I think these statistics bare reasons beyond our inability to give up fried foods, though. While I think the causation stems from a multitude of obstacles (primarily, socioeconomic), I also think another inhibitor is the discomfort when trying to make that transition to healthier living. Especially, when the road in that transition is devoid of diversity (from the park trail to the farmers' market).
I grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood, church and school system. So, throughout much of my life, I attributed Black people to being "my people." Yet, as I've matured, the face of whom I consider "my people," is evolving. Granted, I have a sincere adoration for culturally-sound programs that start within our communities, that address needs specific to what ails us (financial illiteracy and wellness). It's my desire to build up an organization, to do just that, one day. But, I think we have a lot to gain by reaching out to other minority and majority groups in pursuit of healthiness (see what I just did there?).
And, I get it, when you don't think you're in the best shape - you most likely want to be in the company of people who may better understand you. You're at a point of vulnerability and kin-like surroundings are ideal. But, don't let that aspect limit your possibilities of enjoying a gym or class that may assist you in meeting personal goals. Think about it, there's probably many more who share your thought process. And while you're all sitting at home (shoutout that Everest dude), instead of trying out that spin or Bikram yoga session because "nobody there looks like me," or "we don't do that kind of stuff," realize it's because YOU'RE not there! I know that example was a stretch, but you know what I'm trying to say. Give it a try and who knows ... more may have the courage to do the same.
While we're on the subject. Don't think that just because someone at your gym or in your training event, is Black, that they'll even like you. We all know people who are territorial. They like being the "only one." I've run across chicks whom I've politely spoken to and they gave me the Prince-to-Trey Songz side-eye.
I know this type of push isn't always well-received by those within the Black community. Opposers like to toss out terms like, 'wanna-be' or 'sell-out." So freaking what!? The thought of a self-serving and exclusive race, isn't always the best route. The moment we realize this and branch out and begin to share best practices ... I think is when we'll be able to turn some of these dreadful health statistics around. So, I'd encourage anyone to step out of their comfort zone and culture zone, when it relates to getting active. At the end of the day, we are all just people ... on a mission to get and stay fit.
*cue "We Are The World"*