I’ve been staring at this screen for about fifteen minutes and despite thinking about all of this basically nonstop for the last three weeks, I still don’t know where to start. I have so much to say and so much I don’t wan’t to say — a lot that people may want to hear and probably more that most don’t.
I’m still looking for a word to describe 2020. Surreal keeps coming to mind. Bizarre, unbelievable, difficult, eye opening. I guess there are many. I thought the last three months were crazy, but the last four weeks have been insane – both in my little piece of the world and everywhere else. A couple days before the horrific murder of George Floyd, we were hit with a devastating hail storm that destroyed a lot of work we’ve done on our property. The year had already been challenging with the pandemic and the hail storm kind of put me over the edge. I was in a deep funk that I was trying hard to break while we were also working extra hard to clean up and start over with many things, all while racing against the clock and preparing for my husband to leave. Then the news of Floyd’s murder came out and the world exploded, and here’s where I’m going to get brutally honest with all of you. I appreciate opinions, healthy debates, and CONVERSATIONS, and am completely open to all those things, but I ask two things – for everyone to be kind and respectful, and for anyone who wants to agree or disagree with anything I’m going to say, to read ALL OF IT before jumping to judgements.
It feels very strange for me to have to publicly say that I stand against racism or else people will be wondering if I actually do. I KNOW that racism exists, but why should anyone be assuming someone is a racist or that they agree with police brutality simply because they are not posting a black square, or the like, on social media? I believe the best we can do in a virtual world of friendships is to judge people on their actions and not their lack of them. I’ve been silent, letting other voices be heard, and also watching the fighting, bullying, threats and shaming that have been occurring on social media. Many disagree with those descriptors, but I feel they are completely accurate. I have seen some of the most disgusting behavior I have witnessed in a long time from people I respected, all in the name of equality. It sure doesn’t feel like equality. To try and destroy and publicly shame a person or a small business for not posting about Black Lives Matter or not publicly saying that they stand against racism is just bananas to me, for SO MANY reasons.
Despite someone using social media as a platform for their business, a person can still be very private or uncomfortable sharing their personal lives and opinions. Everyone is very sensitive, especially in our current climate, and some people prefer to keep this aspect of their lives separate from their business for fear of taking the wrong step and never recovering or simply because they don’t want to. Sometimes they have very important reasons to remain silent, like perhaps their partner or a family member is in a a job or industry where they have to, maybe even themselves. We are seeing people losing jobs for things their spouse has said, and that is just one indication of what a crazy time we are living in. These things may seem foreign or minute, but why are we judging and making assumptions? We all know how that saying about assumptions goes…
But, MORE IMPORTANTLY, horrible injustices happen EVERY SINGLE DAY in this world and the majority of people, especially in our amazing community, all believe they are horrible injustices. I want to scream “OF COURSE I stand against racism”, but you know what else I stand against that I haven’t had to scream about? The rape of children, the beating and murder of domestic partners, the torture of animals – the list goes on and on. I am not going to argue with anyone about what injustice or crime in this world is more horrible than another. Does anyone sit around wondering how I feel about children who are kidnapped every day and put into sex trafficking because I’m not talking about it? I am certain that someone will have an argument as to why one injustice is more worthy of setting the world on fire than another, but it’s not going to change my mind about trying to rank them. We can argue stats and facts and numbers until we’re blue in the face, but not many seem to care.
I have no problem saying that I stand against racial injustice and that black lives matter, and I have no problem saying that Blue lives matter and that ALL LIVES MATTER even though these have become taboo, but if I choose to not publicly denounce ALL THE THINGS I stand against every day and instead to just run a business — or even simply share a passion — why should I be punished for this? And yes, telling people to not support a business or saying horrible things about them across social media is punishment and it is bullying. If you NEED to know where a business stands on this in order to support them, why did you not care before? Why do you not care about any other issue in this world? If you are uncomfortable with a lack of a stance, you are as free to spend your money elsewhere as that business is to not share their stance. Neither behavior justifies moral outrage and belittlement.
Does anyone feel like free speech is very situational for a lot of people these days? Like… you are free to say whatever you want – unless you don’t agree with me. We are currently lab rats in a huge experiment on what social media will do to a society, and I don’t think it’s going to be good in the long run. We live in a world where speech is violence and silence is violence and communication is performative, when what we really need is conversation. While a lot of people think they are starting and encouraging conversations, they are simply starting dialogs and commentaries where there is no room for the other side without shaming and labels. Much of what I say may be disqualified because of my skin color, but there are many people of all colors who say the same things and it shouldn’t matter where they come from. A person’s skin color or life experience simply CANNOT matter for this discussion. Whoever has the most moral wokeness cannot matter. We have to break the spell that the politics of identity has cast over this world. I’m not arguing that the sum of one’s life experiences doesn’t affect who they are and how they see the world, I’m simply saying we need to stop saying that it matters in what you’re “allowed” to say or believe.
Since many people will argue that my skin color and my life experiences DO matter for what I have to say, I will share all that with you. I am white. I have blue eyes and light hair. My skin practically glows in the dark sometimes. I do not believe that ANY white privilege has gotten me to where I am. This doesn’t mean that white privilege exists or doesn’t exist and I’m not going to discuss that today, but I am going to argue that it is not universal, and that racism isn’t just white on black, and that blacks and other minorities can even have MORE privilege than whites. We need to stop classifying entire races or groups of people under one umbrella and let EACH INDIVIDUAL’S experiences and privileges, or lack there of, lead the narrative.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, which was and is a very diverse place. I spent my childhood in a small, low to middle class eastern suburb bordering some less than ideal areas of Cleveland proper. The racial makeup of the city was close to evenly divided between blacks and whites and the city had a significantly higher crime rate than others in the state and only continued to grow as I got older. After three break ins and the house next door getting shot up in drug related drive by, it was finally time to go. I grew up with no siblings and two very hard working parents. My parents got married after my mother became pregnant and there’s no way to say if they would have had it not been for me, but they made the choice to do so for the benefit and betterment of my life. I spent a lot of time alone while they worked and I grew up quickly because I had to. I learned how to cook and clean and take care of myself and the house. I started working at age 14 and haven’t stopped since. My parents didn’t earn their jobs because they were white, they competed with, lost jobs to, and worked with people of all colors their entire life, as did I. My mother worked in a predominantly black area for most of my childhood. I had no advantage in school. Many could argue I had a disadvantage simply because of where I lived. I worked hard to earn good grades and my family and I worked hard to pay for my college. I worked hard to start my own business and make it successful in a virtual world where people can’t even see the color of my skin. I married a hard working, responsible man and we made smart decisions through our life. He did not earn his job because of his skin color, he joined the military where everyone is welcome. I’m sure some will argue that, but of all the bases we’ve been across this country I’ve yet to see one that isn’t color balanced.
Race and ethnicity was not a thing when I was growing up. I knew nothing but diversity. My parents had black friends and I went to school with about as many black kids as whites. I had friends of all colors, I had black and white teachers and it’s just what I thought the world was. As I got older, I saw disparities, some good and some bad. I experienced white on black racism AND black on white racism. As I became an adult I saw even more divides – black on black, white on white, jew on gentile, gentile on jew, Italian on Polish, the list goes on. It was everywhere, and in a place like Cleveland, it was evenly divided.
My point to all of that is not to try and prove that I’m not racist or that racism doesn’t exist in many places, it’s to say that I am where I am not because of my skin color or any privilege associated with it, but because of the choices my parents made and the choices I made and the hard work we put in. I saw blacks and whites who had a disadvantage starting out because of their family dynamics, not because of their skin color. I saw blacks and whites make all the wrong choices and I saw all the consequences of those play out. I also saw blacks ands whites make all the right decisions and I can point to their amazing successes still today. I made some bad choices along the way, too, and my life could have easily gone in a very different direction. I did a lot of drugs, I spent a lot of time with a lot of the wrong people. But those things were outweighed by the work ethic and responsibilities engrained in me by my parents, and shown to me through their example, for my entire life.
So back to the matter at hand – do I believe change needs to be made to end racism and police brutality? Yes. I believe that very few people disagree with that. What we do disagree on is what the path forward looks like and how we go about making this change happen.
Is a BIPOC business more deserving of your support or promotion than mine? Did they have to work harder to get where they are? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Should I lose business because supporting them alone will change the world? Some may say yes, but I disagree. However, it’s still a CHOICE. You can choose to spend your money wherever you like and demanding that someone make the same choice as you, or shunning them because they don’t, helps no one.
Will giving millions of dollars to Black Lives Matter change the world? Some will say yes, but I disagree. Will defunding the police and paying reparations make any changes to racism or crime in the world? I don’t think so. I believe it will actually make things worse. There is a difference between slogans and reality and there is a difference between the branding of a movement and their actual aim. You can believe that black lives matter without believing in Black Lives Matter.
Will donating to charities that actually uplift and empower black Americans through mentorship programs, food banks, public-health facilities, violence-prevention programs, educational initiatives and job training change the world? To that I say definitely.
Will pouring more money into failing schools help better educate children or will school choice help to better advance those in low income neighborhoods? We could debate these things all day, and they are important debates, but they should be not fights and we can’t continue to let them be. They need to be conversations. We need to see that the VAST majority of us are fighting for and wanting the same things, and we don’t want those things any less because we need to continue with our lives and our businesses. We shouldn’t have to make disclaimers about returning to business as usual and we shouldn’t fear public shaming for doing so. We shouldn’t judge each others wokeness by what we are or are NOT posting on instagram or how much we talk about the work we’re doing everyday. Let’s focus less on shaming and judging others or seeking out their virtues and more on actual work and progress.
If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for caring enough to stick with me whether you agree or disagree. I invite you to share your thoughts or opinions if you choose, publicly in the comments or privately via email, text, etc. There is SO much more to say – about racism, about police (another day), about social media. All I hope for now is that you respect my thoughts no matter how you feel and continue to follow my creative passions if you appreciate them, because that’s why I am here.
On a final note, I want to share a little collaboration and a donation opportunity. Through August, I will be donating the profits from my Love Story Pattern sales to the Woodson Center whose goal is to transform lives, schools, and troubled neighborhoods from the inside out. You can find the pattern here. I’ve also teamed up with Stash Fabrics to help promote their Stash Gives Back initiative. Above you can see my Love Story pattern mocked up in their Imagine Equality fabric bundle. The bundle includes a free copy of my pattern and all proceeds from the bundle sale go to the Equal Justice Initiative. You can find the bundle here.
Stay well, friends.