Yoga Class For ‘people of color’

If it’s illegal and considered racist for a white, straight business owner to deny service to a gay person or person of color, shouldn’t the same be true for a yoga class that bars white people from attending?

KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson thinks so.

Rainier Beach Yoga in Seattle has a class called “yoga for people of color.” It started last week and runs once a month.

Teresa Wang, co-founder of the specialized class, said it was started by five queer people of color who came together to create a safe space for people of color who might otherwise be uncomfortable.

An email blast about the class says it’s aimed at people of color and of all sexualities, ages, body sizes, abilities, genders, and experience with yoga. It specifically identifies “lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer and trans-friendly/affirming,” plus people who self-identify as “African American/black/of the African Diaspora, Asian, South Asian, West Asian/Arab/Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, First Nations/Alaskan Native/Native American/Indigenous, Chican/Latin, or Multiracial/Mixed-Race.” The email adds that “white friends, allies and partners are respectfully asked not to attend.”

So what would happen if a white man decided to attend?

“Well, it’s a class for people of color, so he would be coming to that class knowing that we’re really clear about who we are asking to come to class, so…I’m not really sure because it hasn’t happened to us,” Wang said. “So I don’t really know.”

Dori said he has no problem with the exclusionary practice of the class. His beef is with the presumed reaction that people will applaud this class for being progressive, while the opposite — a group of white people saying they didn’t want people of color in their class — would be “vilified.”

“It would be a lead story on national news,” he said. “It would be blared across all the websites about the racist yoga class in Seattle. And the fact is, this yoga class is every bit as racist as a bunch of white people who say they don’t want to be around somebody of color. That’s why I wouldn’t want to attend either one of those classes … The fact is, they are both racist.”

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson previously told Dori that his office would go after any business that discriminates against a specific group of people. Dori wants to know if Ferguson will stick to his word.

“Now we’re gonna find out if my instincts about the attorney general and about our state government [are right] — using the power of government to go after the Christian florist in the Tri-Cities who didn’t want to do the gay wedding ceremony. Will they also go after the yoga studio that discriminates against people based on their skin color?” he said.

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