Anti-racism Resources for Herbalists & Chestnut Updates
** From 6/12/20 email to all students **
We’re writing to share resources on anti-racism, update you on the new forum guidelines, and let you know more about the school’s ongoing work to eradicate White supremacy in our school and community. (Learn more about the definition of White supremacy here.) We will continue to add new resources to this page. Please also see our IG page and FB page for more resources.
For starters, we strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement and are committed to eradicating systemic racism.
To this end, we’ve been sharing resources on the school’s social media and in the forums but I would like to share more here in case you aren’t on those platforms. Historically, we haven’t fully spotlighted our diversity and equity initiatives and community giving to avoid a performative stance, and because we are still in the beginning stages of this work, but I realize you might not be aware of the behind-the-scenes actions the school is involved with.
I want you to know how we’ve been prioritizing anti-racism, equity, and inclusion for the past four years (since going online) and how we aim to do better in the future. The updated Student Forum Guidelines take a clearer stance on what is considered racist or discriminatory language. We now have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for those who refute the presence of systemic racism or dismiss the relevance of discussions on eradicating racism in healing spaces and the world at large. We have always had a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory language in our forums. Our evolving definition of discrimination is based on our growth as individuals and as a business in understanding our role as it relates to systemic racism.
For starters, we realize that we have a long way to go within our organization and that this work is ongoing. We’ve made more than our share of BIG mistakes and have attempted to learn, listen, and recalibrate. Our number one goal is to bring more diversity to the school’s staff, contractors, instructors, student body, and bloggers. Our staff is required to attend annual (soon to be quarterly) trainings on social justice issues, and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives have been several years in progress with paid audits from Indigenous and Black herbalists. We’re in the process of updating the course curriculum to include discussions on systemic racism and other forms of discrimination, especially as it relates to health and healing.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DISCUSSING RACISM IN HERBAL EDUCATION AND PRACTICE
If you truly wish to practice holistic herbalism, it’s not enough to limit your approach to matching herbs with a person’s constitution and health challenges. None of us lives in a vacuum. Health is affected by societal stress, including systemic racism, which is pervasive, institutionalized, and highly invasive. Racism is a disease, an invasive social construct that has spread throughout society and infected nearly every aspect of life in this nation, from education, business, government, health care, the judicial system, and law enforcement. It’s also crucial to learn about the Black and Indigenous healers, who have made vast contributions to western herbalism but have been underrepresented in mainstream herbal history and literature. In the United States, the sizable Black herbal community has not been represented in White-led herbal spaces (schools, conferences, publications, and organizations). Ours included. Here are a few to follow and support.
The high rate of police violence against Black people is an obvious example of how racism affects health (and the right to live!). Here’s more info on police violence. Another example: Black birthing parents are three-to-four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than White parents. Here are more examples of health disparities among Black folks versus White folks.
If you come into a discussion on racism after looking at these statistics and say things like “why do we have to talk about this here?” or “stick to plants” or “I didn’t come here for this,” then, in essence, you are expressing an unwillingness to learn about the role racism plays in health and healing.
In a nutshell, those kinds of statements (and the beliefs and privilege behind them) display a lack of empathy for the hardships, violence, health challenges, and discrimination Black people experience daily due to institutionalized racism.
Similarly, if you refute the insidiousness of systemic racism despite the exhaustive body of evidence and shared experience documenting racism in U.S. culture, government, law enforcement, education, judicial systems, and health care settings, with statements like “all lives matter” or “I don’t see color,” then you are engaging in active racism.
RESOURCES FOR LEARNING MORE ABOUT UNDERSTANDING & DISMANTLING SYSTEMIC RACISM
Here are some resources that have helped me understand more about systemic racism:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.”
Born A Crime; Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Trevor teaches about racism with a rare mix of candor, humor, and a canny insight into human behavior. Learning about institutional racism in the form of apartheid gave me more context about institutionalized racism in the US.
NPR’S Up First: American Police
This podcast features an overview of the history of policing in the U.S. by Black historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School. To understand how we might create a better version of law enforcement, it’s helpful to understand how racism has been baked into policing from its inception.
A Look Back at the Police Killing & Trial Verdict of Philando Castile | The Daily Show (trigger warning for police violence)
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
This book gave me a greater understanding of White supremacy and how to approach racism in my mind and words.
Desiree Adaway’s Instagram
Desiree is a consultant, trainer, coach and speaker working to build resilient, equitable, and inclusive organizations. She offers consultations and courses through her business, The Adaway Group.
Where Do I Begin? A 28-day reading plan for white and non-black POC aspiring allies compiled by Amy Sanchez
Black Anti-Racism Teachers, Organizations, Authors, and Activists
Do more than follow these folks! Support them by enrolling in their courses, buying their books, or donating to their work via Venmo or the like. Do not reach out and ask questions (unless you are in a paid course and are invited to ask questions) from Black folks to educate you about racism. There are a ton of resources out there (including in this newsletter), and if you ask folks to give you private instruction, you are requesting their free emotional and time-heavy labor.
Books on Anti-Racism
How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
Please consider purchasing these books from a Black-owned bookstore. Here is a list of Black-owned independent bookstores that take online orders.
TALKING ABOUT RACISM AS A WHITE PERSON
It can be intimidating to broach the topic of racism as a White person. If you’re new to the conversation, stick to sharing articles, art, and quotes from Black authors, activists, speakers, and artists. Listen and learn from these Black folks. We need to approach feedback with humility, so we can learn in the process. We need to listen to Black people. They know far more about racism than we ever will. Hear them. (But see our notes above about not requesting free education from Black folks).
As a White person, it’s been helpful to have a framework for these discussions. I’ve been inspired by how the White authors and activists Brené Brown (@brenebrown) and Glennon Doyle (@glennondoyle) approach the topics of racial injustice and White supremacy, including their own missteps along the way. Note how they stand behind the words and work of Black people.
RESOURCES FOR HERBAL MEDICS AND PROTEST MEDICINE
- 7Song’s Herbalist Street Medic handout
- Canoe Journey’s Herbal First Aid Aftercare for All Who Have Experienced Police Violence
- Street Medicine for Social Change resources from Herbalista
- Herbal Street Care Mini-Series with Brandon Ruiz of the Charlotte Herbal Accessibility Project
CHESTNUT SCHOOL’S SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMS AND COMMUNITY GIVING :: PLACES TO DONATE
We’re sharing about our community giving and scholarship programs for transparency, and not for praise. This is one measure of how an organization prioritizes social justice.
We offer need-based scholarships for herbal enthusiasts who face barriers due to discrimination and unbalanced social structures (primarily BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks). Parameters such as race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity are considered.
Since 2016, we’ve donated $200,000 through our scholarship program and partnerships with Black-led organizations focusing on food and medicine justice. Partners have included Grow Where You Are, Soul Fire Farm, and Harriet’s Apothecary.
As reparations, we donate annually to the BIPOC scholarship programs offered by Black-owned herbal programs and sponsor conferences including the Gullah Geechee Herbal Gathering and the New Orleans Herbal Gathering.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and actions against systemic racism in this nation, we’ve donated over $38,000 towards food insecurity relief efforts (some serving Black communities) and social justice and legal defense organizations. These donations are part of our ongoing Community Giving and Partnership initiatives.
Here are organizations the funds went to:
- Feeding America
- We Give a Share
- We Love Lake Street
- Black Lives Matter
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- Emancipate NC, Carolina Justice Policy Center
- The Sentencing Project
UPDATED STUDENT FORUM GUIDELINES and DISCUSSIONS ON RACISM IN THE FORUMS
We’ve updated the Forum Guidelines for all programs and created a document regarding discussion around systemic racism in the forums. Both documents can be found in the “Files” tab on the Forum homepage. Please read them if you’d like to remain in the forum. By remaining in the forum, you are agreeing to the guidelines. If you don’t agree to the new guidelines, you’ll still have access to the course content and instructors through the school’s website.
We know we can do more to dismantle racism within ourselves, in the world of herbalism, and in the world at large. We are committed to this work for the long haul.
We welcome feedback and questions, especially from our BIPOC students. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hugs and solidarity,
Juliet and the entire Chestnut staff