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A Welcomed Conversation

Can you believe what’s happening in the knitting community right now? This question can mean a lot of things depending on who I’m talking to. If it’s coming from a white crafter they mean ‘Can you believe that person x said x about x group of people? Isn’t that terrible” If it’s coming from a BIPOC they mean “Can you believe that everyone is finally talking about this? Isn’t that wonderful”. This is because what many of you don’t understand is that we can absolutely believe that x happened. For BIPOC this is our everyday life. Welcome to the conversation! We’ve been saying this for decades, but we’re glad you’re getting caught up!

When I realise that I’m being followed in a yarn shop all of these thoughts run through my head (Yes, we know when this is happening. You are not nearly as sneaky as you think you are) :

1. Do I buy the most expensive yarn to prove how wrong they were?
2. Do I not buy anything to make a point?
3. If I do that who’s point am I making? Mine or theirs?

This has happened to me more times than I can even begin to tell you and every time my answer changes depending on my mood. Like my very own racist choose your own adventure. Even this past January at my beloved VKL NYC after spending about one minute in a booth I had a vendor tell me that “if I wasn’t going to purchase anything, could I please move along so that paying customers could make their way in”. It happens so often that when they said that to me I didn’t even blink.

When you say that you wish people would stop talking about this all the time or that you are tired of people bring this up you are telling us that our experiences don’t matter. At the core of it I didn’t say anything to the vendor, because on some level in that moment I believed that I didn’t have the right to say anything. In that moment I allowed myself to believe the lie that my ancestors were told over and over again when they had to give up their seats, because someone more deserving was coming onto the bus.

I didn’t want to trigger anger in the vendor, because I knew that all eyes would turn to me, the crazy black woman who had obviously caused the innocent until proven guilty white woman to react in self defense. I was tired of having to take on the role of educator of another person’s ignorance. But most of all, I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing any emotion on my face other than disgust. So I moved on with my day, and like a comment from a harasser on the street, that moment lingered with me much longer than it probably lingered with her.

I’m thrilled that these conversations are happening and exposing people to one tenth of the discomfort that I’ve had to deal with all of my life. But I do have one concern about the way this has been playing out on social media. I’m concerned that some members of the community are saying what they think their audience wants them to say and not what they actually believe. Like a man who wears a #MeToo pin to the Oscars, but we later find out has a history of harassing his coworkers. People are posting incredibly beautiful statements and then I look at their websites only to find out that their staff list and list of knitwear and crochet collaborations look like a Laguna Beach ad. Demanding a statement from a company is not going to help. Their lack of a statement and inaction is a statement. As Maya Angelou said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

It’s hard to retrain your brain. It’s hard for me to train myself to not listen to the voice who tells me that I should place the comfort of a racist above my own. But going through the uncomfortable is how you get to a better place. Personally I’m thrilled about these conversations. They aren’t something to fear and ignore. As I said in my interview with Lindsay Vega, for every seat that opens up at the table don’t just throw away the chair. Replace the person sitting in it. Give these opportunities to the makers who are worth your time. If there is a yarn company who isn’t reacting the way you want them to that’s fine. There are SO many talented BIPOC makers who would love to have you as a customer. Every time you press the unfollow button I challenge you to follow a new BIPOC maker.

It must be convenient to not want to talk about this anymore and actually be able to do that. I wish I could do that. I wouldn’t, but I wish it was a choice for me. This is my life. This can be a negative moment for our community or it could be a rare chance to look at where you are spending your money and make a more informed decision. You have the power to build the community that you want to be a part of.


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