The Importance of Story Telling

“Its hard to hate up close. Move in.” – Dr. Brené Brown

For those of you thatknow me personally (which I’m assuming is most of you at this point, as this isa tiny baby blog and I have a good support system), let me tell you why I’mwriting this. First, please see blog #1 “The Journey Begins” to update yourselfon Warmth Detroit’s main goals. Second, there has been a HUGE push in the rightdirection within the fiber arts community as of late. POC (people of color) havespoken up to white makers in order create a more representative and inclusivecommunity, which was sparked by some racist actions and statements frommultiple well-known makers and companies. So, if you think this is coming outof nowhere, I would encourage you to search social media for statements fromyour local yarn stores or makers.

Over the last month or so, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my ownprivilege. As a white woman, as a person with higher education, and a middleclass citizen, as an American, and as just about every other attribute I have.The conclusion? I have a lot of privilege. More so than about 99% of people inthis world, if I had to take a guess.

With all of my reading and research, I’ve come across a central theme: storytelling. How many times have you heard the phrase, “well if you really got to know them…” in the context of making a person seem better than how you currently see them? I’m new to blogging, but one piece that I remember from my English class in high school is to write what you know. So, I’m going to start with telling you my story, even though it’s certainly not the most important one to tell.

I grew up in a small town (ahem, village) in what some people consider Northern, but I consider Central Michigan. I grew up in a very, very “normal” white family: my parents have been married for 30 years now, and I have one older brother. My entire family lived within a radius of 5 miles of one another, and most of them we could access by boat or foot. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I graduated from high school with in 2008 with around 160 people in my class if I remember correctly, and I don’t know the demographics exactly, but my assumption is that around 90% of those students were white. I had the luxury of not thinking about race. I didn’t see white as a race.

To finish up my personal timeline, I went to college in a slightlylarger town where the biggest draw to the town was the university, grad schoolin an even bigger city with a largely white population, started dating my nowhusband in 2012 and moved to the Boston area for a few years, and then we madeour way back to the East side of Michigan where we bought our first home in2016 in the metro Detroit area. We’ve been here for about 2.5 years now. I workat a large hospital system in the area as a speech-language pathologist, whereI see pediatric patients with complex communication disorders in an outpatientsetting. My patients are a very diverse group; linguistically, cognitively,racially, and culturally. If there is one place that I’ve learned the mostabout different cultures, it’s my day job.

Up until recently, I thought the culmination of these experiences wasa good thing. “Good for me!” I subconsciously thought to myself. “I’m notracist! I have some friends of color! I don’t treat my patients of color anydifferently!” Then I started reading about white supremacy, or unconsciousbias, if that’s what you feel more comfortable calling it at this point.  According to Layla Saad‘s workbook Me and White Supremacy (If you haven’theard of it, DOWNLOAD IT at https://www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com/.It’s free and a game-changer) white supremacy can be defined as:

“…an ideology, a paradigm, aninstitutional system, and a world view that you have been born into by virtueof your whiteness. I am not talking about the physical color of your skin beingbad. I am talking about the historic and modern legislating, societalconditioning and systemic institutionalizing of the construction of whitenessas inherently superior than people of other races…white supremacy is a systemthat you have been born into. Whether or not you have known it, it is a systemthat has granted you unearned privileges, protection, and power. It is also asystem that has been designed to keep you asleep and “unaware” of what youhaving that privilege, protection, and power has meant for people who do nothold white privilege.”

As a white person, that definition seems daunting. To POC, I can’t conceptualize how this ideology feels, because I’ve never been on the other side of the table. So what can I do? Just sit back and let the powers that be fix it? No. I can help others to realize their own unconscious bias. I can outwardly help to create a platform to tell stories. Hopefully one day, in person, but for now on the World Wide Web. Going back to my main point here, when you know someone else’s story, it’s a lot easier to attempt to see the world through their eyes.  This doesn’t mean that you should go up to the first POC you see on the street and ask them to tell you their life story. That’s weird and confrontational. Make it your own personal responsibility to educate yourself through narratives, social media, and reflection into your experience and privilege.  It’s all right in front of you, if you know where to look.

Here are some resources to get started on checking in with yourprivilege and status:

  1. Layla Saad’s workbook Me and White Supremacy(it’s a free resource, but there is a spot to donate to more of Layla’s work onher site): https://www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com/
  2. Follow Rachel Cargle on Instagram at@rachel.cargle. During Black History Month, Rachel is providing a prompt foreach day for her followers to Google and learn for themselves. 
  3. A quiz to see how much of your success came fromprivilege: https://movingupusa.com/calc/
  4. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for WhitePeople to Talk About Racism: https://www.amazon.com/White-Fragility-People-About-Racism/dp/0807047414/ref=sr_1_2?crid=242HUKMOT38S4&keywords=white+fragility&qid=1549733639&s=gateway&sprefix=white+fra%2Caps%2C170&sr=8-2

If you are a person of color with a story to tell, pleasereach out to me at Katie@warmthdetroit.com.It doesn’t matter if you’re a fiber artist or simply someone with something tosay, I want to hear it. If you have more resources to add to the list above,please leave a comment below!