Racism and Knitting

Okay, I do not plan to be blogging every day, but I felt like it was the right time to post this. It’s been a year since the knitting world really started to grapple with racism in our community.  On January 7th, a popular blogger wrote a post titled “My Year of Color” and it sparked a large conversation about racism, colonialism, and white privilege, both in general and in the making community.  A lot has happened since then.  A lot of good things, but unfortunately a lot of harmful, hurtful things.  I hope, readers, that none of this is news to you.  I’m not going to re-hash the things that have happened or the people I don’t give my time or money too anymore. But as I start this blog, I wanted to make sure I had a post that shares my honest thoughts and learnings over the past year.  I want people who find my blog to know that I stand with people of color who have been marginalized by this community, and I will always do my best to improve myself. 

Swooping Scoop top by Jessie Mae Martinson, body yarn from Valkyrie Fibers, both amazing BIPOC makers!

So, a year later, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned and where I can improve.  I’m writing my performance review at work and we ask ourselves those questions every year – What went well?  What can be improved?  At the time, I wrote an Instagram post with some of my thoughts and an action plan to myself.  I figure now is the perfect time to check in on that.

  • Read and absorb this workbook by @laylafsaad, challenge myself and my friends – Sadly, I did not do the first part of this.  I got through the first few prompts and then it fizzled out (noticing a theme?)  But even reading those prompts, I do feel like I gained a better understanding of how race permeates many decisions and actions by me and others.  I did do some challenging this year.  Right around this time last year, we had several opening in our department at work, and I shared with my boss how I was concerned with the lack of racial diversity in our group and could the hiring managers be reminded of internal bias when looking at resumes?  I am proud of myself for doing that, even though it didn’t make a difference.
  • Follow more BIPOC makers and engage with them – Have definitely followed, doing less well with engaging, though in general I struggle with really “engaging” with any of my IG follows that I don’t know in person.  I don’t comment a lot.  I’ve also been pondering over the course of the year, how do you try and engage with someone without taking up space on their page, making their thoughts and problems about you, etc?  A lot of people I follow also talk about the pressure of seeing that the posts where they share their raw, difficult feelings and frustrations are more popular than posts sharing their joy, so I think a lot about engaging with happy posts and not so happy posts equally.  Still figuring all that out, but I definitely have a more diverse feed and have found more amazing designers and dyers as a result.
  • Support BIPOC makers by buying their patterns, yarn, etc, and sharing them on my page – This is the one I feel like I have done best at!  7/17 patterns I made in the year were designed by BIPOC, and one was using BIPOC-dyed yarn.   I also bought a bunch of patterns which I plan to make in the year.  When I go on Ravelry to search for a pattern, I often start with this bundle to see if there’s a pattern that speaks to me.  I’m also trying to NOT knit patterns or with yarn from designers/dyers that people I follow have told me have been hurtful to them.
  • Being aware of designers/ dyers who share posts of people making with their patterns/yarn, and reaching out to challenge when it seems there are no BIPOC featured – I did this once, I reached out to Ravelry and ask them to feature more diverse bodies on their Eye Candy posts. 

I know I have the privilege to think about last year as a turning point in my understanding of racism.  And I will say that it was not a total shock to me, given my work in a very liberal church and being the daughter of a minister in that tradition. I was well aware of privilege and racism in our world before last year, and I already thought about it, though not as much.  I’m not a perfect person, and I’m still figuring it out.  I know this is not the only justice issue in the knitting community, I have thoughts on size and disability inclusivity which will have to wait for a later date. But I think it’s important to always reflect and challenge yourself, and so I’m trying to do that as I start this blog.

I’ll leave you with this:

Listen. Consider how someone’s critique of someone else might apply to you, but don’t make it about you.  Admit when you’re wrong.  Seek out resources on your own time, don’t make others do it for you.  And it sounds trite, but seriously, treat others how you would like to be treated. Kindness doesn’t solve everything, sometimes people need anger and frustration, but listen to those with respect.  Listen again.

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