It’s been a few days since Rav posted a dramatic statement aimed at eliminating hate speech on their platform. In our 140 Character world, reposts, shares would have looked like this:
“New policy, effective immediately
We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy. For more details, read this document: https://ravelry.com/content/no-trump”.
Even though Ravelry goes on to state that they are not banning conservatives or endorsing democrats, and that they do not condone hate speech of liberals against conservatives, it’s easy to see why a bunch of perfectly nice, non bigoted people feel targeted here. I’ve had the benefit of thoughtful dialogue with other dyers and customers since this happened and I’d like to expand on why I took the stance I did.
Let’s start with the complexities of getting political at all; first of all there is a cost to the business, undeniably. There have been massive refunds, loss of followers, and reams of angry messages. My own family have asked why the hell I’m sticking my neck out when my company is in a very vulnerable place, and they’re not wrong to do so because here is the thing;
Getting to Canada is not easy. When many immigrants arrive there is a general sense of “Achievement unlocked. Now I shall work hard and keep my head down the rest of my life”. It’s a completely understandable stance to take; especially if you come from somewhere that isn’t easy. And probably you did, because the majority of people do not wish to leave the country of their birth unless their livelihoods or families are threatened. Contrary to popular rhetoric, no one wakes up in their homeland thinking “Today I think I’ll risk my life and the lives of those I care about to make an arduous journey to a faraway place so I can “Rip off the system” and “steal jobs”.
The result of that stance is that the people most often qualified to speak out against racism and bigotry … don’t. They have been conditioned to walk small, to work well, to live quietly and happily and not rock the boat. This is why white allies are critical, but they can’t do the job without us.
That’s my first reason, first gen children of immigrants often inherit this mentality, and I sure did. Which is why I felt the need to step up.
Second; What Rav did was brave. The other major platforms are freely hosting hate speech; YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have protected their bottom line and the interests of their shareholders by not taking any meaningful stance or making any effective moves to de-platform those who use their services to spread and organize hate. As sad as it is, I get that. A corporation is beholden to its shareholders, and massive machines are difficult to move. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. So when Ravelry chose to take such a dramatic stand against hate I was impressed. The Blue Brick has a voice too; 17,500K IG followers and 28,000K FB followers. That’s a big voice. I chose to be brave, too, because I’m the sole owner of The Blue Brick and I can take a hit to stand up for what I believe in.
Third: There IS a rising tide of white supremacy. There are bigger and bolder movements. They have names that sound ok, like the Council of Conservative Citizens, The Creativity Alliance, the Canadian Heritage Alliance. The age of information and social media, plus the endorsement and empowerment of the POTUS himself is allowing their brand of hate to grow, spread and hurt people. We can’t allow this train to come in. We are all responsible for holding the line.
Ok, so WHAT do I believe in, and WHY do I believe it?
Ravelry’s stance is a hard line, and I admit I was initially shocked to see it. I thought long and hard about how it made me feel.
They thought about a metric that would define hate and bigotry. That metric could have been anything; flagging certain words on their site, barring certain users or patterns, or simply issuing a statement, without focus, that bigotry and hate would not be tolerated, but they chose support of Donald Trump as their metric. Not if you voted for him initially, not if you identify as a republican or a conservative, but if you vocally support Donald Trump specifically, why did they do this?
Donald Trump is associated with things that, as a global community, are very painful. His crimes against women, children, minorities and the environment are too many to count. He has validated and empowered a white supremacy voice that, as a BIPOC woman is very frightening. It’s not even the man himself so much as it is what he stands for, what he inspires, and some of the groups he has empowered through his hate rhetoric.
I feel strongly about this. If one supports the man then I don’t see how one separates him from grabbing women by the p***y, putting children in cages, forming relationships with other despots and perpetuating racist rhetoric.
I don’t believe it’s fair to call all who voted for him racists, but to those who support him still, despite the human rights violations, the rape accusations, the climate change denial, the horrors at the border…It’s hard not to feel that at some level they agree with, condone and empathize with him, and that’s where someone like me needs to draw a line too.
To those who have begun respectful dialogue I have respected their choices and responded in kind. I have not deleted anyone’s comments from my feed because I do listen to and respect their viewpoints, however different from my own. I realize that many different people support him for many different reasons, and I want you to know that I hear you. And I don’t hate you. I don’t think poorly of you and I am ready ready to listen when people want to have respectful dialogue. I have stated where I stand, but that is not to the exclusion of the feelings of others. Division serves no one. Listening with an open heart does. I want to learn and grow and give my energy to healing the divide, not widening it.
I am not someone who likes to get political. I’m an artist who wants to fly under the radar and make lovely things. Speaking out is frightening. My business is in a precarious and vulnerable place as we scale, and alienating customers is the last thing I wish to do. I hope this demonstrates how deeply I felt in myself that it must have been the right thing to do, despite what it’s cost me, and there has been a cost; in followers, friends, mental and physical health, and revenue. I still believe that I am standing up for what’s right. I believe I have a responsibility to my community.
I’d like to thank you for the patience to read this far, and to share just a bit more if I may. This is a story that inspires me every day:
Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment, a book by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
The terrible fire raged and burned. All of the animals were afraid and fled from their homes. The elephant and the tiger, the beaver and the bear all ran, and above them the birds flew in a panic. They huddled at the edge of the forest and watched. All of the creatures gathered, except one. Only Dukdukdiya, the little hummingbird, would not abandon the forest. Dukdukdiya flew quickly to the stream. She picked up a single drop of water in her beak.
Dukdukdiya flew back and dropped the water on the fire. Again she flew to the stream and brought back another drop, and so she continued—back and forth, back and forth. The other animals watched Dukdukdiya’s tiny body fly against the enormous fire, and they were frightened. They called out to the little hummingbird, warning her of the dangers of the smoke and the heat. “What can I do?” sobbed the rabbit. “This fire is much too hot.” “There is too much smoke!” howled the wolf.
“My wings will burn! My beak is too small!” cried the owl.
But the little hummingbird persisted. She flew to and fro, picking up more water and dropping it, bead by bead, onto the burning forest. Finally, the big bear said, “Little Dukdukdiya, what are you doing?”
Without stopping, Dukdukdiya looked down at all of the animals. She said, “I am doing what I can.”