Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Craft ponderings: We are not exempt

My friend and I were walking just a few moments ago, and he asked me [jokingly], "Meaghan, what's the meaning of life?" I was only half listening to him, and I didn't have an answer, so we kept walking. Honestly, my head was caught in the tangled web of the idea for this post. As someone who is still navigating the entire crafty/DIY scene, I don't necessarily aspire to step on any toes...especially toes that belong to peers and leaders in the movement. At the same time, I would be a disingenuous fool, a liar and a hypocrite if I didn't care about the things that I passionately cared about long before I decide to hitch my wagon to this movement. And with all honesty, as a white person, I could just stay hitched and not care an ounce about what I do care about because it's just that easy.

This, essentially, is what I like to consider my Meaning of Life: to constantly challenge myself, my perceptions, my words, my thoughts and my instincts so as to create world in which I am not a proprietor of hate, bigotry and ignorance. When I let go and engage myself in social justice/anti-oppression work, I actually feel better about myself and the world around me because other people feel better, safer and happier. It's a win/win.

So...with that being said, here's my post. I've about had it up to here with the tokenizing, appropriation and blatant disregard for any degree of social consciousness as it relates to race from many (not all) crafty/Etsy sellers. What really gets my gourd is that not only are these crafters seemingly oblivious to what they are doing, they are simultaneously profitting from it! And people are buying it! Because they think it is cool/hip/funny/ironic/awesome. Here are some examples:

1. "What Up My Knitta?" 2. "Pimp Daddy Santa & His Ho Ho Ho's"
3. "Grillz - Teeth Cap Bronze Necklace" 4. "Fo' Shizzle Welcome to Our Hizzle"


1. "Brother G says: Keep Your Pimp Hand Clean" (Long Island Iced Tea scented) 2. "Ghetto Plate"
3. "Hipsta, Please" 4. Photography Print with the tag "ghetto"

Despite my best efforts to find a sense of humor, this stuff is just not funny. Not only is it appropriative, which crafters seem to detest because I hear perpetual uproars in every possible venue about design and concept thievery, but they are RACIST. Invoking the word "ghetto" as an adjective is racist. Replacing the "n-word" with another more humorous and apropos word and positioning it before a ", please" is racist. Creating a bronze cast of teeth, calling it a "grill" and using stereotypical "G Speak" in order to write a description for it is racist.

It depresses me that we live in a society where this is acceptable. If there is even the question in your mind, "Is this racist?" then you don't need an answer. You just need to not do it. How horrible would your life really be if you couldn't do that thing that may or may not be racist? How stifled would your creative freedom be to just not do it at all? You don't need to have a PhD in Critical Race Theory to wrap your brain around this concept. It boils down to common human decency, Golden Rule kind of logic. And I truly believe that most every human being is capable of that.

EDITED TO ADD:
This is a really fantastic way to approach these discussions, btw.

15 comments:

  1. Have I told you lately that I love you?

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  2. I think your blog stands apart from many of the other crafty blogs because of great awareness-raising posts like this! I have heaps of respect for you and I'm fairly certain your posts are making me a better person... I admit to being kind of flippant about things like this sometimes.

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  3. Karida - Hearing it, regardless of repetition, is always nice! :-)

    Elise - Thank you so much for your words. I don't ever intend to sound preachy, so I appreciate you saying that what I've been sharing has resonated with you. I think if we all hold each other accountable, that the crafty/DIY movement will progress with integrity and kindness. And that is incredibly important to me.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this. You've always been an inspiration because you're not afraid to speak your mind, and you always do it eloquently. Elise is right, you stand apart from the crowd and appreciate the awareness you've raised in me about crafting for profit.

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  5. I have always wondered why the group Knitta Please was supposed to be funny. It is so clear what they are saying, but not saying with that name. I get it, but it is very borderline offensive if not just completely offensive. I thought it was just me!

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  6. Ugh, so good! Thanks for saying that!

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  7. Meaghan,

    I just wanted to thank you for being literally the ONLY vocal blogging opponent to this strain of mindless racism and classism that I was able to find. You really inspired me to speak my mind rather than just continuing to be privately distressed. And overall, I really appreciate the critical mission of your blog and you will see me hanging around your posts a lot.

    Thanks again.

    Alexis

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  8. I think this is a really important discussion and I appreciate you talking about it so eloquently. I agree that there is a lot of racism and classism in the crafty community-- not such a shocker because there's so much of racism and classism in our culture in general. All art is appropriation of some kind or another, I think we just have to strive to do so without being at someone else's expense.

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  9. There are tears in my eyes right now but they are tears of relief and thanks. Thank you so very much for this. I'm a black woman who knits and sometimes the craft community can be a minefield. I'll be going about my business and suddenly BOOM; I come across something like 'Knitta Please'. Your eloquence is amazing and very timely. Thanks for being a beacon.

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  10. I am so glad there are other people who feel this way. I found your blog via a link from One Grand Home. I wrote a post about Halloween Crafts and Cultural appropriation http://afrodandy.blogspot.com/2009/10/halloween-costumes-crafts-and-cultural.html
    that I am going to update with a link to this article.

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  11. i surfed in from onegrandhome and I just wanted to say

    "Yes. THIS."

    As another WOC, thank you. I despair a smidgen less for American civilization tonight.

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  12. Thank you , thank you, thank you !
    Cecile

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  13. I'm a member of Ravelry and the phrase "Where my stitches At" (they actually trademarked it!) are what I see after logging in. It looks less clever and more offensive to me now.

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  14. As a Black British female, I am applaud you for bringing this to our atention. As a crafter of colour I sometimes mention to friends that slogans are offensive, but am told I am sensitive and no harm is meant.

    You raise a very valid point, and sad to say more your views will be taken on board quicker than if it were a person of colour who raised it.

    I love to craft and may I ask demonstrators and designers, to consider adding people of colour too, as we would jump at the chance to use their designs.

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