So, you made a New Year's resolution to start eating better and going to the gym. That's great! Now what about consuming less harmful media and exercising more compassion?
That's the question underpinning the Complicity Cleanse — an alternative take on trendy detox diets aimed at eliminating systems of oppression instead of carcinogens and added sugar. An effort to make the woke even woker, the three-week-long "anti-oppression diet" suggests people don't just need to rid their bodies of toxins, but their minds as well.
As the cleanse's website states, people "are made not only of what we eat, but of what we collectively consume" — including ingrained attitudes that make most everyone complicit in the continued marginalization of historically disenfranchised groups.
"What we consume affects the world we live in, and consumption is not just related to food," Jackie Sumell, one of the organizers of the cleanse, said in an email. "It's thought, it's what you watch, buy, listen to, read, where you go, how you get there, how much time you spend on your phone ... what you spend your money, time, thoughts on. It's infinite — so we have infinite opportunities to create better versions of ourselves for each other."
"This time in history can feel disempowering, but that is just a feeling."
From Jan. 1 to Jan. 21, Complicity Cleanse subscribers will receive daily emails that include "menus" of topical quotes from inspired thinkers (the "appetizer"); reading, podcasts, talks regarding the oppressive forces of racism, sexism, xenophobia and hate ("mains"); and suggested actions for reducing discrimination and prejudice ("sides"). The first three days of the cleanse have included everything from Laverne Cox quotes to guidelines for practicing anti-racist equitable discourse.
The goal of the cleanse, which originated with Sumell's activist public art project Solitary Gardens, is to reduce what is often inadvertent collusion in oppression. At the very least, it's intended to provoke contemplation. But with the incoming Trump administration threatening to trample the rights of women and gender nonconforming individuals, people of color, Muslims, immigrants and who knows who else, a mental cleanse without corresponding action could read as "Activism Lite." With the stakes high as they are, the Complicity Cleanse has made a point to focus on proactive changes people can make in their lives and communities.
"This time in history can feel disempowering, but that is just a feeling," Sumell said. "We are hoping the Complicity Cleanse will help [people] transcend that feeling and consequential paralysis with thoughts, words, actions."