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Why focus on Racialization in Wellness?

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

During the process of founding BienSTAR, a coaching practice centered around cultivating lasting lifestyle change for women from all backgrounds seeking to support one another in becoming the best versions of ourselves. To us, holistic wellness includes dismantling the caste system that has kept people divided through the illusion of separation, of imagined differences. Racialization has affected the whole of humanity, and racism has a constant presence in all societies. In the U.S. racism has been declared a health emergency by the CDC and has created a measurable disparity in the quality of healthcare, however, the transformation has been slow at an institutional level. Deepening divisions have created opportunities to address reconciliation and healing internalized, racialized prejudices.

Some might wonder why I feel so passionate about racialization, and I am going to share some of my personal experiences. As a small child, I was raised in the suburbs of San Juan, Boriké (Puerto Rico) where most of the community had varying shades of melanin richness. When my family migrated to Long Island, NY in 1977 (which is countryside not to be confused with NY City) my younger brother and I learned about skin tone prejudice right away. The verbal and physical attacks, as well as humiliations, were frequent during the five years we lived there, and it serves no purpose to share more details, it was traumatizing. My brother and I were targeted both at school and in the neighborhood. There were several bullies on the block, but we were especially targeted by three siblings who were particularly nasty.

On one occasion, the sister of that pack, a girl who I will call Missy, knocked on the door and yelled "I call you out!" she kept yelling she knew I was in there, to face her and put up my dukes. I came out to face a really solid girl who was easily 6–7 inches taller that wanted to put a hurtin' on me. She swung first, I got in a few good punches, then she scratched my face and pounded the tender top of my bare foot with the thick rubber heel of her track shoe. When my father came home, he told me to ice the foot and tough it out, so I never got medical attention for that injury. Subsequently, I suffered from a lot of chronic pain in that foot over the years.

The trauma of that injury, of all the mistreatment, was held at a cellular, spiritual and emotional level. I never wanted to identify or aspire to be accepted by the group that had hurt me so deeply. I had internalized a deep-seated self-hatred, a feeling that being biracial, I had the enemy inside of me. My bias was different, I believed that deeper complected people were better than me, because I always felt safer around brown folks and that lead me to go back to my island for twenty years.

Fast-forward six years of having returned to the U.S. seeking professional advancement and better education for my son as a single mother. I exited education to join the ranks of the Health & Wellness field and dove deep into the rabbit hole of healing myself. I saw an opportunity to heal old hurts and used a combination of modalities to get well and restore from burnout. Not only that, but I went to a spiritually gifted massage therapist who helped me release a lot of old injuries. During a treatment, she noticed that the tendons on the top of my right foot were deformed and asked what happened to me. I shared my story with her, then she proceeded to work on the tendons. When they were put in the right place, she said "now I am going to take her foot out of your foot" and I felt a cool swift swipe of energy, and that pain was gone! I was free not only of the pain, but also free of resenting that person; I forgave to free myself.

Restoring my foot allowed me to stop taking everything personally. I had been stuck in a loop, trapped in my personal pain, in my story, and anything that remotely sounded like prejudice set me off and triggered me into an emotional response. Now I can choose not to take things personally and handle situations in the present with compassion. Racism is learned, and it must be unlearned through honest dialogue and uncomfortable conversations. I am committed to being a part of the solutions, helping people unpack their hurts from lived experiences, and creating a safe space for people to learn new ways to relate to each other beyond the fear of people who are different.

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