• Nicky

White Grief

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

I am a knitter. I am an active member in a community of knitters. I follow many other knitting accounts on my social media - almost exclusively. I swipe on my phone and watch the knitting world spin.

When posts started appearing more and more, about white supremacy, and white privilege, I was concerned and upset. I had the reaction that many white people do, I’m sure.

In retrospect, it’s looked a lot like the stages of grief. I took some time to reflect on what I was grieving. What have I lost? Perhaps some of that privilege. The inborn ability to stay out of it, to be complicit and “keep knitting fun".

Denial - Why me? What did I do? Surely you can’t be talking about all white people. I’m a nice person, I accept everybody.

Anger - A lot of us are here now, check the comment thread of any post on the subject and there they are. Calling it reverse racism and the like. I was angry too. I felt that there was nothing I could say that would be the right thing. I felt cornered. But feeling cornered is unacceptable too, there's a label for it, it’s called white fragility now. Being afraid to speak up is white fragility. Some of the rhetoric made it sound like the only correct thing to do would be to humiliate myself and allow myself to be publicly attacked so that I would learn. And being unwilling to subject myself to that is yet again white fragility, and having the choice not to subject myself is white privilege. I just wanted to know what was right, but was told not to ask - marginalized people are not responsible for educating me. I have to do it myself. I will admit, at this stage, I felt exhausted.

Bargaining - Maybe I can quietly sit over here liking but not commenting, sharing stories but not posting. Maybe then I will look supportive without risking saying the wrong thing. Maybe then I will be good enough.

Depression - I do feel depressed when I think about what has been lost. When you’re a child it’s called losing your innocence, but when you're an adult, it's losing your ignorance. The option to ignore racism and bigotry. To believe that everything is basically okay. I think about BIPOC and LGBTQQIP2SAA people - how old were they when they lost theirs?

I grew up in the suburbs. There was some diversity in my community, but not much. Racism and bigotry was not a fact of life for me there. I didn’t see it as a real life problem until I was much, much older - I’m embarrassed to say how old. Reflecting on my childhood, I imagine being a little kid and having to feel the way I feel now - that people are angry at people like me, maybe even me personally, because of what I look like or who I am, but did not choose to be. What kind of world is that to grow up in? And yet that is the truth of marginalized youth. Not even fully grown, not having done anything with your life yet, and the world is already against you. My heart breaks when I imagine children like my own daughter having to live that way. Maybe she won’t, because she is white. Maybe she won’t because society will be better by then. I hope for the latter, but passively hoping won't make it so.

Acceptance - With the Ravelry decision, I learned that my voice and voices like mine are valued in this conversation. That they hold weight - because it is important not just for the targets of bigotry to stand up for themselves, but for all of us to stop accepting this. I believe in racism and bigotry. I believe the truths of BIPOC and LGBTQQIP2SAA people. I do not and cannot know how they feel but I see them, I hear them, and I value them. I thank them for their bravery, making themselves visible, making it impossible to ignore. I want better, for all of us and for our children. I promise to hold a safe space for you. I promise to open my mind and learn and listen. I promise to shut down intolerant behaviour. It is scary and uncomfortable and I understand that it is necessary for it to be, and I will not complain about that because BIPOC and LGBTQQIP2SAA people have no choice but to face this when they defend themselves and their place in the world every day of their lives. This post is not the end - fighting bigotry must become a part of everyday life for all of us. Thank you knitting community for not shying away from this fight, and not allowing me to either.

Update: I recently borrowed the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. It provides a really helpful perspective on why people are so defensive about terms like "white supremacy" and provides a primer for white folks on how we can start to recognize racism in our society and work towards dismantling it within ourselves.


Toronto, ON, Canada

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