Six weeks ago we came to you, our Autoimmune Wellness community, with an open letter, clarifying what it means for us to advocate for a holistic approach to health and wellness.
In the simplest terms, our work is defined by the belief that seeking health and building community is an interdependent project. We recognize that racism is a public health issue and that there are systemic barriers that prevent many Black, Indigineous, and People of Color (BIPOC) from accessing healthcare and achieving wellness.
We believe it is our collective responsibility to engage in the critical thinking and work necessary to eradicate racism and dismantle the barriers that prevent many BIPOC from meeting basic life needs of day-to-day safety, (food) security, employment and housing. We acknowledge that these are prerequisites to health and wellness, and to the lifestyles and communities we seek to foster within our businesses. Despite defining our work this way and having these personal beliefs, dismantling these barriers had not been a central part of our long-term business plans.
Since we published our open letter, we’ve been working on a plan to ensure that anti-racism and diversity are central to the missions and values of our businesses. Today, we are transparently sharing those plans with you so that we can be held accountable to these commitments, build trust with those we serve and with those whom we want to ensure are included in our community moving forward.
The following plan represents just our initial action. It is sure to grow in steps and nuance in the future and we are committed to keeping you updated.
We are working to take meaningful, sustained action within our sphere of influence to dismantle systems of oppression that are preventing all of us from enjoying full health and wellness. This means:
1. Making a specific “Diversity and Collaboration” statement to be featured prominently on our site. Thanks to some of the learning we’ve recently done, we now realize that a clear statement on our values of diversity and collaboration is an important indicator to the people we serve in the autoimmune community of their safety and belonging here and our intention at Autoimmune Wellness. This is our statement:
Diversity and Collaboration Create Wellness Without Limits
Autoimmune disease is not limited to a particular age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, or perspective. Seeking health and building community shouldn’t be either. We are committed to creating an anti-racist, anti-oppressive and inclusive environment where diversity of all kinds can shine and mutually beneficial collaboration is the norm. When these two things are in place, no person with autoimmune disease is limited in seeking health, and building an inclusive wellness community becomes our source of joy.
2. Making financial support available to BIPOC health and wellness practitioners for our AIP Certified Coach Training Program. Along with Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (aka The Paleo Mom), we run a training program called AIP Certified Coach, teaching health and wellness practitioners from across the spectrum how to utilize AIP in their practices. Starting with our Fall 2020 enrollment of the program and moving forward with all future enrollments, we are offering five full-fee scholarships ($799 each) to BIPOC health and wellness practitioners. You can learn more about that here.
3. Re-evaluating our use of language and images in order to build a more welcoming virtual space. We are committed to anti-racist, anti-oppressive language and images that feature diversity across markers such as race, sexual orientation and body size in order to build a more welcoming virtual space that truly reflects our global autoimmune community.
4. Intentionally seeking out BIPOC in the health and wellness space who are interested in becoming regular contributors to our blog and social media platforms. We want to diversify the healthcare perspectives we promote at Autoimmune Wellness (especially doctors and naturopaths, and specifically Black women), build relationships with a collaborative purpose, and compensate these contributors for their knowledge and expertise.
We are also identifying and amplifying BIPOC bloggers in the AIP community on our social media platforms. We are proactively searching out more opportunities to continue this amplification. Take a look at our Instagram feed here to get to know some of the stories we’ve recently shared.
5. Making it easier for BIPOC to connect with us. The Autoimmune Wellness site and our other businesses receive millions of views a year and with that comes many attempts to contact us personally. For that reason, we do have some gatekeeping in place, but we’ve set up a more direct way for BIPOC members of our community to contact us either to explore mutually beneficial collaborative opportunities or to offer feedback. You can find that contact form here.
6. Redefining future contributor agreements and other collaborative opportunities to include an antiracist requirement. In the past we did not specify that regular, paid contributors to our blog should be aligned with our antiracist values. Now that we are reorganizing our businesses to also embody these values, we’ll require contributors to help us ensure those values are reflected everywhere we collaborate, in addition to requesting content that may be relevant to the BIPOC autoimmune experience (like racial disparities in food access and the healthcare system).
As far as other collaborations, we have withdrawn our support for particular groups who do not align with our work toward anti-racist and anti-oppressive community building. We will decline participation in future opportunities that are clearly not aligned in these values.
7. Redefining future hiring practices. Currently, the team that keeps Autoimmune Wellness and our other businesses running behind-the-scenes consists of primarily white women with autoimmune disease personally or in their immediate families. We recognize the homogeneity of our team and that diversity is a strength. Should their positions open up or new positions become necessary in the future, we will narrow our hiring focus to include BIPOC women with personal or immediate family experience of autoimmune disease. We value the diversity of knowledge and experiences that BIPOC will offer our business and community.
8. Incorporating sustained giving to BIPOC-lead organizations into our business plan. We have determined that we can sustainably give 4% of our net income every month to food and agricultural organizations in our regional areas, forming long-term giving partnerships to shift money to the BIPOC community. During 2020, we gave to Mudbone Grown near Portland, OR and Sylvanaqua Farms near Washington, DC. On July 7, 2020 we made our first contributions to each farm representing the year so far, and once our bookkeeping is completed each month, we’ve continued to make monthly contributions. In 2021, contributions have gone to Equitable Giving Circle in Portland, OR.
Every year we’ll look for BIPOC-lead organizations doing work that is aligned with our mission and to determine if we can increase sustained giving or give to additional BIPOC-lead organizations that address issues like food access and health care. In addition, we are each taking similar steps in each of our individual businesses.
9. Working to address our own racism and knowledge gaps, starting with a willingness to be corrected. We are individually pursuing courses taught by Black educators and sharing with each other what we are learning and how we can apply that to our businesses. We recognize we need to learn and unlearn in order to hone our awareness of the issues facing BIPOC communities, specifically when it comes to health and wellness. You can learn more about one of the courses we’re taking, Foundations of Social Justice with Dr. Tee Williams, here.
We will undoubtedly make mistakes and we are open to constructive feedback that helps us do better. In that vein, we consulted with a paid BIPOC anti-racism and equity expert on the plan presented here and will do the same as we roll out further efforts to address racism in the autoimmune community in the future. We are willing to publicly get it wrong on our way to getting it right for everyone.
Here at Autoimmune Wellness we acknowledge that dismantling racism and the systems of oppression that characterize our world is our collective responsibility toward community care and well-being.
We stand with those of you expressing outrage, pain and calls for a more equitable future in health and wellness. In this spirit, we hope each of you are also taking intentional steps in your own lives, professional or personal, to help ensure we can ALL enjoy health and wellness. Thank you for being here with us.