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.