“One of the really horrific and toxic things that wellness sells us is personal solutions to systemic problems.” – Kerri Kelly
My guest Kerri Kelly landed on the perfect summation for this episode: “It’s gonna be juicy y’all!” And it is since our discussion centers on whiteness. Ha––leave it to whiteness to center itself here, there, everywhere. In this instance, however, whiteness and the cacophony of capitalism that almost always accompanies it, is drowned out by Kerri’s challenging, meaningful call-in. And she keeps that volume turned way up.
In her new book American Detox: The Myth of Wellness and How We Can Truly Heal, Kerri confronts the toxic systems (founded on whiteness) that have commodified wellness and prohibit everyone (including white folks) from enjoying genuine well-being. What qualifies her to make such a case? Well, Kerri is the founder of CTZNWELL, a movement that’s democratizing well-being for all and a yoga instructor with 20+ years of experience. She’s well-known for making waves in the wellness industry by challenging norms, disrupting systems and mobilizing people to act. She’s dedicated her life to kicking down doors and fighting for justice, traits she’s inherited from a long line of first-responder ancestors.
Kerri’s an empathetic guide for white folks working through the nuances of individual and collective reckoning. “It’s very, very messy. I own the mess of it and the mistakes,” she says, adding, “I’m trying to learn how to be cool with them and know that I can survive them so I can keep going.” Now that I see the lie of white supremacy everywhere (Perfectionism! Productivity! Individualism!), I recognize how thoroughly indoctrinated I am in the system and the harm caused by my own mistake. That repeated realization is tiresome, by design. White supremacy is engineered to keep us severed from self-discovery and the will to continually question and call out. It’s here that I struggle to find hope. There’s no skipping to the part where I’m “done” with white supremacy. This is challenging, lifetime work.
We, white folks, must excavate, examine, and come to terms with the brutal truths. I’m grateful to people like Kerri who offer wisdom and encouragement. “When I make mistakes or when I’m really reckoning with all of the ways I’m implicated and continuing to participate in these systems,” she says, “I remember that it’s not because I’m a bad person. It’s not because I’m the worst person. It’s not because something’s wrong with me. It’s because I’ve been conditioned and socialized to be this person.“
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MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
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Kerri Kelly is the founder of CTZNWELL, a movement that is democratizing well-being for all. A descendant of generations of firemen and first responders, Kerri has dedicated her life to kicking down doors and fighting for justice. She’s been teaching yoga for over 20 years and is known for making waves in the wellness industry by challenging norms, disrupting systems and mobilizing people to act.
A community organizer, wellness activist and author of the forthcoming book American Detox: The Myth of Wellness and How We Can Truly Heal, Kerri is recognized across communities for her inspired work to bridge transformational practice with social justice. She’s been instrumental in translating the practices of wellbeing into social and political action, working in collaboration with community organizers, spiritual leaders and policymakers to transform our systems from the inside out. Her leadership has inspired a movement that is actively organizing around issues of racial and economic justice, healthcare as a human right, civic engagement and more.