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Hand-Dyed Yarns

Woolfiend Hand-Dyed Yarns


Wake Up for Humanity's Sake!

Emily Swenson

I have done a lot of reflecting and reading about the things going on in the community here on Instagram these last couple of days (or, really, forever). When I read things, I usually read them from my point of view. I am a white, upper-middle-class, stay-at-home-mom who lives in a rural area that is NOT diverse. Oh, and I'm a moderate politically. I am fortunate, and I love being fortunate (who doesn't?). I do a lot of community service, and I always strive to be better in so many ways, whether that's through doing more for people, my education, you name it. There are things I am still uncomfortable with. Race and sexuality is something I'm not comfortable talking about, and I don't do it very often. I don't know where I stand, and I almost never want to upset someone (white, POC, or LGBTQ) with anything that I say or think - so for a long time I've stayed quiet. But me being upset is trivial compared to the pain of so many BIPOC/WOC. So, this is part of my pledge to share my privilege, not only in real life, which I do often, but also on the internet.

Why do I have to do that? I don't. No one does. But if you play fair and you believe in equality, and you believe that you are truly colorblind, you have to move towards starting to share your privilege with people who are under-represented - or in some cases UNrepresented within their communities (whether that is online or in your physical community).

I was not a liberal arts major in college. I don't like the use of fancy language, in fact I find it pretentious at times. Although I consider myself a creative and an artist, my art is discovered mathematically and logically rather than expressively. So, I have a hard time with words and understanding certain phrases, especially when they use expressive language and phrases I've not heard before in the context of race, gender, and sexuality. It doesn't mean I'm not smart, but it does mean I'm probably better at math than most people. So, when I hear phrases like "your privilege is showing," "you're inciting violence," (BUT NO ONE PUNCHED ANYONE WUT) or "shut up and listen," I have a really, really hard time connecting the phrases to the main idea that someone is trying to tell me. I have thought long and hard about this entire topic, before I was a knitter even. I have thought long and hard about white privilege and the place it holds in my life (how can I do better?), and I have come up with a few points I'd like to add to the conversation that is going on right now.

A lot of POC don't give a crap about a dog and pony show showing "support" because it's the cool thing to do on Instagram. I look at privilege as something dynamic. You can gain or lose privilege based on your actions. As a white woman, I am born with a baseline amount of privilege - let's say 85% (100% being a white heterosexual male). I can gain privilege by going to college, proving myself as a good citizen in my community, having a good credit score. As a POC in America, and sometimes elsewhere, the baseline privilege they have is much less than a white person's. POC can still gain and lose privilege based on their actions, but they still start out at a disadvantage. Their disadvantage does not come from any other place than the color of their skin, which is utter bullshit. They have been historically disadvantaged, which I think everyone (save real white supremacists) thinks is also utter horseshit.

Although as a group they're disadvantaged, many BIPOC want to be heard and represented. They get tired of having to explain to clueless white people the privilege that they have. They are tired of having to look harder to find a doll that looks like their daughter. They're tired of Pantene commercials, and similar ads that are only ever targeted at white people and made by white people. They get tired of ads targeted at POC that are really stupidly and obviously made by white people (like people can't tell). They get tired of having to deal with their lack of privilege and the pain that comes with that. They get tired of being the only ones who SEE the privilege and what it buys us (white people). They get tired of being lumped in as "white enough" or "light-skinned" or "acts white, looks black." They JUST WANT TO EXIST.

So, yes, BIPOC have a right to be angry with Karen Templer's blog post. Does she have a right to ask why? Sure. But it takes a lot of time to understand why race relations are so bad. POC have done enough - they've been under oppression by our race, they (with the few white people that used their privilege to help them) fought for their own freedom and have been fighting for hundreds of years. That's multiple generations, not only emotionally, but physically fighting to make the world a better place for their children. So their children won't get followed in a store because of the color of their skin, or get accused of crimes they did not commit and assaulted by Police. Two days is not enough time to understand, and although white people may be patient with her, look at this from the POC's point of view - they are just tired of having to explain to a white woman (and truly, they shouldn't have to) why and how she is, however accidentally, harming POC by using her power/platform to say super careless things. Is what Karen said the worst thing ever? No, absolutely not. But in a community that is so tight knit, so hell-bent on inclusiveness, and so... utterly white, we have the best ability to share our privilege with the BIPOC in our small community. We have the best ability to support them, not only in knitting/fiber crafts, but in REAL LIFE. We don't need a hashtag to do that. Support their designs, share their work, share their podcasts if you like them. We are PRIVILEGED white people. We need to admit that, then use our privilege as a shield not only for ourselves and our families, but also try to share some of that burden that BIPOC carry every day.

I will end with this - I know I'm not perfect and I don't have a huge following. But I am standing up and I am trying to help white people who don't get it. You should be nice. Jesus said so. And sometimes being nice means giving up a part of your comfortable silence so that others have a voice. It's uncomfortable, but who cares? That is part of sharing your privilege. When you share, you can sometimes feel vulnerable, and although that feeling is raw and deserves recognition, POC will not acknowledge it, and should not be asked to acknowledge it. This is because they have dealt with an similarly uncomfortable feeling of being under-represented their entire lives because the power our white society holds over their heads. White people who step forward, pat yourselves on the back if you want, but it honestly shouldn’t be about your self-affirmation AT ALL.

I'm not going to make any statement directly towards POC, this post is mostly to help other white folks understand the issue. The only thing I will say is that the reason more white people are not coming forward is because they're truly afraid they're going to say something wrong, and they don't want to give up business over it. They don't want to ruffle feathers. I don't want to ruffle any feathers - and I've probably said something wrong. I'm not an expert and this whole post is just composed of opinions I've pieced together over time. I hope that this makes sense to some people, although I know there will be people who understand the situation so much better than I do. I do hope this helps someone trying to understand why they feel as if their feelings are not being validated in lieu of POC's feelings.