A lot has been on my mind since I became aware of the racism conversation at the start of this year. And more recent events have made it clear that silence simply isn't acceptable. I don't really know where to start, so I will simply share some of my experience as it has unfolded.
Figured out something was going on in the craft community and started following the different threads. Didn't quite make it to the one that sparked it all off, but I discovered Layla F Saad and another layer of innocence/ignorance was stripped away.
White privilege. I have loads. So I downloaded the then free workbook, but as with other reading material that I download onto my phone, it got forgotten.
The Mosque shootings in Christchurch. Heart breaking, eye opening, and utterly unsurprising to BIPOC which is all the more shameful. It took this horrific event to make me begin the workbook, Me + White Supremacy.
I made a start. There was a certain amount of relief because my values were working towards what the exercises were aiming to address, but my roadblock struck when I realised that my racism wasn't on the outside. It was on the inside.
I am half Asian, and while I have never been ashamed of being Asian, I have a serious lack of connection with my heritage. I identify as Kiwi, and in growing up doing so I have systemically whitewashed myself to fit in and succeed. I talked a little bit about this in my last newsletter but the wider issue is so very real. I'm a nice person. And I have racism.
And it shames me to my utter core.
However, acknowledging this is only the first step. I've stepped back from the inner work to reflect on my own situation and allow some self care to process the harm I've done to myself. I don't know what harm I may have caused to others in my past, it was done unknowingly and I cannot change what has gone before. But I can change for the better, and as I process things I can still work towards being an ally.
And that leads to now. I became involved in an online conversation where a wool shop owner in New Zealand made a comment on the recent changes to the Ravelry policies and invited people's thoughts.
What started off as a potentially educational thread became a classic case of white fragility that ended up being deleted. Which made me furious, for the following reasons:
1) Public entity made a comment inviting thoughts
2) Almost all initial responses were in support of Ravelry's stance and encouraged the woman to educate herself more and reflect on her stance
3) Once her responses started coming through, it was clear she was ok with being racist and posts got a bit more confrontational (including mine) but not rude
4) After claiming good discussion, a later post claims she has been receiving threats and abusive private messages
5) Suddenly all responses that call her out are deleted. I am blocked.
6) She then apologises that apparently no one can be polite and deletes her page, thus removing the antiracism work that could have helped her and silent readers.
Now, I can't say anything about the private messages, I can only say that I did not send one. I certainly don't condone abusive messaging. But it is clear she felt attacked, when there was no outright nastiness. Based on her responses, I did a quick screensnapping exercise in case my comments were deleted as I was the most confrontational, but I don't think I was rude.
The reason I am going to share my conversation is because it was deleted. If she had left her page up so that the conversation could have continued, I would have continued to raise awareness on that thread so that others could learn from it.
While normally I would name the person, she has already deleted her page. But the conflict of interest comes from the fact that we both own yarn businesses and I don't know what I don't know and I don't need some legal tangle. I cannot advise people not to shop somewhere because the owner is racist. But I can advise you to research your yarn suppliers. Support those who support inclusivity for all. However, there are still lessons to be learnt. She cannot unsay what she has said. She can delete my words, her words, but in this technological age, nothing is truly lost.
Let's evaluate shall we?
Now, I don't have the screenshot of the initial response that brought about this comment, but her reply says it all.
Then she started deleting things.
Final words before The Big Delete.
Now, this might come across as pretty brutal judgement. It may seem like Ravelry supporters 'ganged up' but I would like to reiterate that she invited people's thoughts. Then deleted them. Then still claimed she wanted to know thoughts from both sides.
She invited people's thoughts on an extremely sensitive issue, and when challenged, claimed she was being attacked. I cannot speak for what was sent to her privately, but nobody was abusive on the public thread before comments were deleted. Nobody called her names. Nobody swore at her.
There are other comments I don't have copies of, but what I can remember was her saying that she would welcome Trump or Clinton. But she didn't say she'd welcome the Obamas. This didn't occur to me to point out at the time, but what she didn't say in the comment says a lot.
I also had something to say about her apologetic comment:
All in all, pretty disheartening. That's not to say that good changes have not also happened, but this kind of work is not about back patting.
It's about being a decent human because it's the right thing to do.
It's uncomfortable. It's painful. It's challenging. And that's not an excuse not to do the work. And that's the thing. It has to come from you. Your own research, your own reflection.
I'm sharing my journey because I feel a social responsibility. I have a public profile in the yarn community and I should lead by example. I hope that by my talking about it, that you can learn from me as I am learning from others. I hope that it will encourage you to listen more deeply and reflect on the attitudes happening around you and within you. And I hope that you can help me too.
I wasn't sure how to finish this blog, but I guess that's because it won't ever really finish. Change is not a destination, it's a journey. I hope you will be part of it.
Maybe you've heard me mention Ponty. Maybe not. But seeing as he's going to be keeping me company for quite some time, I thought you might like to get to know him a little better.
Ponty is my little munted mascot that I made for myself. He came about because I needed to make a gift for my niece. She has the original Ponty.
Ponty is my trusty sidekick, and the safest place for him is my pocket so that he can't inadvertently fall out - I wear skinny jeans so he's tucked in real good! He's going to come with me on tour so will probably spend a lot of time on my dashboard and putting up with my terrible singing.
With only three Ponties in the world, it basically makes him an endangered species so I'm working on some more family for him.
I really need to raise my needles to the yarn community. Thank you SO MUCH for supporting my June fundraising efforts to get some extra cash towards my new van. I sold my car, I sold some cool merchandise, I borrowed some money...and I am really happy to introduce you to the upgraded yarn mobile.
She is pretty spacious...and because I'm a shorty, I could actually sleep in the boot!
I'm not normally stuck for words, but I'm honestly so grateful to the support I've received since launching Wool on Wheels last year. This community is so warm, so embracing. I've literally turned my life upside down to run this road show and it's worth it every time someone's eyes light up at my displays, the hugs I get when I meet people at events, and the beautiful camradarie that exists amongst fellow crafters. I love being able to do this.
There are times when backing yourself and trusting your instincts are mutually exclusive. Yesterday was one of those times.
Whangarei where I would hang a right and be on my merry way. Except what I wanted before that was the sign to Kaitaia that put back onto SH1. I recalled the roads were bendy but when I had driven in to Broadwood (for the first time) I had a passenger and it was green on all sides with minimal signage. So I didn't think anything of it until I realised at the two hour mark that I should have been on SH1 by that time.
I had to backtrack to Broadwood and START AGAIN. This is after a frantic call to my friend to ask her to contact her parents that I couldn't make it because I got lost. Then, in tears, an embarassing phone call to my partner to let him know I was five hours away from home instead of two.
I know what you're thinking.
Why didn't you use GPS? Why didn't you check sooner? Like, when you stopped for a photo opportunity at the car ferry that you didn't pass when you drove into Broadwood.
There is no answer. Only inert rage because I had no one to blame but myself, and a five hour drive and a missed visit because I could no longer afford the time to stop.
If you're wondering what this has to do with yarn, it is to say that it is extremely well travelled! Thankfully this was after the Northland pop ups. My inadvertent detour wasn't ruining anything (except my own plans). Besides, there was plenty to be thankful for:
1) I had an almost full tank of gas
2) The weather was stunning
3) The countryside is calming when you are full of frustration
4) I still had plenty of time to get home at a normal hour and mostly in daylight
And if anything, the lessons can be applied to life and business:
1) Trust your instincts
2) Even if you know are following a plan, it's okay to double check things
3) Topping up the tank is important when you are on a journey
4) It's okay to cry
5) The time is not wasted if you learn something
6) Detours can lead to beautiful discoveries
One of the things I love about knitting is that it is one of the most productive pastimes. If I'm watching television, lights are up so I can knit. If I'm reading, a little voice in the back of my mind tells me I could be knitting! Sometimes I do a double whammy and listen to a Truly Myrtle podcast while I'm in that endless ocean of stockinette.
If you're anything like me, you've got two or three projects on the needles, a couple to be blocked, about ten queued up and you're dreaming about the latest release from your favourite dyer. And if your partner is like mine...they don't know how much wool you actually own.
There is certainly something magical about hand dyed yarn and even just squishing it is a great stress reliever. When I'm upset, I've been known to go and 'sort' my yarn, rummage through my patterns and see if I can make a combo that will work with my most recent Ravelry purchase(s). Now that I run Wool on Wheels...it's like I have an extension to my stash...I can literally go shopping in the next room. I'm not gonna lie. It's glorious.
Once the project has been established, one can still embellish in their own creative flair. I don't think I've ever made a pattern in the colours used by the pattern designer! I love vibrant contrasts, and I am a sucker for teal. The green-blue spectrum definitely dominates my personal colour choices.
What I truly love about this hobby (that has taken over my life) is that the knitter (or crocheter) is the ultimate optimist. We are more than likely to possess a stash that we realistically cannot craft through in our lifetime. But we live, and knit, like it's possible and that's the kind of company that I like to keep.