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December 15, 2009

Comments

chelsea

Thanks for this post and for keeping people aware of this issue.

asha

I was not offended at first, but that is because I had no knowledge of the original phrase in popular use (I don't watch tv and am new to the US).

Until recently, anyone who knitted (or stitched other crafts) probably learned when they were very young from female family members. I come from Indian (South Asia) background. There, many grandmothers knit (particularly in colder north), but this is less true for younger women because they are more busy with jobs and can increasingly buy industrial goods. i knit only because i learned from swedish close family friend--my mother does not knit.

Maybe this is one reason why the craft scene is mostly white--because there is not the same level of family tradition. either the tradition was broken or it was never very large to begin with?

i won't be tempted to use the phrase knitta please because both I wouldn't know how to say/use it, and now I know where it comes from.

Morgan

Thanks for writing about this! I was disturbed by their name when I first heard about the group a while back (I guess from the Etsy feature), but I didn't try to start a dialog about it. Wish I had noticed your comment back then and spoken up!

My guess is that the group thinks their name is very clever, and anyone who gets the reference but doesn't think about racism (i.e., many white Americans) probably thinks its clever too. All too often, we don't think about the many possible interpretations of our words and actions because we don't consider other points of view.

It is ironic that this group considers themselves "Guerrilla knitters" while their name reinforces a cultural hegemony where everyone's speech is open to appropriation in our "post-racial society" (yeah, right, the Jena 6 case was 3 years ago and discrimination against Arab Americans is ongoing). I wonder how/if the group will respond.

Onegrandhome.wordpress.com

Your post is so spot-on in so many ways and I am grateful to have inspired you to take the step of writing about this topic. I feel your anguish and ambivalence in so many ways. In my blogging, I have struggled with how to deal with my feelings about race, class, ethics and interior design. Because I blog exclusively about affordable design, there is already an explicit economic program attached to my writing and I didn't want to be saddled with the burden of trying to represent 'a black perspective' on anything in that sphere. Much like you, I decided that the first step was to make my color visible my posting a photo of myself and by making a pledge to deal with all of these sensitive topics in a way that relates to my overall mission. I'm almost embarrassed that it took me months to be spurred to write that post but I am gratified that I spoke out and am glad that you have found your voice as well. Kudos.

Dee

Yes, the name offends me b/c like you, I know where the term originates.

Onegrandhome.wordpress.com

@Morgan,

I have contacted the Knitta, Please group and am awaiting comment from them. It will be interesting to see if they will reply.

Cinnamon

I know I've thanked you for writing about race and craft in the past and I want to thank you again. I admit that I didn't think about the name at first, but realized after mishearing it on a podcast once where the reference came from and became uncomfortable with it. I firmly believe that the intention of the women in the group is not a racist intention, but also believe that unintentional racism is just as damaging as intentional racism since the viewer/listener rarely knows the intent of the speaker.

Lauren

This is a great post, and thanks for putting it all out there. I'm not really familiar with Knitta, Please, but I do recall thinking "well that seems strange" the first time I came across the name. I just wasn't sure why I felt that way until now.

rivka

I agree with you about the name- Gross and offensive and not cute at all.

But I respectfully disagree with you about having an issue with the majority of crafters being white. It is a free country and if there are mostly white crafters, because mostly whites have chosen the craft avenue, then it is what it is. We can't *force* people of color to take the craft avenue.

It's all about choice.

I also think there is a reverse racism when we start talking about too many whites in craft. I thought we were over that....looking at a person's skin color. More people of color here, more whites over there. I thought that was racist thinking and I never think like that. I wouldn't even notice truthfully.

I feel everyone should use their potential and their talents to the best of their abilities...if some choose crafts and others don't that's their freedom.

Great post and thank you for your honesty.

Charissa

Thank you for this articulate post. I totally noticed your picture on the sidebar and it's helpful to know that it was a deliberate decision on your part to put that up!

As an Asian-American breaking into the world of crafty blogs (http://www.thegiftedblog.com), I haven't yet thought that much about the part race plays in what I'm doing. Really appreciate you speaking up; I know I will be mulling this over in days to come!

Charissa

Jacquie

I thought the name was cute, until you pointed out what it meant...now it's not so cute. But I am in Australia and had never heard the term before.
With regards to culture the scene in my city is predominantly Caucasian and Asian but I never thought about it till you brought it up. Perhaps the question to ask is not why there are so many Caucasians in the craft world but rather why do some cultures not get into arts and crafts?

Alexis L. of One Grand Home

Rivka,
Until people of color have the same economic means, social capital, cultural education / exposure, and freedom of leisure enjoyed by the white majority, you cannot really regard lack of participation in crafts by people of color to be merely a matter of personal choice. It's at least partially about lack of choice, not about a desire to institute a quota system.

rivka

"Until people of color have the same economic means, social capital, cultural education / exposure, and freedom of leisure enjoyed by the white majority, you cannot really regard lack of participation in crafts by people of color to be merely a matter of personal choice. It's at least partially about lack of choice, not about a desire to institute a quota system."

-----------

I feel that may be a valid point if someone chooses to go into an advanced degree field to ultimately become a physician, attorney, scientist, etc. But you can go into Crafts with a pencil and a piece of paper. Or a 69cent loop of embroidery thread and a piece of remnant. Combine it with a great, original idea, some drive and energy and you've got a person involved in Crafts. I just don't see how race figures into this. I respect your opinion though.

brownstocking

I am glad I found this site. I am into crafts, but never realized there could be a community of critical crafters. I am happy I found you and Alexis, and grateful you put your pics up.

@Morgan: "It is ironic that this group considers themselves "Guerrilla knitters" while their name reinforces a cultural hegemony where everyone's speech is open to appropriation in our "post-racial society" (yeah, right, the Jena 6 case was 3 years ago and discrimination against Arab Americans is ongoing). " THIS. Thank you!

@Rivka there is no such idea as "reverse" racism. And, yes, why do you assume people of color aren't "choosing" to be crafty? I know WOC in my community are very into crafts, and alot of their work comes from economic necessity. Not all of us, but some of us still have those ties. No one said ANYTHING about "forcing" POC to enter the craft world.

I'm just glad we have rifferaff and Alexis and hopefully others who do the heavy lifting.

Mismikado

Very enlightening post. Thank you for speaking out on this topic.
I come from a very crafty family, but growing up I lived in a very ethnically diverse environment. I commented on KP founder's response w/ my racial background and analysis of racisim: http://onegrandhome.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/founder-of-knitta-please-speaks-on/
It hasn't been until recently, where I know work and live in a community of a singular race who is typically an American Minority and unfortunately extremely prejudice that this topic has really irked me. I honestly don't think I knew what "Race" was until I was in middle school and living in a predominantly "white" area being the only "tan" student in the entire school.
I think what irritates my the most is that KP founder claims to be in touch w/ racism b/c of her heritage but never once discussed her racial background until now. Rather she used terms stereotypically associated with every other racial group. Yes KP mission is to beautify urban neighborhood w/ a "new kind" of graffiti but that is no excuse for being ignorant or blatantly racist.

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Maggie

I recently met a letterpress printer and African American gentleman named Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. You can read my post about him and his work on my blog - http://uncommonenvelope.blogspot.com/ . He freely refers to himself by names that some are ultra-sensitive to because historically they reference our racist history. BUT, his theory is that no matter what you call - or don't call - yourself, racism is a part of our history and therefore ourselves and we can not erase that. SO, it stands to reason that if we truly are or aspire to be a color-blind society, why can we not reference our history and possible make light of it? I would encourage you to watch the documentary about Kennedy called "Proceed and Be Bold" as he talks about his work as a reflection of his POV as an African American man. It is eye-opening and was an insight on race that, actually, made me personally more comfortable talking about the subject than I have been in a long time.

rifferaff

hi maggie,
i am a fan of amos kennedy as well and have that dvd. he is a friend of my mother's, she does the art show circuit in alabama.

Maggie

So, what are your thoughts on Kennedy and his reflections on race within his work? I am wondering what he would say about Knitta, Please, and about being a minority within the craft world... any chance we can find out?

vero

spot on. thank you.

andrea

Wow there is so much to cover here. First of all like many, thanks for writing this piece, I agree that it is very necessary to talk about these various issues related to the lack of diversity in the art world period. As a graphic designer I've written on Fly about the disparity of African-Americans in design. This sad fact has always left me being the only person of color at design conferences, in design departments and classrooms when I was in art school. I think the only way to resolve this is for all of us to keep blogging, keep networking, and creating dialogues. Reach out, share, and collaborate. But most importantly be active in organizations that cater to your specific interests, or volunteer with young people so they can see what you're doing and know that they can pursue creative careers, too. If we're visibly and physically there no one can ignore our point of views.

Okay, now the Knitta Please topic. I've gone back and forth with this in my mind because one part of me is offended and yet another part of me asks am I being paranoid. I ask myself can I be mad when they are using an iteration of a word/statement without using the word at all? I don't know. The reference was obvious to me, but not so much so to others. Yet that doesn't make it right, but then I don't know if it's wrong. So again I can't decide.

In 2007 I posted an image from Knitta curious to see what people would say. There were mixed comments, some were pissed at me for posting, others didn't see a problem at all. With that I contacted the group and asked what was their thought process behind selecting their name. Since I emailed them from my previous job I no longer have the response and won't misquote them but basically they said that their name has nothing to do with "n*gga please." (Not that she would've told me if it did.)

In regards to the Afro Picks cover, I'm not offended. If anything I'm slightly annoyed that the title of that particular issue cheapens the image but the image itself is intriguing and beautiful to me. It's featured in a book about African-American beauty by Deborah Willis, which is referenced in the feature article of that issue.

Patrice

Yes, Knitta Please does offend me, not only because of where it originates from, but it sounds too damn close to the "real" thing.

And as a black woman, I can certainly attest to the lack of diversity in the crafting community-particularly Etsy. I went to one of their meet-n-greets last year when they were here in DC, and I was the only black person or person of color there. I'd love to see Etsy be more diverse in their selection of Featured Sellers. And hire some black people too-if they have, I haven't seen them!

Zavi

I brought a similar point on my blog about POC in the craft world, and after some back and forth in the comments section I came to the conclusion that POC are crafters they just not active in the new/online/DIY/Craft movement. Here's a link to the post http://afrodandy.blogspot.com/2009/10/halloween-costumes-crafts-and-cultural.html the comment section is the best part.

rifferaff

hi zavi, thanks for directing me to your blog post.

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