Whew. Have you been online in the last few weeks? It’s been a lot
, right? In case you missed it, a quick round-up: last month a huge discussion about race kicked off in the online knitting community. It started with a thoughtless post
wasn’t intended to cause harm but clearly
did. (If you’re white, the problems probably aren’t obvious to you. Here is a really solid post to walk you through those problems, and all the uproar that followed
.) I think this moment is valuable specifically because
it didn’t come from an intentionally racist incident. It forced many of us to take a deeper look at why this apparently innocent post caused so much hurt, and to learn.
The conversation has been fast-moving, noisy, and of course it didn’t stop with knitting. Instagrammers started agitating about diversity in slow fashion, about size inclusion in sewing (and knitting) patterns… where will it take us next? There has been a lot of pressure on “influencers” to speak up, and some heavy criticism of those whose efforts fell short, as well as those who chose not to comment. There has also been a very active backlash from white supremacists, ranging from hateful IG comments to targeted attacks by direct message. Which certainly proves the point, doesn’t it? The racism that some would love to deny exists is very much present, and we need to fight it, together.
That said. I’m not a fan of the pressure placed on individuals to take a public stand, and to do so within days. Not everyone is online all the time; not everyone has the time or mental resources to join in. Not everyone will actually have something to say, even if they actively support the fight. Yes, it certainly is a privilege to have the option of not confronting racism every day – but still: not everyone moves at the same pace, or in the same way, even if we’re all travelling in the same direction. And not posting about an issue doesn’t mean you’re not engaging with it in other ways. Arguably, reflexive posting is the least constructive way to drive change.
I am aware, writing this, that it could be taken as lack of support. As white fragility, even. I can imagine the response: “Our house is on fire and you’re complaining about where we point the hose?!” Well, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. I’ve certainly been wrong before, and I know I will be again (dammit). But don’t get me wrong: I am not here for tone policing. Anger is entirely appropriate. I just want to see it more constructively directed. I’ve had the luxury of an entire month to draft this letter (and yes, I have come back to it again and again over that time), and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right. I want internet culture in general to allow a bit more space for thoughtful reflection, for constructive action based on a carefully considered response. Fewer hot takes. More tea breaks.
But definitely, first and foremost, less racism. Let me know if you know of something awesome being done for inclusion in the yarn community – or if there’s something I should be doing differently. I want to know.