Good Grief

If you are not a knitter/crocheter/spinner, etc., you might be unaware of the dumpster fire that has been burning for the past month now on Instagram. Just search for “diversknitty” and you might catch a hint, but I’m not sure that it’s a rabbit hole into which anyone wants to fall.

The initial post has come, gone, and resulted in apologies from the business owner and sincere effort to do better with regard to racial & cultural respect. I won’t link to it because I don’t want to bring that back up, and because what’s happening now makes that mistake seem minuscule.

Instagram has been the home for most of the expressions about racism & prejudice in the craft community. Stories, posts, screenshots, and live videos have kept the platform’s stats higher than usual for craft-specific hashtags. However, I still feel like nobody really knows what to do or how to move on. A lot of Black and Indigenous women have been (doing what we usually do) providing resources for people to learn how to do better. Recipients have shown their support by buying “ko-fi” and designers’ knitting/crochet patterns as well as other merchandise they may offer for sale from their businesses. But it feels…off. 

Some white women are just checking out. They don’t want to engage, they don’t want to talk about what’s happening, and they just want their knitting to not be political. Too late. 
Some are trying to learn and have no clue where to start their expansion of knowledge of race relations. 
Some are charging forth in a well-meaning, but not well-executed, approach to what has been happening.

I want people to remember (myself included) what su.krita said, that white supremacy is the enemy. I also want people to have the same energy that they had in calling Knitter’s Pride a “white savior” company (wrong!), have the same energy to call out white people when they center themselves in a discussion about race and make it more about them feeling good about doing a thing. Do not be loud and wrong. Get your facts and get them in line.

Call out your friends when they’re just a little bit off in the follow-through. Don’t pat them on the back and say, “oh well, they’re not that type of person and they meant well.” If they mean well, help them to do well. You know them better than the rest of us do. And if you have nonwhite friends who don’t talk to you about race, they’re not your friend. My real friends have no problem hearing me out when I talk about this.

Guess what? You’re not always talking to a white guy in America when you respond to companies. Companies’ size is not always a reflection of their success, either. I have dear friends who have people call and ask to speak to the person in charge of such and such. It’s them. They are the ones in charge, running things, and getting shit done (#GSDforever).

I’m going to post the correspondence between Shirish Jain (he/his) and I below.

Dear Ms. Burke,

My name is Shirish Jain and I am part of the family that owns Knitter’s Pride business in India. 

I am writing to you today to sincerely apologize to you that we blocked you from our #CraftyProblems Instagram post a few days ago. It was inappropriate & uncalled for and we are truly sorry that we have hurt you and the larger community by taking this mindless step. 

You have been unblocked since the moment I first heard about the situation, and I hope you will continue to contribute to the discussion.

In fact Knitter’s Pride has always stood for things that make our society fair, just and more inclusive. 

At our factory in India, we have more than 700 people working, almost half of which are ladies. For almost all these people, it was their first ever job and they now take pride in the fact that the beautiful needles made by them are used by good people around the world. You just need to see the joy on their face when they see a picture of someone using the needles that they so lovingly produce. 

However there will never be enough words to express our apology & remorse for our action, one that has caused so much anguish and heartache! In fact we are feeling so stupid as this just goes against our entire philosophy and the principles that we have always held high. 

We hope you will understand and hopefully change the way you now perceive our company. I would also like to personally speak with you and apologize (in case it’s fine with you). 

We are also posting our apology on Instagram and would like to reassure everyone who has trusted Knitter’s Pride that here is a family owned company that has always stood up to what’s right and one senseless action should not undo all the hard and sincere work that we have done over the past 30 years in our own small way in a really disadvantaged part of the world. 

Sincerely,

Shirish Jain Knitters Pride

And now here is my response:

Hi Shirish,

I am glad that we are able to communicate directly, and I thank you for reaching out. I think that there are a lot of things happening in the craft community right now, and everyone is trying to figure out what is the next step.

As I said, I love the Cubics Platina! I actually just got a pair (ordered from Amazon, but they were bent so I have to return them!) since I’ve been slowly acquiring a pair or two at a time since November or December. I like how they feel when I knit, and it really helps me to relax when I knit.

I posted my comment, not in a malicious way, but out of frustration at the sentiment among the community at large that this might be a short moment of growth with no lasting effect. It was not meant to target Knitter’s Pride as a singular source of dismissiveness, but it was frustrating to have a comment deleted and then to be blocked. I can understand if the decision was made out of panic, but I don’t think I posted anything to fear specifically. I hope that it was an action done out of panic and not out of dismissiveness and ignorance. Whatever the basis for it, I appreciate you reaching out and your response to speak (or type!).

I will definitely contribute to the discussion further. I will also remind myself, and others, that it is just that, a discussion. I apologize for reacting and commenting about second-guessing my purchases. I did not wait for a response from you, and it probably encouraged others to feel that they were being supportive if they chose to not support Knitter’s Pride, without them seeking out the company’s mission themselves. Boycotting a company that does honest work to improve an entire community of people who might be overlooked and marginalized is now what I want, and I would not encourage people to do so, either.

I also think that there is a disconnect from US knitters and our understanding of a global community. While the US certainly has a history with racial conflict and white supremacy, it is important that we remember that we are not at all alone in this experience & influence.

I plan on making a blog post in which I share the outcome of all of this (burkehousecrafts.com) and will continue to enjoy your products. If nothing else, this is a great example of what happens when a mistake is made, and people communicate effectively to fix it and improve a situation.

Thank you so much again,

Jennifer

6 comments

  1. All of this. Every word.

    All of us, myself included, need to recognize when to slow our roll. And to recognize that the discussion about racism is not over, nor is the necessity of being and doing better.

    Thank you for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for shedding light on how mistakes can be made on both sides, and how we CAN grow and move forward through discussion and education.

    I appreciate your emphasis on discussion. For the last month, I’ve been feeling like Instagram’s conversation has morphed into more of a show of sorts, and it has caused me to retreat a bit.

    In exposing your own imperfections and showing us how you can gracefully correct a misstep, you’re making it less scary for the rest of us to [thoughtfully] speak out.

    Thank you again for your words, vulnerability, and work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s what I wanted to show. That it’s alright to mess up. With something so important, it’s going to happen, but it’s how you communicate and move forward. You don’t forget or ignore what happened, but you can’t ask people do do/be better if you don’t give them room to do so (including yourself).

      Like

  3. Don’t be loud AND wrong… this should be tattooed on my body where I can see it daily.

    This is what active listening and learning looks like! So.much.awesome!

    Like

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