This winter has seen a flowering of conversations within the Instagram knit community about the impacts of racism. Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) knitters have shared examples of the racism they’ve suffered both online and in real life at knitting groups, yarn shops, and knit events. Vox published a summary of the discussion to date here, it’s a reasonable place to start. Another is the Unfinished Object blog, which “explore(s) how diversity becomes inclusion, how representation morphs into change”.
So many BIPOC knitters and makers have shared their experiences, their feelings, and in so doing become targets of online hate. These knitters have taken big risks and suffered damaging consequences by speaking.
Vulnerability is oh so hard. It’s something you extend to friends, hoping that you will be held, and accepted. This vulnerability is something that many BIPOC knitters are extending to make a safer BIPOC space within the crafting community. This conversation has extended an opportunity to established white designers like Alexa and I, to make change for the better.
We personally would like to thank the following knitters and makers whose stories have impacted us: @su.krita, @ocean_bythesea, @thecolourmustard, @thepetiteknitter, @astitchtowear, @nadiratani, @kindahamaly, @jeanettesloan, @tyneswedish and so many more.
Thank-you for raising your voices, thank-you for sharing your stories.
We are sorry that our Instagram feed and our publications have, overwhelmingly, reinforced white norms of beauty, instead of challenging them. We are sorry that we personally have been ignorant and not educated ourselves beyond a superficial level on issues of racism, nor considered our white privilege critically.
Alexa and I have been listening, hearing, thinking, debating whether or how, as white women designers, we might contribute to this conversation. Unfortunately, waiting for the right words hasn’t lead to them. So we’ll fumble and falter, instead of remaining silent.
“We didn’t create racism, but that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to work to interrupt it.”Omkari Williams in conversation with Layla Saad on her podcast here.
We believe this. And we are coming to learn what damage is done through passivity, through silence. We strive to learn to act and communicate differently.
Alexa and I have, for the most part, shared only pretty pictures of knitting and our children with you over the past 7 years, staying silent about politics, philosophy, parenting, what we’re reading and what we think and feel except as it relates directly to knitting. BUT for us, this conversation feels DIFFERENT. Different in impact, and different in importance.
In our minds, our work at Tin Can Knits has centered around a ‘you can knit this, we can help’ positive attitude toward making, an attitude with accessibility and inclusiveness as key. Voices speaking out for racial inclusion have shown us the ways which we have failed to do those things, we are sorry and we aim to do much better.
Intent isn’t the important thing; impact is. How our images and words land, how they make our audience feel, that’s what is critical.
This conversation changed my mind about the power of sharing stories on the internet. It also changed my perspective on my own responsibilities.
We are white designers and publishers, and we have a large audience and platform. To that end Alexa and I are thinking critically about the ways in which our content is exclusionary, and figuring out what we can do differently. We’re considering:
- Our privileged positions: the ways in which we unfairly benefit from our white privilege, and from other intersecting privileges we hold.
- The images we create; and other knitter’s images that we share, and how can we create a more diverse and inclusive vision with our work on Instagram and in published patterns and books.
- Whose voices, outside of our own, are we sharing.
- What products do we promote, and who benefits.
- Our own influences, what we read, watch, listen to.
- The education and resources we share with our audience.
- The language we use; how we’re framing ‘normal’.
Some Antiracism resources we’ve found useful in our education process so far:
- Where Change Started Introduction to Antiracism by Glenise Pike – helpful guidance and a place to start, with a glossary of terms.
- Layla Saad – Me And White Supremacy Workbook – a self-guided examination of your personal position within our white supremacist society. Love her podcasts too.
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – written by a white woman for white people. Read it to learn to avoid defensiveness, to overcome your discomfort around speaking about race, to own your white racial identity, and to learn about interrupting racism.
There are many other excellent anti-racism educators out there, these are simply a few I have personally been finding helpful – Google and Instagram will lead you to many more.
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