Note: If you came here to read about yarn or knitting, please, stick with me, and read this. It is really important.
A few days ago, I logged onto Instagram and saw that several people were speaking about “something” that had happened and it took some reading and digging to understand what had transpired (see comments).
To sum it up very simply, A seemingly innocuous (to the writer) blog post was posted, and People of Color commented. I will admit, I had tuned that writer out long ago because of her air of economic privilege that doesn’t even come close to my own. She and I live in different-although still white and privileged-worlds.
What followed that blog and comments was one of those fast-paced, painful and educational moments (edit: no, MONTHS) that’s still unfolding and reverberating around the interwebs and the knitting community.
We white people are being schooled. (Edit: And for those of you who don’t get that-let me try another tack-White people in America no matter their economic standard DON’T SEE with the same eyes and so don’t understand the subjective experience of people of color in America.)
Please hang in there with me if you’re reading this and are uncomfortable…
So I’m seriously grateful because as a white-identified*, cis-gendered, more than middle aged woman, my privilege is not easy for me to see.
As someone said, it’s like a fish discovering that no only does it live in WATER, but that water is wet. It’s hard to see what you are subjectively a part of.
I don’t want to make this long, but I do not want to be silent either.
After an entire day where my attention was elsewhere, I am still trying to catch up, to read the comments, which by now number in the many hundreds, and listen to what the major People of Color speakers, as well as some of my friends, are saying.
I will admit that my inaction is due to not knowing where to start or how to proceed. Also, to younger marginalized people that are responding, educating, “calling out”: The idea of speaking up is a normal, natural part of your world, much like the terminology around multiple genders, “non-binary” and all those sorts of words, that honestly, to a woman born in the early 60’s are completely baffling. I’ve had to educate myself on what those even mean. I’m rebooting my dictionary as fast as I can, and lagging behind…but I’m listening. I’m taking notes.
Things are far different today, and yes, I just turned into my grandmother by saying that. But even that is privilege. I see it now. Being ensconced in a world where no one looks at me as “other” while I go about my knitting happiness, is massive privilege, economically, in terms of free time to relax and knit, who I purchase my yarn from, who I even see is selling yarn, etc.
The shift as I see it is that the knitting world was lagging far behind most of the rest of America in terms of still being very insulated and white. My first thought was “it’s a craft perpetuated as part of the white-European culture” but historical content doesn’t matter. Modern inclusivity and equal representation does. As someone said, making the knitting world free of “politics” and “social issues” is privilege. Just like me podcasting and showing off my acquisitions and finished objects is a demonstration of massive privilege. So much so that I’ve thought about not doing it any more.
But I think the knitting community just sharply changed for the better. If you’re white, please just sit with this and think about it. It’s time for us to do better.
*As a genealogist, one thing that really shifted me out of my privilege mindset a few years ago is that, doing a DNA test along with my family tree, I found that I have not one, but two lines in my tree that have African Ancestors. Approximately 1725 or so for both. And both were apparently slaves who either were from or whose ancestors were from Nigeria. I still carry their DNA. My father had no idea. Both of these lines were apparently “hiding” in lines that were handed down to me as “Cherokee” (really Cherokee/Lumbee/African) and Catawba/Chickasaw (In reality probably Powhatan/Catawba and African) Yet I know nothing of their lives and can not even presume to speak for them.
And I do not mean to make this about me except to say this DNA information opened my eyes, and my heart, and I now have an awareness that I OWE something to those women-Dynah and the other woman who’s name is unknown. I owe them my awareness at the very least, and am still trying to figure out how best to honor them…Still crashing around what it looks like to be a white woman with Black Ancestors.
Now I KNOW that in NO WAY does this give me ANY right to speak for anyone of color but I owe it to my African and Native ancestors and to People of Color living today, to see them, to be aware, to read what is said and take it to heart. Yes, you are talking to me.
And if you’re European or not in America, please understand that this is not just an “American” thing. Racial Inclusion and Diversity are things we all need to learn more about. If you are identified by others as white you need to take this to heart and learn.
I read so many comments last night at 2am, and this morning. I can’t remember who said it but they said “If you stop seeing diversity, it stops existing”.
So myself and many many others on Instagram, Ravelry and Facebook are attempting to make sure that we read, we see, we hear, and we listen, and we speak up. The growth that’s happening right now is good.
Please know that I am speaking up here, and as imperfect as it is, I’m working on it.
Much gratitude to those that shared Layla F. Saad’s workbook,
“Me and White Supremacy”. That word, “supremacy”- it smarts, but I’m reading. I’m reading.
Some of us need an instruction manual, and many thanks to those that stopped their lives and put the emotional labor into explaining the wetness of water to fish.
I urge you all, especially if you are identified in the world as white, to download this free booklet. And if you have the economic means, donate to Ms. Saad for the time, effort and emotion she put into explaining this. Also, seek out People of Color who have dyeing businesses, yarn shops, sell patterns, make art, handmade goods and beyond the knitting community into the rest of the world. They exist. See them. Support them.
I don’t know what else I can say except I am grateful for this painful event, this shift….
Edit: PS, I took this down for a while as the conversation has continued and many people were vilified, some for things way beyond my comprehension, but I’m putting my posts back up, and leaving them. Because I do not want to be silent.