Leveling Up: Welcome to my next (r)evolution
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For the last few years, I have been guided to make some of the most important decisions of my life during the month of August.

In August 2013, I was guided to make the decision (after several previously failed attempts) to quit my job for good when the timing felt right, and start my own online business.

I sent an email titled ‘SOS!’ to two of friends at the time and it read:

“My Dear Partners in Crime ;)
I need your help to break free from the fortress (aka employment!).
After a few days back at work I've realised I can no longer do this. 'This' meaning continuing to be out of integrity with myself by living the rest of my life working for someone else. It just isn't who I am and I've come to a cross-roads where it's like - Ok Layla, you either go for your dreams NOW with all that you've got, or you live the rest of your life in mediocrity, passivity and regret.
I think you know which one I'm choosing ;)”

After having my second child in 2014, I finally quit my job and started my coaching business.

Then in August 2016, after having run the coaching business under my name for 2.5 years, I was guided to make the decision to close that business and pour all my energies into WildMysticWoman.com, a website that I initially started as a personal blog to document my spirituality and womanhood journey.

In August 2017, following the horrific events in Charlottesville USA, I was guided to write the viral open letter - ‘I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy’.

And now, in August 2018 after , I have been guided to retire the WildMysticWoman name, and re-brand once again under my own name.

Each of these decisions over the years scared me to death, but they also felt like the absolute right thing to do. Each led me to the next stage of my evolution as a writer, a speaker, a teacher and a leader.

As many of you know, I took what felt like a quantum leap forward with my work last month with the #MeAndWhiteSupremacy challenge. During my time offline I took the time to rest and re-calibrate. I also took the time to do what Oprah calls ‘listening for the next right move’. Anytime I make a major shift forward, I take the time to draw back inwards so I can re-align and stay grounded with my own vision. During my time offline I listened deeply, and this change of my business name and brand is what came through very strongly. It’s my next right move.

To that effect, I have re-branded WildMysticWoman.com to LaylaFSaad.com.

While I will always be the Wild Mystic Woman, it is time to move to the next stage of my evolution.

What does this next evolution look like?

  • I am a Black feminist, and I will continue to center and uplift Black women
  • I am a racial justice advocate and anti-racism teacher who is helping people with white privilege examine their white privilege and dismantle their white supremacy
  • I am a spiritual thought-leader and sacred activist who is supporting people of all races (myself very much included) to heal their internalised oppression, and dismantle their externalised oppression
  • I am a writer who is writing articles and books to help us all become better ancestors

In addition to re-branding the name and look of the website, and clarifying the focus of my work, I have also made the following decisions/changes:

INSTAGRAM

I have changed my Instagram handle from @wildmysticwoman to @laylafsaad.

PODCAST

The Wild Mystic Woman Podcast has been one of my absolute favourite parts of my work. Since 2016, I have hosted powerful conversations with women who are doing important work in the world. However, I have made the decision to publish the final six remaining episodes and then the Wild Mystic Woman Podcast will be retiring. But don’t worry! We will be launching a brand new podcast series with a new name and style within the next few months. I am so excited to share that with you when ready! And all episodes of the Wild Mystic Woman Podcast will be archived and available to listen to even after the podcast is retired.

BOOK

Following my 28-day #MeAndWhiteSupremacy challenge on Instagram, the first book I am going to be publishing is a self-guided #MeAndWhiteSupremacy workbook for people who want to take themselves through the work of uncovering and dismantling their white privilege and their internalised racism. Click here to sign up to be the first to be notified when the book (which will be a physical book!) is available for purchase.

PATREON

I have made some important changes to the way I use Patreon. Patreon is an incredible platform for people to sustainably support creators like myself for a small monthly fee. However, unlike many Patreon creators, most of the content I produce and work that I do is not exclusively on the Patreon platform. And though I’ve tried to fit myself to use Patreon in the way it’s intended (i.e. creating ‘patron-only content’), it just doesn’t work for me. The places where I share the bulk of my work are Instagram, my podcast, my blog (and in the future - published articles on other platforms). For that reason, I have changed the way the membership tiers work on my Patreon page. Going forward, when you choose to pledge as a patron of my work, you are making a monthly contribution to support my work:

  • Writing articles and books to create change at the intersections of race, feminism, spirituality and leadership
  • Hosting a podcast that produces 75-90min long episodes with thought-leaders, change-makers, artists, advocates, teachers, mentors, authors and speakers.
  • Providing daily education, activation, inspiration and emotional labour through my Instagram platform of tens of thousands of followers.

If you find value in the education, activation, inspiration and advocacy work that I do through these platforms and would like to financially compensate and support me in my work, then I encourage you to support me on Patreon. Membership tiers start as low as US$1/month and you can pledge as little or as much works best for you. The content that I will be sharing on Patreon will be content that is shared from my other platforms (ie relevant IG posts, new podcast episodes, new articles, etc.).

Please note that if you had previously pledged under the US$30 ‘I can’t wait for your book!’ tier, I will be adding your name to a Thank You page in #MeAndWhiteSupremacy workbook. Thank you for supporting my work.


Lastly, I just want to say thank you to those of you who have stayed with me and supported me through all my many evolutions. The last 4 years have been quite a ride! Thank you for your constant patience and support of me and my work. I am looking forward to seeing what the next 4 years bring.

In Truth, Justice & Love,

Layla xo

Layla Saad
White feminism, white supremacy & the silencing of black women (Video)
 
 Center image from  'the i'm tired project' . Collage Image from  @femmehood  on Instagram

Center image from 'the i'm tired project'. Collage Image from @femmehood on Instagram

 

On 21 January 2018, I published the following post to my social media accounts, after having a total of 11 posts censored and removed from Instagram and Facebook for writing about racism and white supremacy:

"I am tired of being censored.
I am tired of being attacked.
I’m tired of not feeling safe.
I’m tired of not knowing who to trust.
I’m tired of defending my humanity.
I’m tired of debating the truth of my lived experiences.
I’m tired of not being able to speak my mind without fear of retribution.
I’m tired of injustice and discrimination.
I’m tired of having to be twice as good and two steps ahead just to fxcking live.
I’m tired of having my words wiped clean from existence without reason or justification .
I’m tired of the emotional labour of being in this melanated body in these white-centred spaces.
I’m tired of having to be the strong one, the resilient one, the one who acts better than she’s being treated.
I’m tired of screaming that I’m being hurt and being punished for it, while my abusers are protected and enabled.
I’m tired of being tired.
So damn tired.

I’m disengaging from this game of abuse that certain people and certain institutions are delighting in playing with me. A game I never consented to being a part of. I’m leaving this place for a while. Disabling my account. Possibly permanently, I don’t yet know.

All I know is that I’m tired."


The events that led up to this decision to leave were written about in various news outlets including Blavity, Atlanta Black Star, The Daily Beast and News One.

In a nutshell, some white women had been 'triggered' by the things I had been writing about racial injustice and white supremacy, and decided to report me to Instagram and Facebook. These social media platforms sided with this idea of 'reverse racism', and censored my words. 

On 11 April 2018, after almost 3 months of self-care, boundaries and reflection, I made the decision to return to Instagram. Predictably, just over two weeks later on 27th April, I opened my Instagram app to find that another post had been reported and removed. This particular post was a screen shot of my friend Tamela Gordon's Medium article 'Breaking Up With Intersectional Feminism'. As the article was written by a black women and was specifically about her relationship to intersectional feminism, I included an all caps disclaimer on the Instagram post for white people NOT to comment on the post. This is because this post was not for white people, and did not need the white gaze or white feminist perspectives. I'm guessing this is the thing that really triggered whoever reported my post, because I woke up the next morning to find it gone.

It was then that I decided that I needed to have a little talk with my community of over 11k followers.

I filmed a 34 minute Instagram Live video to talk about this issue and to share my thoughts around white feminism, white supremacy and the silencing of black women and women of colour. In particular, I wanted the people who had chosen to be in my community to understand what I stood for, what I know to be true, and how things will and will not go down in my space. Much to my surprise, the video itself went viral. In the space of just 24hrs, it was viewed by more than 3,500 people and I received around a thousand new followers. I received hundreds of messages from white women who told me my words were finally helping them to 'get it'. And hundreds of messages from black, indigenous and women of colour thanking me for speaking the words they want the white people in their communities to hear.

I was asked several times by many people how they could download and share the video, with many calling it 'required viewing'.

I was hesitant to make it permanent and shareable on any public social media platforms as I know this will inevitably lead to more censure and blocking. As a Black, Muslim woman who writes about racial injusticce and white supremacy, I have to worry about racism, sexism and Islamophobia. My boundaries are non-negotiable. I am everything that white supremacy loathes - an outspoken and unapologetic Black, Muslim woman. 

However, I realised I needed to find a workaround since this video has done so much good in such a short space of time. The most obvious solution then hit me: I could publish it on my website.

So here it is. Listen with both your ears and your heart.

And if you find value in it, share it with your friends, colleagues and families. Better yet, if you would like to support my work you can do so on Patreon. The only thing I do ask white people NOT to do however is reach out to me to help you process how you feel about my words.

That's not my work. That's your work.

Layla Saad
A Love Letter to Black, Indigenous & People of Colour: On Freeing Ourselves From Racist Priestesses, Fake Gurus & White Supremacist Spiritual Teachers
 
 Photo by  Diana Simumpande  on  Unsplash

Let's begin with what this is not.

This is not 'I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part Three)'. I have written and written to spiritual white women about unpacking their racism, addressing how white supremacy runs through their businesses and how it is not the job of Black, Indigenous & People of Colour (BIPOC) to do any free emotional labour to educate them on white privilege and social justice. I no longer center whiteness in my work. And if you are white or hold white privilege, and want to know who can help you understand these issues, check out this incredibly well-curated list of black women you can pay.

This letter is also not 'black woman does outrage over racism of liberal spiritual white women'.

In case you didn't know, Black women and femmes aren't only relevant when we're angry. And besides, I'm no longer outraged. I have learnt a lot over the last seven months. I'm now completely unsurprised at just how rampant spiritual-bypassing, tone policing, violent microaggressions, censoring of marginalised voices, avoidance of accountability, wielding of white privilege, derailing, tokenizing of BIPOC, and white entitlement-fragility-shaming is in the spirituality/wellness/personal growth industry.

This is the status quo.

My sister-friend Catrice M. Jackson has written about it prolifically in her anti-racism books. And my sister-friend Leesa Renee Hall has created a very clear infographic about the five act White Fragility Script, and has recently written about what happens when a black woman speaks her truth

Lastly, this letter is not about how we can collectively fix these issues.

There are plenty of articles, anti-racism courses, projects, books and social justice initiatives that are about people of all races working together to dismantle white supremacy and patriarchy. Those are important conversations to be had and necessary work to be done, for sure. But they're not the conversations we're having right now in this letter.

What this letter is, is a love letter to BIPOC in the spirituality/wellness/personal growth industry.

It's a letter to say:

No, you are not imagining it.
Yes, it is shocking and hurtful.
No, we don't need to convince anyone of our humanity.
Yes, we can thrive without white validation.
No, it is not our job to do free emotional labour to help them 'get it'.
Yes, it is systemic and rampant.
No, we are not alone on this journey.
Yes, even the white friends and white spiritual teachers we thought were 'the good ones' are complicit.
No, we can't unsee once we see it.
Yes, we're going to lose a lot of friends the more we 'wake up' to it.
No, we can't go back to 'business as usual'.
Yes, we have the right to have strong boundaries to protect ourselves from harm.

No, this isn't new.
And yes, it is US who are going to be the change.


There are a couple of things that have inspired this post. I will not re-hash all of the details here, but I will provide some links below if you would like to read more:

  • The recent blow up of the Urban Priestess Summit hosted by Ashley Turner and Sianna Shermann.

    KEY WORDS: Lack of Diversity & Inclusion; Cultural Appropriation; Erasure of Emotional Labor by POC; Avoidance of Real Accountability; Performative Allyship; Spiritual Bypassing. 
     
  • The absolutely horrendous treatment of master meditation and yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala at the Northwest Yoga Conference at the hands of conference host Melissa Phillips-Hagedorn, spurring the #NOTYOGA hashtag.

    KEY WORDS: Colonization & Appropriation Of Yoga; Censoring & Silencing POC.
     
  • My sister-friend Torrie M. Pattillo's recent posts on her issues with Gabrielle Bernstein and the perpetuation of white supremacy by well known white spiritual authors and teachers in the spirituality/wellness/personal growth industry. 

    KEY WORDS: Cultural Appropriation; White Silence; White Privilege; Spiritual Bypassing; Inauthentic Spiritual Leadership; White Feminism; Guru Marketing.
     
  • Daily private conversations with black women and WOC who are now waking up to  the full extent of the horrors of white supremacy in our industry, and are cycling between emotions of rage, grief, numbness, vulnerability, paranoia, anxiety, stress and sadness.

In a nutshell, so-called progressive liberal white spiritual women are often the tools of white supremacy.

The white priestess movement is dripping in racism. The white spiritual teachers we have been primed and manipulated into idolising and wanting to become through guru branding, by and large do not care about black lives, indigenous lives, brown lives, trans lives, disabled lives, fat lives, actual diversity and inclusivity, actual social change and creating new paradigms of leadership, and even actual spirituality. 

Do not let their spiritual jargon of 'light work' and 'shadow work' fool you. Do not let their talk about smashing the patriarchy, becoming goddesses, priestessing the new paradigm, the rising of feminine leadership, and the importance of sisterhood, confuse you.

BIPOC, they do not mean you when they are talking about these topics. They are not including you.

And definitely do not let them deceive you with their use of social justice activist language in their branding and marketing (words like 'revolution', 'intersectional feminism', 'empowerment', 'XXX Lives Matter', '#MeToo', etc.). This is just an attempt to co-opt social justice movements to further promote themselves and make more money. There is nothing revolutionary or empowering about excluding non-white people, or appropriating our cultures.

This whole industry is resting on the foundations of white supremacy, white feminism, anti-blackness, cultural appropriation, manipulative branding, and yes, racism.

And unless you see the white spiritual teachers, priestesses, authors and leaders you follow actively and consistently doing the work of anti-racism both in their personal lives and in their businesses, then you can trust that racism is what is going to happen. Unless it is actively and consistently opposed, it is the default position.

When I published 'I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part One)' back in August 2017, I was not yet fully awake to what I am now able to name and identify with ease. In the wake of that letter going viral, I began to witness and experience racist micro- and macro-aggressions from spiritual white women on a scale that was shocking to me. I often have people tell me how much they are inspired by  the strong boundaries that I keep in my interactions with white people in my spaces. But that is because I had no choice. If I didn't have big, strong, beautiful, sovereign boundaries, I would have drowned by now. White supremacy is ubiquitous in this industry. It is the air we breathe. And the more we speak up about it, the more it attempts to suffocate and punish us for it.

But here's the thing, the more awake we become to it, the harder and harder it is to remain silent. And if it is in your bones to be a truth-teller, the more trouble you're going to get yourself in, because white supremacy does not tolerate non-white people telling the truth.

And let us be very clear, white supremacy does not tolerate Black women. Period.


There are a few things that I want you to know, BIPOC. I hope these things will provide a source of comfort, inspiration and clarity for you as you continue on this journey. 

1. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MAGIC

I learnt this from Catrice M. Jackson's book The Becky Code (mandatory reading for all BIPOC dealing with white woman violence). White supremacy and white women perpetuating white supremacy will make you feel as though you are losing your sense of reality. They will gaslight you, tone police you, spiritually bypass you, bait you, make you debate your humanity, tell you to accept breadcrumbs of diversity and inclusivity, demand your free emotional labour (as if you are an enslaved person on a plantation), project their shame and guilt onto you, call you divisive/angry/aggressive/mean/rude/unsafe, and have you reeling for days and sometimes weeks from their #loveandlight violence. 

Do not waste your magic. 

You have a choice to disengage when you notice any of these things happening. You do not have to become a willing victim in your own oppression. Disconnect. Turn off. Delete and block. Do whatever you need to do to put the focus back on you and your emotional wellness and self-care. The chances of you being able to convince them to not be racist to you are slim (believe me, I've tried!). And besides, it's not your job to do. It's the job of your white anti-racist friends and peers to do that. Let them shoulder the emotional labour for you.

You focus on YOUR magic. On being the black or brown girl magic that you are. On thriving, laughing with friends, creating art, dancing, nurturing and being nurtured by your loved ones and spending times in spaces and relationships where you are already beloved. 

(Side note: If you do want to spend hours of your time engaging in these conversations, that is also okay and your choice. Just make sure that it is an intentional choice that you are making to labour for free and expose yourself to potential harm, and not something that you subconsciously think you are obligated to do. You are not obligated to spend a moment of your time engaging with anyone who has harmed you, or can harm you. Not a single second.)

2. BOUNDARIES, BOUNDARIES, BOUNDARIES

The number one way we waste our magic is by not having strong boundaries. When we let anyone and everyone into our spaces. When we give our energy responding to people who do not deserve it, and are not paying us for it. When we allow casual racism to happen to us or other BIPOC in our communities without clearly shutting it down. Immediately. When we keep giving people who have harmed us without sincere apologizing second, third and fourth chances because 'they didn't mean it' and 'it wasn't their intention'.

You don't have to accept any of this. It is your right to uphold big, beautiful boundaries that center you and ensure that you can thrive. If people cannot respect your boundaries, then they cannot respect you. If they cannot sincerely apologize to you when they have harmed you (whether they meant it or not), then they do not care about you. As my friend Sandy Broadus once said:

"If it kills you to apologize to a black woman, then you do not really believe in equality.".

Do not be afraid of having the 'angry black woman' label (or other associated trope) hurled at you for no longer coddling whiteness and no longer accepting racist microaggressions. 

Love yourself enough to do what is right for you and your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being. 

3. WORK THROUGH YOUR INTERNALISED OPPRESSION

The biggest lessons I have learned over the past few months is how deeply ingrained my own internalised oppression and anti-blackness is. It will be my life-long work to heal this. Do you want to know why it was and continues to be so hard for me to stop allowing harm to be done to me? To stop engaging with white people when they are tone-policing and spiritually bypassing me? To stop taking part in the drama? Because of my own internalized oppression that keeps me in a dynamic of denying my own humanity, thus perpetuating white supremacy against myself. The truth is, a part of me keeps hoping white people will finally 'get it'. Keeps hoping that if I just present enough evidence, or give enough anti-racist educational resources, or spend enough unpaid emotional labour, then they'll get it.

But what actually happens in reality?

5-10 BIPOC can spend hours with ONE spiritual white woman who has said or done something harmful (usually unintentionally), and rather than them 'getting it', they will dig their heels in deeper and commit even more harm than the original offending act. They will ignore, censor, talk over, bypass, dismiss, derail, tone-police, disappear and eventually delete everything - including everyone's emotional labour - because their white fragility gets triggered and they refuse to actually listen and do the work.

We have to stop allowing our own internalised oppression to allow us to take part in these dynamics. Yes, we can call out and call in. Yes, we can speak our truth. Yes, we do not need to be silent. But we also do not need to spend hours and hours with them in the hopes that they'll get it. They're not going to get it until they actually do the work. They need to pay black women and WOC to help them do the DEEP work of anti-racism. It's not going to be figured out on Facebook or Instagram.

And I will keep repeating this again and again: It is not your job to spend your time and your free emotional labour to help them figure it out.

If you find yourself doing this, oppressing yourself in this way, stop and take a breath. Witness yourself. Witness your hunched over body, shallow breathing and the scream that is lodged in your throat. Ask yourself when was the last time you ate something or drank a glass of water. Check in with your body and see if your jaw is clenched, your heart rate is high and your muscles are tensed. Ask yourself whether the way you are spending your time right now honors you or oppresses you. And then do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Refuse to allow yourself to be used by white supremacy to oppress yourself. You have never and will never need white validation and white approval to be anything but the magnificent being that you already are. Stop seeking it out from people who refuse to see that. Instead of spending your precious time and energy trying to figure out how to convince them to get it, spend it working through unmasking, understanding and healing your own internalised oppression. This is important spiritual work that is ours to do.

4. WE ARE GOING TO BE THE CHANGE

Do you know what leaders this industry, and this world, needs right now? It needs the leadership of the most marginalised. It needs the leadership of folx who are black, indigenous, people of colour, trans people, non-gender conforming and non-binary people, fat people, disabled people, queer people and people who do not hold the highest amounts of privilege and visibility.

We have spent our entire lifetime listening to and learning from them.
It is now time for them to fall back and listen to and learn from us.

Up until now, the only way they have done that is by appropriating our cultures and colonizing our spiritual traditions, while largely marginalizing and ignoring us. You can't see us in this industry in terms of actual representation and inclusivity. But you can see the evidence of us: spiritual white teachers with Hindu names; photo shoots with white sage, dreamcatchers and sacred feathers; rituals and practices from non-white cultures being primarily lead by white people; claims of being black and brown healers in their past lives, etc.

They want our practices, traditions, teachings and wisdom. But they do not want us. 

They do not want the fire of our truth or the power of our medicine. They do not want to sit back and listen to us, let alone pay us, for what they feel they are entitled to, simply by virtue of holding white privilege.

We will not tolerate it anymore.

We will speak up.
We will hold them accountable.
We will call them in and out.
We will demand they do better.
We will not labour for free.
We will create spaces and communities that center and nurture BIPOC.
We will tell it like it is.
We will stop protecting oppressors and colonizers from hearing what they need to hear.
We will own our stories, our art, our magic.
We will be unapologetically Black, Brown, Indigenous, POC.
We will stop censoring our voices, and fearing our own power.
We will do what we need to do to take care of ourselves first.

We will show them what real Love & Light looks like. Not just in our words, but through our actions. Through the way that we lead and create and look after one another. 

Through the way that we create real change in this industry. And in the world.


There is no more going back to how things were, or sweeping any of this under the rug.

Change has been coming for a long time in this industry. I wrote about it in 2016. And then again in 2017. And here we are now in 2018, louder, clearer and more activated than ever before.

Whether they are ready for it or not, it is time for us to get free. 

 
Layla Saad
I built a white feminist temple. And now I'm tearing it down.
 
 Photo by  Clarke Sanders  on  Unsplash
 

“It was amazing how freed up the canvas became once I took white people out as predominant figures.”

(Toni Morrison)


Hello, my name is Layla Saad. And I built a white feminist temple.

That is to say that my business, Wild Mystic Woman, which I have always described as a ‘temple space for wild women & modern mystics’, was in fact a temple space that was predominantly for white wild women, and white modern mystics.

I am a black woman.
I have always used predominantly black women’s imagery in my branding.
I have never stated that my work was predominantly for white women.

And yet the truth that I have had to face is that my beautiful business has always catered to and served white women, 95% of the time.

This temple that I have so lovingly built, brick by brick, is a white women’s temple. It does not matter that I, a black woman, have been the high priestess of this space, because the majority of members in this space have always been white; making me and women who look like me a minority.

White women did not marginalise me and women like me in this temple space.

I did that.

I did exactly what I have been asking white women to stop doing to us. I have been perpetuating white supremacy through my business, because of my own unexamined internalised racism and conditioned oppression.

None of this was by intentional design. It was by unintentional default.

The unintentional default in most online businesses (regardless of who runs those businesses) is that whiteness is centered. White imagery, white clients, white perspectives and white narratives of success, empowerment and spirituality dominate this industry. This is because this industry reflects the white supremacy ideology that white is seen as ‘universal’ and applying to all, and non-white is seen as ‘other’ and applying only to those who are non-white.

It is only when a business owner makes the intentional and overt choice to purposely de-center whiteness and center people of colour that things begin to shift.

So while I have been growing this business, it has not mattered that I am a black woman.
It has not mattered that I always used predominantly black women’s imagery in my branding.
It has not mattered that I never stated that my work was predominantly for white women.

None of these things mattered, because I did not intentionally de-center whiteness, and consciously center people of colour.

I made the unconscious assumption that having a business that was open to all women would mean that I would see a diversity of women as my clients and readers. That me being a black woman was enough to create a business that was diverse and reflective of my racial identity. This was not the case, and it is why I have built a white feminist temple, and why I'm ready to tear it down.


For the last few weeks I have been offline, taking a winter break from social media and my business.

Following the viral impact of my work since publishing my letters on ‘I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy’, I have been on a rollercoaster of a ride of hyper visibility and business growth.

However, the biggest impact for me personally of this whole journey has been the learning and unlearning I have been experiencing as a black woman. Prior to publishing those letters, I did not talk about race in my work. So while I was aware of racism as a black person generally, it wasn’t something that I thought about everyday or clearly saw in the circles that I worked and played in. And while I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about my transformational journey as a woman, I spent hardly any time at all thinking and writing about my transformational journey as a black woman.

However the huge reach of those articles suddenly exposed me to dynamics and behaviours that have been right under my nose all of this time, that I’d never really noticed were commonplace in the white-centered online business world. Things like tone-policing, micro-aggressions, spiritual bypassing, white fragility, constant requests for emotional labour, claims of being colour blind, cultural appropriation, the perceived invisibility of leaders and teachers of colour, misogynoir, internalised oppression and so much more.

Amongst the chaos (both positive and negative) that was generated by me talking more and more about race, I began to see myself as a woman who is black.

And I began to think about what what it means to be a black woman in spaces that are mostly white centered. Not just ‘out there’ on Facebook and Instagram, but inside my own business. Inside my business temple that I had assumed would center women like me, but was in reality centering white women.

A terrifying dynamic that I began to notice, was that my sudden popularity as a writer was happening because I was specifically speaking to white people.

And although my recent work has been in no way comfortable for white people or coddling of whiteness, my sudden popularity as a writer has come because my work has specifically centered whiteness. I did not write an essay called ‘I need to speak to women of colour…’ I wrote an essay called ‘I need to speak to white women...'. Thus in effect, making white women my primary audience and de-centering women of colour. I was no longer centering whiteness by unintentional default anymore, but by unintentional design. Is it any wonder then that the majority of people who are currently supporting me on Patreon are white? That I am receiving PayPal donations from white people for my emotional labour in talking to them about white supremacy? Don't misunderstand me, I am beyond grateful for the financial support for my work. However, because of this dynamic of me speaking to white people about white supremacy, and white people paying me for it, it feels like I am being paid to do anti-racist education work. 

But here’s the thing: I’m not an anti-racist educator. Or an activist on the front line. Or a social justice worker. Or an anti-oppression teacher.

I am a writer.
I am a black woman who is a writer.

I write personal essays and poems, with a liberatory consciousness lense about spirituality, leadership, business and social justice.

My purpose is not to hand hold white people to teach them about white supremacy and what they need to do dismantle it.

And the fact that I have believed that this is my purpose for the last few months is indicative of the fact that I have been centering whiteness all along. It is only in the last few weeks where I have been offline, away from the thoughts and narratives of white people on social media, that I have had the chance to truly to connect to myself and hear what wants to come forth from me. I have realised that by constantly writing and talking to white people, I have completely ignored and de-centered the woman of colour’s gaze. I have done to women of colour what white people do to us all the time. And that makes me sick to my stomach.


During my winter break, I have been immersing myself in books, articles, videos and podcasts by and about black feminist writers and thinkers.

I have been saturating myself in resources that unapologetically center the black gaze, not the white gaze. I have been moving my way through the stages of black racial identity development that William E. Cross Jr called the Nigrescence Model.

I have been asking myself questions like:

  • Who am I as a writer, and what do I want to write about when I take away the white gaze?
  • What would the spirituality/personal growth/wellness industry look like if it was an industry that centered the voices, bodies, narratives and perspectives of black people and people of colour?
  • What kind of topics would prominent black writers like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, James Baldwin and more have had the chance to write about, if they didn’t have to spend so much time writing about white supremacy? What other great works might they have had the chance to create if they hadn’t had to spend so much time defending their humanity as black people, while at the same time, educating white people about racism? What more magic might they have brought to the world if they weren’t living under a system of oppression?

I have been reflecting on the words of Toni Morrison and how throughout her career, she has consciously and overtly chosen to de-center the white gaze in her books, and how that has influenced the type of books that she has written. Toni Morrison asked the question:

"What happens to the writerly imagination of a black author who is at some level always conscious of representing one's race to, or in spite of, a race of readers that understands itself to be 'universal' or race-free?”

These are the questions I have been sitting with, as I reflect on how my sudden growth has primarily come about because of the white gaze.

What happens to my writerly imagination when I am at some level always conscious of representing my race to, or in spite of, a race of readers that understands itself to be ‘universal’ or race-free? And what of myself do I lose from that? What of myself am I having to sacrifice and compromise so that I can keep this growth up? What part of my purpose and my identity becomes buried when I cater to whiteness? And how much sovereignty and agency do I really have if my success is in the hands of whiteness?

Is this is the kind of freedom and success that I want for myself as a black woman, and is it the kind of freedom that I want to be advocating for other black women and women of colour to have?

No.
This isn’t freedom.
This isn’t liberty.
This is oppression.

This is me participating in, enabling, creating and allowing my own oppression.
My own enslavement. My own denigration. My own erasure.

This is me perpetuating white supremacy through my own work.

I am a black woman, who has built a white feminist temple. And now I’m ready to tear it down.


In order to tear it down, I need to know exactly what the foundational pillars are that I used to create it, and the foundational pillars that I want to replace it with as I rebuild it.

In order to know what I want to create, I have to know what I need to destroy. Here are the four main pillars that my white feminist temple was built on:

1. Catering to and centering the white woman’s gaze.

Because I have not consciously de-centered the white gaze until now, the default has been that my work has always been through the white gaze by default. This is why the majority of my clients and readers have been white. This is why I felt the need to write ‘I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy’. This is why I have spent so much time and energy over the last few months talking about social justice with white people. And this is why, as a black woman, I have felt that I have become a resource for white people for them to learn about anti-racism. Why I was starting to feel like my work would not be relevant if I chose to speak about other things outside of race and social justice.

Ever since I started working for myself three years ago, 95% of the programs I have bought, courses I have been in, coaches I have worked with and teachers I have learnt from have been white. Is it any wonder that I myself have a white perspective and a white gaze? And going back further than that, my growing up in a western country meant that I was conditioned by society to believe that white was right. That white was the standard to aim for. That as a little black girl, I needed to work twice as hard to get half as far as a white person. That white validation, whether at school or in business was necessary to feel worthy and to experience success.

2. Stories and myths of liberation from oppression and reclaiming sovereignty that are from the white woman’s perspective.

I spent much of 2016 experiencing a spiritual awakening that led to the creation of Wild Mystic Woman. During those months I read spiritual book after spiritual book, as I explored my own mysticism and identity as a woman. I did not realise the significance of this at the time, but nearly all of the books that I read during that period were authored by white women. Books like The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock, Love Your Lady Landscape by Lisa Lister, Burning Woman by Lucy H Pearce, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd and many, many more. Because I was still not awake to what it meant to be a black woman, I did not notice that the narratives of oppression and reclamation were from a white perspective. I did not notice that the daily spiritual nutrition that I was taking in was that of white women’s perspectives, almost exclusively. And that the stories and myths from these books centered on liberation from the patriarchy. The struggles that these books outlined were centered on gender, not on race. So the education that I was receiving around my own empowerment was incomplete.

These books were not wrong or bad. But they were only a part of the picture, and in some instances, they were part of a picture that wasn’t even mine. These books only helped me to look at one part of me - my gender identity - and completely ignored my racial identity. Because white women’s liberation from oppression has not been about their race. They have never had to struggle under oppression because of their white race. Their struggle has always been about their gender. For black women and women of colour, it is about both. Black women do not only have to worry about sexism. We also have to worry about racism.

I am not faulting these authors for not writing about race. As white women, they cannot write about the spiritual and transformational journey of a black woman from a place of true experience. But what I am angry about is that those books that I want and need to read are not easily found. They are not best-sellers. They are too few and far between, and they are completely obscured by the dominance of white narratives and white stories of spiritual growth, resulting in black women like myself having to really search to find the kind of books that we want to read. While white women’s books about the witch wound and liberation from patriarchy are generally seen as spiritual books, women of colours books about the race wound and liberation from white supremacy are generally seen as political books. Where then, does a black woman go, if she wants to read about her liberation from oppression within a spiritual context?

(I also want to add it here that I am have only talked about two identities which are sources of oppression - gender identity and race. The issues become even more layered when we add in other parts of our identities such as gender expression, sexual orientation, class, age, physical ability, cognitive ability, etc.)

3. Spiritual practices that are culturally appropriative.

New age white spirituality is highly culturally appropriative. As someone who was very much influenced by these narratives, I now find myself with sticks of palo santo and white sage bundles in my drawers. Why do I need these sacred Native American plants, when I come from and live in cultures (African and Arab) that have their own spiritual tools? I do not need white sage. I have bukhoor or Arabic frankincence, that my family has used daily all of my life for the same purpose that white sage is used for. It is the white gaze and the white perspective that I held which made me believe that I had to look outside of my own culture to find spiritual tools. New age white spirituality and white-centered goddess spirituality colonizes the spirituality of marginalised people.

The more I become aware of this, the more angry it makes me every time I see white spiritual mentors and teachers talking about Hindu goddesses, the chakra system, Native American shamanism, etc as if these traditions are their own. Many of these people belong to the ‘spiritual but not religious’ crew, while casually appropriating from religions that they feel are ‘exotic’ or more interesting than their own. I am angry at myself for the times I have spoken about the Hindu goddess Kali or the Buddhist goddess Kuan Yin - religions that I do not belong to - without the respect and reverence for the religious traditions that they belong to.

White woman spirituality taught me that.

4. Serving mainly white people through my work.

As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of my clients and readers have been white, because I have not intentionally and overtly stated that I desire intersectionality and diversity. This needs to change.

In essence, these four pillars helped me to create a mainstream, white feminist space.


Here are the four main pillars that my temple will now be built on:

1. Catering to and centering the black woman’s and woman of color’s gaze.

This does not mean that white people are not welcome to read my work or will not find benefit from my work. What it does mean however, is that I will not cater my writing or focus my work on the white gaze. The gaze will be my own. I will write for myself, as a black woman, and to black women and women of color. And any benefit or inspiration that white people gain from my work will be a side-effect or unintended consequence. This is the complete opposite of ‘I need to speak to spiritual white women about white supremacy’. Quite frankly, I’m done speaking to white people about a problem that I did not create and do not benefit from. And if I do choose to speak on these subjects in the future, it will be on my own terms and not because I feel a responsibility to do so. I want to focus my writing and my work on what I want to see as a black woman.

2. Stories and myths of liberation from oppression and reclaiming sovereignty that are from the black woman and woman of color’s perspective.

White woman stories and myths of liberation focus on gender. I want to focus on what bell hooks calls ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’. And as I mentioned in the first pillar, this will be from a black woman’s gaze, not a white gaze. My race is just as important to me as my gender identity. As the Malawian poet Upile Chisala has written, I am Black and Woman.

3. Spiritual practices that are from my own ancestry, and hypervigilance of appropriating religious and spiritual traditions of other groups - especially those who are marginalized and oppressed.

I will continue to my spiritual explorations as a wild mystic woman. However, instead of picking and borrowing from other people’s cultures, I will look more closely at my own. I will delve back into my ancestry and cultural traditions as a woman of African and Middle Eastern ethnicity. I can appreciate the spiritual traditions of other cultures, without appropriating them. I will stop perpetuating the methods of the white coloniser when it comes to my spirituality.

4. Serving mainly black people and people of colour through my work.

My writing and future programs will be specifically catered to serving black people and people of colour.

In essence, these four pillars will help me to create a black feminist and womanist space.


White people who have followed my work, I am grateful for you and the way you have supported my work. However, I cannot continue to center and cater to you.

When I think about just how much work needs to be done (and how much work has already been done for centuries) on dismantling white supremacy I feel exhausted, pessimistic and completely disheartened.

I think about all the tone-policing I experience. The accusations I receive of being ‘too angry’ or ‘shaming’ even when I take the time and care to write with truthful compassion. The gut-wrenching times when a white person allows harm to be done to myself and other women of colour in their presence. The emotional labour and time I put into helping a white person understand why their post is perpetuating oppression, only to have them delete everything I and others have wrote. The need to take screenshots and have ‘receipts’ when interacting with white people who are being problematic. The amount of harm a white person has to do to me and other people of colour before they finally ‘get it’. The gaslighting and spiritual bypassing. And on, and on, and on.

I want a new world, as much as you do. But I cannot continue to sacrifice myself to whiteness in order to help create that world.

What I can do however, is start to live as if that world already exists. To live that world - a world in which black women and women of colour are safe, valued, seen, celebrated, supported and respected - right now, through my business temple. To act as if that world already exists or the seeds of that world are being sown, in the way that I write and guide others. To bring hope now, through the way that I fully show up as a black woman, and fully show up for black women and women of colour.

This is not what I think all black people and people of colour should be doing. But it is what I want to do - for myself and for any black woman or woman of colour who I am here to serve. Because I need hope. And we deserve to exist and thrive outside of just talking about our racial oppression.

We are not just a group that has been marginalised and under-privileged.

We are brilliant. We are smart. We are creative. We are funny. We are beautiful. We are ordinary. And we are magic.

And we deserve to have spaces and stories that center us in ways that are celebratory.

This industry, and the white-centered spaces that we often work and play in would, as Toni Morrison has said in her interview with Charlie Rose in 1998, have us believe that "...Our lives have no meaning and no depth without the White gaze". My decision to tear down this white feminist temple, and build a black feminist and womanist temple in its place, is my act of radical resistance and my act of sacred activism.

I may not be able to dismantle white supremacy. But I can create a space where the values and dynamics of white supremacy are not entertained.

Where whiteness is not a thing that I or other women of colour have to be constantly wrestling with in ways that are demeaning and disempowering. Where we are not only safe, but we are also honoured. Where we can be ourselves, unapologetically. 

So to my white readers, while you may no longer get the direct benefit from me of having my work catered specifically to you, what you will indirectly receive is a view into a world where black women and women of colour are upheld and elevated. Part of relinquishing your white privilege and building the new world beyond oppression, is accepting that your white gaze must be de-centered, so that more of us can have the chance to be seen and heard.

And if you are a white person who is truly dedicated to the dismantling of systems of oppression, then this work and the work of all black women and women of colour (regardless of whether or not we are anti-racist educators or anti-oppression teachers) is worth supporting and uplifting.

Even if it's not for you.
Especially because it's not for you.

Layla Saad
We Are Not Your Ugly-Beautiful Toys
 
  Photo by  Clarke Sanders  on  Unsplash
 

First they called us n*ggers
Now they call us regal queens
Always 'other'
Always 'other'

One day we are the garbage
The next, we are the Goddess
Always 'other'
Always 'other'

Never just woman
Never just human
Always, always
something
Other

Something tokenized
fetishized
modified
and then commodified

For your consumption
For You

You
The one with the white gaze
The one with the colonizers' appetite
The one who needs to oppress and control
just to feel whole
The one who cannot find shared humanity
outside of whiteness

We do not exist for this purpose
We are not your ugly-beautiful toys

No
You cannot
touch our beautiful black hair

No
You cannot
talk about our beautiful black skin

No
You cannot
project your hate or your love
onto our beautiful black souls

We are not your blank slates
We are not your toys

We are
Women
Humans
And yes, even
regal goddess queens

But for our gaze
Not yours

Always ours
Never yours

Layla Saad