Early this year, a conversation around racism in the knitting, crochet and spinning community unfolded on Instagram, as well as other platforms. I encourage you to read a summary of the events and the discussion since on this Vox article, The knitting community is reckoning with racism.
As white crafters, we are all culpable for the racism in our community. The reason I am writing this piece (besides some gentle encouragement from @sophiatron) is that white supremacy is a problem created by white folx. We have a responsibility to address it.
This means passing the mic to BIPoC folx, and I feel I’ve already spoken too long on this myself. I don’t want to speak up and over those crafters who are sharing their stories (and will direct you to accounts to follow and reading material below). But as a white woman, I do have an obligation to not only work on my own internal beliefs and behaviours but also call out and encourage other white folx in this work. Hence some suggested actions:
- Read the Vox article, “The knitting community is reckoning with racism” by Jaya Saxena.
- Educate yourself. I’ve compiled some accounts and resources below – please do not immediately message any of these accounts, demanding answers (yes, this happens). Respect their spaces. Start reading and examining your own internal biases and beliefs.
- Challenge other white people. We hold power and it’s up to us to speak up to our friends, family, businesses and fellow crafters. Hold yourself, and others to account.
- It is especially important to hold businesses to account. Sophia of @sophiatron has a story highlight of Australian yarn shops etc who have explicitly supported her and fellow BIPoC crafters. At time of writing, there were no physical yarn shops on this list. Ask your LYS, what are you doing to ensure BIPoC customers feel welcome?
- Do not use this as an excuse to challenge BIPoC for not being “woke” enough. If you are unsure whether to comment, ask yourself this question from @ajabarber, “power. who has it? who needs to relinquish it?”
- Diversify your feed. Instagram acts on algorithms that reinforces the similar. Check out Heidi of @booksandcables story highlights of “POCFibreFolx” and Sukrita of @su.krita “Desi Knitters” for some inspirational talent.
- Make your online space a safe one. What does this mean? Explicitly condemn racism in all forms. Provide a space for BIPoC folx to be able to comment, engage and feel welcome. This might mean monitoring comments, closing them when you are away and ensuring violent discussion is deleted immediately.
- If your space is a shop, your explicit anti-racism is even more important. Hire BIPoC. Use BIPoC models. Stock yarn and patterns by BIPoC crafters. Ensure BIPoC customers feel welcome. If you don’t know where to start, hire and pay fairly a BIPoC consultant.
- Which brings me to my next point: pay BIPoC for their work. Most of those working hard on Instagram and other platforms have a PayPal or Ko-Fi account whereby you can contribute to their work. @ysolda has a “Support poc” story highlight on Instagram with direct links to these accounts.
- Buy from BIPoC – in fact there is an Instagram account @buyfrombipoc to help you find some amazing BIPoC makers!
- Some yarn dyers/stockists have offered yarn support to BIPoC designers. Tech editors have reserved places. What can you offer?
Some accounts to follow and articles to read (again, please respect these spaces):
- Sukrita (@su.krita) on Instagram is a spinner, knitter, guild member, sewist, activist and generally all-around amazing person. She has been at the centre of this discussion from the very beginning, and I’m proud to call her my friend.
- Along with Grace Anna (@astitchtowear), Korina (@thecolormustard) and Ocean (@ocean_bythesea), Sukrita founded Unfinished Object, a website where they “explore how diversity becomes inclusion, how representation morphs into change, and how we can serve our joy while being meaningfully present in our truths — in the fibre world and beyond.”
- Jennifer of @burkehousecrafts on Instagram blogs at burkehousecrafts.com and Liz of @knitquiltsewstitch writes at lizenquilts.wordpress.com. Both have written about racism in the knitting community.
- Jeanette Sloan (@jeanettesloan) is a prominent knitwear designer who has written extensively about black crafters, including recently for Knitting Magazine: “Black People Do Knit”.
- There are too many accounts to mention, but others who have spoken out against racism in the community include @sophiatron, @tina.say.knits, @arohaknits, @dawn.landix, @booksandcables, @witchcraftylady, @antigonanyc & @mrsboogooloo.watts.
- @little_kotos_closet on Instagram largely writes about sustainable fashion and cultural appropriation in fashion design, but has been supportive of the BIPoC-led movement in the fibre crafting community.
- Rachel Cargle is an activist, writer and lecturer. You can follow her at @rachel.cargle on Instagram, RachelCargle on Twitter, and read her pieces for Harper’s Bazaar. Start with “When White People Are Uncomfortable, Black People Are Silenced” and “When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels”.
- Layla F. Saad is an author and speaker who published the workbook “Me and White Supremacy” (free download, but make a donation). You can follow her on Instagram @laylafsaad.
- Where Change Started offers self-guided education and resources for becoming anti-racist. See their Anti-Racism Starter Kit and Becoming Anti-Racist Journal, and follow them on Instagram at @wherechangestarted.
Book list (I haven’t read all of these, and it’s really just a starting point):
- White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe
- The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke
- Foreign Soil – Maxine Beneba Clarke
- Women, Race & Class – Angela Davis
- Islamophobia, Race and Global Politics – Nazia Kazi
- So You Want to Talk About Race? – Ijeoma Oluo
- Welcome to Country – Marcia Langton
- Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism – Safiya Noble
- Can We All Be Feminists? – June Eric-Udorie
- The Body Is Not an Apology – Sonya Renee Taylor
- Talking to My Country – Stan Grant
*Black and Indigenous, People of Colour.