Monday, January 21, 2019

Cultural Appropriation

This is a huge

HUGE

HUGE

topic lately.

It's consuming the fiber arts world, along with the headlines. Cultural conflict. I can't speak to everyone or even anyone else but myself. But, here I find myself, in my mid-fifties, feeling about five years old. I look back and realize how sheltered and naive I've been. How much I feel driven to help and support others and yet so uneducated about what that really means.

I have a militant, accusatory "friend." She was a friend, once upon a time. I'm not so sure now. She wears her causes like badges. In my well-intentioned ignorance, I related a time I was clearly discriminated against. At the time, it hurt and was a shock to learn I didn't get noticed because of my color, age, and shape. It didn't matter that my credentials were excellent; I was invisible. I was trying to understand the only way I knew how - to tap into my own experiences and feelings. She attacked me and said I would NEVER understand because I was white. Her response was to further widen the gap, to take out her anger directly on me even though I'd lived my life consciously including everyone, accepting everyone, the best I could. I can't listen to her anymore even though her message is correct: I can't understand and never will know what it's like to be BIPoC. 

A couple years later now, I find it ironic that she feels she made the split because I don't post enough pictures on social media, in her opinion, of my oldest. Never mind that she doesn't know if that was my decision, or on the request of my daughter, or the truth which is that I post mostly photos of knitting or cats, trips when they come up, along with a meme or two. My younger daughter lives with me and is my handiest model. Both of my daughters are breathtakingly beautiful, inside and out. I don't see my oldest nearly as often as I'd like and would gladly like to have the occasion to photograph her more. I feel sad for my friend who seems to suffer when she doesn't need to and resists joy in favor of raging against all her "thems." I love her and hope we can be friends again some day. 

No one likes to be blamed and attacked for the actions of others. I wasn't the only one who felt it when it came up in a discussion group. It just took one person who maliciously struck out at all people who were not BIPoC. I almost left the group altogether. She clearly had deep hurts but, unfortunately, like my friend, was so angry, she widened the gap as she listed case after case of injustice and accused "us" of the results. 

Fortunately, I didn't leave. I took a back seat for a while and did some reading.  I also watched some of the reflective videos of the organizer of that group, Abby Franquemont.

I listened. I finally felt confident enough to comment again. Thankfully, Abby responded and offered some clarification and not someone who instantly condemned and judged. I'm learning. I realize I don't need to try to find my own experience and that I can't because I haven't experienced it. I listen and include. That's what I can do...listen, respect, include.

My task now is to be inclusive as I explore my work in fiber arts.

More on this later...

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