There has been a conversation happening this week, mostly on Instagram, regarding white supremacy in the craft industry, and we have been listening. We hope you have been, too.
As business owners, Kate and I recognize the platform we have to amplify voices, the ability we have to shape and steer images and content we put forth, and whether or not those images and content are inclusive and representative of the community. We can always do better, and we will continue to push ourselves to do so. We make a promise to hold one another accountable for our decisions, choices, and actions as business owners and people because we recognize that a capitalist system is inherently a white supremacist system. As participants in this system, we strive to make the best choices we can.
This conversation isn’t about one person, nor is it about you personally, but it is about how we as white women can and should do better. If you feel like this came out of nowhere, be assured it did not. This has been percolating at the surface for a long time in the crafting world, and this week the pot overflowed. As white people, we have a responsibility to listen, learn, and do the work that women of color have been doing for a long time, and asking us to do with and for them. We hope that the conversation continues and broadens to encompass more aspects of our industry, and not just social media, as real change requires the continued hard work and dedication to action.
“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” – Peggy McIntosh, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
If this resonates with you this week, good. We are glad you are still here, still reading. If you are confused, feeling defiant, despondent, or do not understand, then please sit with those feelings and push yourself to grow through them. Take time out from your crafting and read something that makes you reflect on yourself and your experiences, and your relation to experiences that are not yours.
This is something we have been actively doing as an office, and individually, this week in order to lay some groundwork for how we feel about our relationship to the larger conversation. We acknowledge our privilege has made this possible, that we are not infallible. We are all complicit, and have a lot of work to do.
As an office we are committing to doing Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy Workbook”, a free pdf download. (Please, if you download her work, make a donation to Layla Saad for providing this workbook to you). We are going to host a monthly gathering at our warehouse to do this work together.
This is what the author says about the workbook:
Perhaps you are a person who has self-identified as ‘colour-blind’. Perhaps you have considered yourself a progressive, liberal person who just happens to be white or white-passing. Perhaps you are a spiritual person who has believed that the divine principle that ‘we are all one’ means that you can’t be racist. Perhaps the fear of being called racist has held you back from taking a real honest look at the way you have caused racist harm. Perhaps you’ve been more attached to being seen as ‘one of the good ones’ than you have to actually practicing anti-racism. Perhaps you know deep in your heart that something isn’t right when it comes to you and your relationship with race, and you’re ready to look at it.
Below are some additional suggestions I encourage you to consider for further reading:
1 / White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
If you read nothing else, please read this. Originally published in 1989, McIntosh’s writing continues to explain the concept and reality of white privilege in a clear and concise manner, especially if those words are new to you. It’s not a long article, and it is very accessible.
2/ For White Women Learning Calculus in a School Building on Fire, by Jennifer Harvey
Jennifer Harvey is a professor of religion and ethics at Drake University, and this article is an excellent read. She has written a number of books, including Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation, which may be relevant to your experience.
3 / So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
You can visit the link above to read the Introduction and excerpt of Chapter One. I encourage you to buy the book, and especially encourage you to do so from your local bookstore. If you are in Philadelphia please consider visiting Uncle Bobbie’s, a black-owned bookstore in the Germantown neighborhood, or find it at your local independent bookstore here.
4 / White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.
Katy Waldman wrote an article about the book: A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism:
“Robin DiAngelo has noticed that white people are sensationally, histrionically bad at discussing racism. Like waves on sand, their reactions form predictable patterns: they will insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.” They will point to friends and family members of color, a history of civil-rights activism, or a more “salient” issue, such as class or gender. They will shout and bluster. They will cry. In 2011, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. Why, she wondered, did her feedback prompt such resistance, as if the mention of racism were more offensive than the fact or practice of it?”
5 / Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Originally published twenty years ago, and revised and updated in 2017. If you are a teacher or educator, or have children this is an important book. Click here to read an extensive excerpt.
6 / There Is No Middle Ground Between Racism and Justice and We women can be anything. But can we be angry? by Ijeoma Oluo
If you are looking for something with a bit of power behind it, I recommend the above two writings by Ijeoma Oluo:
“What is the compromise between justice and oppression? What grey area between inequality and equality exists? There is none. You cannot have a little injustice and call it justice. You cannot have a little inequality and call it equality. And whenever you decide that you have the power to slow or stop justice and equality for others — you are immediately ensuring the continuation of injustice and inequality by placing yourself above those seeking justice and equality. There is a claim of superiority inherent in believing that you have the right to slow racial justice.”
How will any of this change anything? Well, we suppose the hope is that we can all learn from our experiences, and learn to hear the experiences of others as truth. As an industry, as a community that shares a love of craft, is our job to move beyond the politics of visibility (although that is still something that is desperately needed in this industry) and into the cohesive force of diverse crafters that the world must reckon with. We are continually impressed by this community’s ability to show up and speak out, and hope we do not let ourselves down this time.