Frequently Asked Questions, Answered
“What does BIPoC stand for?”
We are open to answering questions that genuinely cannot be answered with Google alone. Sometimes we need the nuances of human experience to succinctly explain our points. However, there are times where it will be counterproductive for us to do the research for you. To get you started, BIPoC is an acronym for Black and Indigenous Person/People of Color. This acronym acknowledges that Black and Indigenous Peoples have experienced and continue to experience systems of oppression unique to the oppression that non-Black and non-Indigenous People of Color (PoC) face.
In the UK, BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) is also used.
“How is this [the conversation on racism in the fibre world] not toxic/hostile/bullying?”
Because whiteness seeks to continuously center itself and reify itself (rather than hear that it is responsible for its systemic infliction of pain), it often deems BIPoC/PoC voices as hostile. As an attack. This is called tone policing. It is a form of silencing. Most often, it is also accompanied by gaslighting.
There is a reason for our pain and a direct cause for our anger. We want to be able to voice our anger, to hold businesses accountable when they harm our own, and to be heard when we do so.
Throughout our lives, we are asked (forced) to center whiteness in our language. The reason we do not do it is not because we “hate” white people, but because centering whiteness maintains its violence and breeds complacency.
If you cannot hear us or you refuse to listen to us because you would prefer it if we packaged our message “nicely” for you — pause and ask yourself why your comfort is greater than our hurt and how that hinders change. Pause and ask yourself how you are perpetuating the historically violent notion that whiteness must always be served.
“I see you and I’m listening. What do I do next?”
Being an ally is tough work. Shining the light on your subconscious racism by asking yourself the hard questions needs to be done honestly and frequently. It’s the second thought that counts — the first may be your subconscious talking, the second one is there for you to reflect upon. Do you acknowledge that you (may have) benefit(ed) from the systemic oppression of BIPoC/PoC? Do you acknowledge that being placed in a position of power blinds you to the othering, harm, violence, and injustices performed by that power daily? Do you acknowledge that, while you did not choose to be placed in this position of power, its real and continued effects nonetheless make you complicit, and that it is your responsibility to dismantle it if we are to ever see any progress?
In short, you see and you listen — but do you acknowledge your privilege? Are you sitting in that discomfort, dismantling your biases, and uncovering for yourself how you can best use your privilege to help, not harm?
“I already believe in treating everyone equally. I don’t think I need to apologise for harm I haven’t done. Why are you forcing people to apologise?”
Your privilege is showing, please read the previous question and its response one more time.
Now, if you are a business, we especially ask that you publicly denounce the very real racism in our community (and others!) and work to correct it and create safe spaces for BIPoC/PoC members, whom you claim to value — because you are in a very important position to be able to do so.
If you are already doing this work, fantastic! We hope you can continue working and being receptive to feedback.
If you have never thought of it before, now is a good time to start.
If you have been subject to a calling out or a calling in, we remind you that while it may not have been your intention to harm, your impact counts.
“Why are some statements unsatisfactory to you? What is the standard and who decides it?”
A statement that centers white fragility is unsatisfactory. A statement that centers “love and light” without acknowledging real harm done is unsatisfactory. A statement that blindly decrees “You Are Welcome Here” without an understanding of how exclusionary its author’s space is and steps to correct said exclusionary practices is unsatisfactory.
Who decides the standard? BIPoC/PoC. Believe us, listen to us, and acknowledge our pain.
If time is needed to write an authentic statement that can contribute to lasting change, then that time must be taken. We won’t, however, alleviate the pressure.
“My work is done elsewhere because I don’t believe that social media is the most productive avenue for lasting community change. Does that make me a bad person?”
No, it does not. But here is some more work for you to unpack wherever you would like to unpack it —
Where is the making community? How do members of this community find each other, connect with each other, and talk to each other? Actually, let’s backtrack — what is a community? What places define a community? What practices define a community? Does place make practice or does practice make place? Or both, equally, at the same time?
If you are an influencer or a business (or both) in the community, how do community members find you? How do they connect with you? How do they talk to you? How do they support you (with their money)? How do you reach them?
If your answer is offline and online — you fool yourself into thinking that you cannot change anything here. You fool yourself into thinking that you can cherry pick which spaces you are responsible for when it comes to upholding the safety of BIPoC/PoC.
Read our response to “How is this [the conversation on racism in the fibre world] not toxic/hostile/bullying?” again. Then afterward, keep asking yourself why you think this conversation is unproductive on social media. Who do you think is being unproductive? And when you say “unproductive,” what do you really mean?
“I’ve done everything right. Where’s my reward?”
The work is far from over. While you may think that you have done everything right so far, you are going to let us down and let yourself down at some point — this we promise you. But your reward is the knowledge that the small (mis)steps will altogether create a better, more harmonious and equitable community in the fibre world (and beyond), so long as you continue to hold yourself accountable along the way.
“Can we just go back to making pretty things?”
No. The lack of diversity in our making community has been brought up countless times, only for conversations to return to latest pattern releases and trending yarn. This time around, the spark caught, igniting a raw discussion on the racism and exclusion BIPoC/PoC face in a community that many others considered a safe haven. (Who do you think those are?)
Asking us to go back to making pretty things is violent. It is silencing. It is erasure. It proves that at this point in time, this community is anything but pretty.
This will get better, but only when we are all heard and seen.
“I want to support makers regardless of their color, race, or culture. Isn’t that what equality is about?”
No. We should be very careful not to equate diversity, non-discrimination, and equality with colorblindness. While focusing on people’s shared humanity rather than their discrete identities and experiences seems like a noble path, it in fact invalidates those identities and experiences. More importantly, it implies that there is something inherently wrong or unacceptable or unpalatable about those lines of difference. Explore where that comes from.
“Why can’t we just love each other?”
A question for you, instead — are you operating under the assumption that “loving” means never being uncomfortable? That it means never being in conflict?