The Yin and Yang of White Privilege and Systematic Racism

Updated: Jul 25

There is an Ancient Chinese (3rd century BCE) concept that describes opposites perfectly. Taking things well beyond simply saying, “opposites attract,” the Chinese philosophy goes something like this: For all things in the world to exist, there must be inseparable and contradictory opposites. They believed that Yin was feminine energy. She is Black, dark, passive, water, and provider of all things spiritual. Its opposite, Yang, is supposed to represent white, male, fire, active, and provides form to all things. Admittedly they hadn't yet embraced non-binary, gender non-conforming and trans people.

This perspective on life is not unlike Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)’s third law, which states that for every action (force) in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Both concepts are how I see capitalism and there is no better example of how capitalism manifests than to look at white privilege and systemic racism—particularly against Black and Brown people. One cannot exist without the other. For every example of systematic racism all of us in the Black community can name, there is an equal number of examples of white privilege. Again, one cannot exist without the other. It's not possible to elevate one group of people without devastating another—at least not in this present political system.

Here’s an example of Yin and Yang: Beverly Hills is a city close to Los Angeles that is six square miles, with a population of just under 34,000 and a median income of $100,000. Beverly Hills has 24 supermarkets. Meanwhile it’s estimated that 550,000 Detroit residents live in food deserts, meaning they have limited or no access to fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables, but fast food chains run as far as the eye can see. Oh, and the median income in Detroit is $19,000. I hope that explains Yin and Yang of white privilege and systematic racism pretty well.

White Privilege 420 Style

On July 21, 2021, two days before the Tokyo Olympics were to commence, Forbes Magazine published an article called Cannabis Takes The World Stage At The Tokyo Olympics in which U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe and other white Olympians not only admit to consuming cannabis but talk up its healing properties ... very openly and without concern for people's reactions. Rapinoe’s twin sister, Rachael, founded a company called Mendi, which uses among other ingredients, CBD, in its formulation.

But wait, it’s just CBD! There’s no THC in Mendi, right? And didn’t Megan speak up about how unfair and absurd it is that Black and Brown people are unjustly penalized for cannabis usage? Yes, in fact, in the Forbes article Megan is quoted as saying, “The societal effect in terms of social justice that weed has had on this country is just absurd,” Megan says. “There are so many, mostly Black and Brown, people sitting in jail for 10 or 20-plus years for weed, and it's completely unnecessary. From a social perspective, we're long overdue for the legalization of cannabis.”

I'm not sure about you, but after throwing Sha'Carri Richardson's ban in her face by being so blatantly white and privileged, for me this comment feels very rehearsed and bland. Where's the anger in her voice? I don't hear it. And you know damn well if Megan were talking about women or the LGBTQ+, we'd feel the fire and passion in her voice. No fire. I may as well have been reading about how to build an Ikea bookshelf for all the passion I felt coming from Megan.

But this is neither here nor there: neither hemp-derived CBD nor cannabis (in the form of flower or extracts) containing THC are legal in Tokyo or at the Olympics, which Megan knows because she told the Forbes reporter that despite its healing properties, she and other athletes who consume will need to leave their CBD and cannabis at home.

While Megan touts the benefits of cannabis and CBD (and there are many!), Sha’Carri Richardson, arguably the fastest woman alive at the moment, won’t be competing in Tokyo because she tested positive for cannabis and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned her from participating in this year’s games. Richardson admits to consuming cannabis to help deal with the pain of losing her mother. She was quoted as saying, "I am human." What message is the IOC communicating? Is the death of one's mother, in the middle of competition, no less, not a good enough reason to grieve? She turned to a plant, not a bottle of liquor or pills.

Even the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) feels the ban was punitive. In a letter sent to Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamie Raskin, they referred to the ban as "harsh consequences for marijuana, if it's not used intentionally to enhance performance, they cannot unilaterally change the rules."

And as anyone who's ever consumed a high-THC strain knows from experience, cannabis is far from performance-enhancing. While many see cannabis as a natural way to chill and enjoy whatever comes from being high, people also consume cannabis to deal with emotional trauma due to personal circumstances or systematic racism (hence the reason U.S. states that have approved it for medicinal use, included depression, anxiety and PTSI). Cannabis strains high in THC are associated with expressions like "couch locked" and "high AF," not "let's smoke some weed and see if I can beat my own record." It's beyond a ridiculous claim.

If the IOC is arguing that Sha'Carri used cannabis to enhance her performance, I'm not sure what data they're looking at. When I write health articles about the myriad medicinal benefits of cannabis, I cite sources like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who've invested millions of dollars into studies that look at the healing properties of cannabis.

Collectively the members of the IOC hold at least one hundred degrees. Indeed some of them hold PhDs and MDs. And you're telling me with all that education, these people are still operating on outdated information and don't have access to Google? I asked Google whether cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug and from Scientific American and university researchers to PubMed (NIH's library, which is filled with thousands of studies on all things medical conducted by NIH) all conclude that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing plant. I couldn't find a single study by a reputable source that backs up the IOC's ridiculous claim.

And given the IOC's recent ban of swimming caps to accommodate Black hair and of the Black Power Salute (they acquiesced on kneeling during the U.S. National Anthem), it's difficult to see their singling out of Sha'Carri as anything but racist.

But Wait! What does CBD have to do with THC? Aren't hemp and cannabis different plants? No, hemp and cannabis are the same plant. The only difference is the lack of THC in hemp. In fact, hemp growers in the U.S. and its territories are required by law to burn any “hot” hemp, which means it’s got more than .003% THC. Do they? Not my place to assume, but they’re required to.

There are an estimated 1000 strains of cannabis and it’s safe to assume you can cultivate a hemp plant with the same terpene and cannabinoid profile as its cannabis counterpart, absent THC.

But that isn’t the point. Since Rachael founded Mendi in 2019, she and Megan both have been all over the news outlets promoting the use of cannabis (which they themselves admittedly use interchangeably with CBD/hemp) for athletes to prepare for and recover from competing. In a Green Entrepreneur article from March of this year, Megan was interviewed. The title of the article was, U.S. Soccer Superstar Megan Rapinoe Says the Cannabis Industry Needs More Representation for Women.

And when Rachael was interviewed by Cheddar News immediately following Sha’Carri’s cannabis-positive test and the IOC's subsequent ban from the Tokyo Olympics, it would have been the perfect time for her to speak out against the obvious systemic and rampant racism in professional sports, but instead she said, “It’s an example of how these policies don’t work to protect her and many other athletes.” She goes on to talk about how all athletes should be able to use “these products,” to heal but never raises the issue of inherent bias. Indeed Rachael refers to these “high quality cannabis products” (she didn't say CBD). And the kicker is that toward the end of the interview Rachael talks about the stigmas and wildly false narratives surrounding cannabis, it would have been an incredible time to raise the issue of the War on Drugs and its continued devastation in Black and Brown communities.

Social Media Reacts to the Usual Fuqery

Don’t just take my views on the matter as gospel, I’m far from alone in my views on this.

And my own on Facebook:

The bottom line is this: systematic racism cannot exist without white privilege. They are two halves of the same coin. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yin cannot exist without Yang.

And while we’re talking about Megan and Rachael Rapinoe, even if they didn’t think this through (it wouldn’t be the first time a white person was completely tone deaf), didn’t their publicist or anyone in their camp have some common sense? Don't worry, the question is rhetorical.

And as it relates to them being tone deaf, I used to like Megan Rapinoe. I had tremendous respect for her as a woman, but more importantly an unapologetic queer woman. I loved how she stood up for women’s rights and the rights of everyone in the LGBTQ+. When she spoke about marginalized people, I made the silly assumption she meant all marginalized people, including Black and Brown people. Afterall, her IG profile picture is Black Lives Matter. But as a result of this, I think she is performative … at best.

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