Yesterday, we commented upon an extremely earnest essay published in XOJane entitled, " There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes And I'm Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It." We told you the essay was written by "Jen Caron." In fact it was not!
As many eagle-eyed readers noted after the essay started going around, it was originally published under the writer's actual name: Jen Polachek. (Here is a screenshot of her original XO Jane author page. Bio: "Jen Polachek was born Tokyo and has since been bouncing between the east and west coasts of America. She spends most of her time thinking about food, bodies, and how to pay her rent. She lives in Brooklyn.") Subsequently—after the deluge of negative comments—the byline on the story and on the author page was changed, with no notice, to "Jen Caron." The photo on the author page was changed to a more obscure one for a while; and then changed again, to no photo at all. Some time in the past 24 hours, Jen Polachek started deleting or locking down her internet presence. Which is understandable, given the number of negative comments she may have received.
This is just one dumb essay on the internet. This is not the Iran-Contra scandal. Nobody needs to be driven into hiding because of it. But it does seem rather dishonest for XO Jane to change the byline on a story without even telling anyone. That would be considered unethical in the "traditional media," but who knows how these things work any more? We've asked them for comment, and they responded, via a spokesperson, "Our editor is working on a response to post on xoJane.com following up on this story, it will be live later today."
[Update: Here it is.]
In the meantime, they published this exasperated takedown of Jen Polachek's essay by Pia Glenn. That's called "Getting ahead of the story!"
After the backlash began yesterday, XO Jane managing editor Rebecca Carroll wrote this on Facebook:
OK before you all flip the f*k out — this piece on xoJane today about a skinny white woman's experience in a Brooklyn yoga studio is blowing up with hate. I assigned this piece after the author, who I know from my neighborhood, and with whom I was having a casual conversation, felt she could share this experience with me — I was impressed by her candor in telling me, a black woman she doesn't even know all that well. I told her to write about the experience. This is the result. I didn't edit or change much. This is her first person experience, which I think is very likely the experience (admittedly seeped in white privilege) of a lot of folks. For that reason, I felt it was a narrative that should be heard.
The other part of this — the fairly vitriolic comments — is about my being a black editor who should have made a better judgement call (according to them) about what constitutes suitable race content. As if I am now the official president of the Black Ethics Committee at xoJane. I have many feelings about this, and will address later. Too overwhelmed by the hate right now.
So there you have it.
If all of this has put you in the mood to view a funny video entitled "Black Folk Don't Do Yoga," you can find that here.
White people should not do yoga, either.