Words matter

I have hurt, angered and disappointed a lot of people this week with my insensitive post about my upcoming trip to India and my handling of the response, and I am deeply sorry about it. I’ve spent the week listening hard, learning (in part about how much more I have to learn), and thinking about all of the things I can do — particularly here on the blog — to be more inclusive and supportive of people of color. I can’t take any of this week back, but I will work hard to do better going forward.

For those who didn’t see anything offensive in my post, I feel it’s important to spell it out for everyone to see and think about, and hopefully learn from:

First, it reads like I’m a tourist looking for an exotic location for my next selfie, which is inherently horrible — India is not a set or a backdrop for white people. It reads that way because I didn’t take the time to talk about why I’m going, which is to meet textile artisans and learn more about their craft. I’m coming to India from a place of respect for the relevance of textiles in the country’s liberation from British rule.

Second, and more egregiously, when I said that to my anxiety-ridden teenage self the offer of travel to India felt like an offer of travel to Mars, I gave the impression that I equate the people of India with aliens — literally alienizing people who aren’t like me. It doesn’t matter that that’s not how I intended it. By being careless with my words, I perpetuated the harmful notion that Indians (and POC in general) are “other,” or even to be feared. People who are the target of racism every day were rightly offended by it, as were others. And I am so sorry.

Third, I compounded the Mars problem by bringing it up again (to say that my grown-up self might even consider space travel if I got the chance) by referencing an interview I had heard about the impending “colonization” of Mars. I brought up colonization in a piece about a country marred by colonialism and didn’t see it. Everyone who was shocked at that was right to be, and I’m shocked at myself.

That’s not comprehensive, but it’s the main thrust of it. It took women of color pointing this out for me to see it — starting with the annotation that @thecolormustard posted in her Story — which is not their responsibility, and I am thankful to them for taking the time. If you’re struggling to understand the response, please just sit with it and give it some serious thought, from their point of view.

I apologize profusely to everyone I hurt, and to everyone who has taken any kind of heat for calling me out on it. I was wrong, and the women who took the risk to speak out were right. I’ll be doing the work, sharing the resources*, and doing my part to raise the visibility and celebrate the actual beautiful diversity of this community.

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*Currently reading: The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison (recommended by @nappyknitter). If you haven’t read Morrison’s novels, get on that too.

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70 thoughts on “Words matter

  1. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the harm, unintended though it may have been, that the post about your upcoming trip to India caused. I’ve also commented, with a clarified amendment to my first comment, in that post.

    Another resource I very strongly recommend to you is Layla F. Saad’s workbook, “Me and White Supremacy.”

    To those who will continue to say that we people of color take offense too easily, who insist they found nothing wrong with your post, and who’ve demanded that Makers of Color “just calm down” during the week-long discussion that’s been happening on IG and in other online communities, all of it spurred by your post, be mindful of Karen’s words: “If you’re struggling to understand the response, please just sit with it and give it some serious thought, from their (WOC) point of view.”

    Karen, I realize that all of this has caused you pain. I understand why so many have come to your defense. I also understand why so many of us criticized your words and their implications, and that is what POC need all y’all to understand: your (group you) intentions do not absolve or erase their impact.

    Continue to listen and learn. It is necessary.

  2. Karen, thank you for writing this and thanks to the women who wrote to you. Day after day I see the absence of awareness in myself, my mind’s thinking that is so so limited and so unconscious – and in some cases harmful. Ugh! I’ll be rereading your post more than once so that the points made SINK IN.

  3. Thanks for this, Karen. As a woman of white privilege who is also trying to do better, I am very interested in any resources you and others recommend.

    • mhalvor, it is of the utmost importance that white women in particular don’t wait for others to deliver resources to their door in order to be more aware. That puts the emotional labor on someone else when we should be doing the work to seek out resources for ourselves. You can literally google “best books on race” or “how to be more racially aware as a white woman” or “best podcasts by POC” or “best books by authors of color.” More importantly, “white privilege” or “white fragility” are really important terms you should acquaint yourself with. There are literally hundreds of hits for any google search, and there are many, many, many places to start – none of them wrong. “Me and White Fragility” (which Karen has linked above) is an excellent place to start. As is reading anything by any author of color, listening to any podcast, or simply adding any voice of color into your daily life. Don’t wait for someone to recommend it to you – seek it out! Anywhere and everywhere!

  4. Thank you Karen for this. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t get it either. I read (and reread) and all I heard was a woman celebrating her ability to change and grow. This post (and all the voices on Instagram and elsewhere) help me to begin to learn and understand my own limited point of view. Let’s keep the conversation going. I have a lot to learn.

  5. I didn’t read the original post, but I’m so struck by the feelings it engendered and especially by your thoughtful response. I want to note that unlike many people, you know how to apologize. I read long ago that if an apology contains the words ‘if ‘ or ‘but’ it is not an apology. . You didn’t make that mistake.

  6. Karen, thank you for this post. I welcome a more inclusive and yes much more diverse fiber community. This post cannot have been easy to write, but you did so most honestly and beautifully. Here is to all of us acknowledging all that we don’t do to be more inclusive – and for the willingness to accept we are not perfect but each day we have an opportunity to learn and be better.

  7. Thank you, Karen, for posting about this. I was uncomfortable with your India post, and as a white person, should have stepped up and said something about it. Thank you for reminding me that it’s on me and other white people who notice something’s off to say something about it. And thank you, knitters and readers of color, for stepping up and speaking out. I, personally, need to get better at speaking out as soon as I notice, even if it’s hard to do it, and no matter what the original poster’s intent was.

  8. Hi Karen,
    I just wanted to say that I admire your consideration for people. Thanks for setting the example of someone who walks a mile in someone else’s shoes before reacting. It is nice to see a post on the internet these days that instead of making a defensive, divisive response; you took the time to consider a different perspective and reply in a compassionate way. Thank you! Life is not about right and wrong when it comes to individual points of view. The important thing is that we treat one another with respect!! Thanks again!
    Elizabeth

    • Unfortunately, I had to go through a phase of public defensiveness along the way, which I greatly regret.

  9. I have been so glad to see so many people in the fiber community publicly committing to anti-racist work. I will be very interested to see what happens in the upcoming weeks or months, when it is no longer the hot topic of the moment. There’s such a possibility for real change; hard work that can move outwards.

  10. You are brave and wise to own your words and their impact and give yourself and others an opportunity to learn! Thank you to those who hold each other accountable. We should never fear learning.

  11. Another good resource to anyone interested is the Truths Table podcast. It is made by black women for black women, but it has been a good way for me to learn without my whiteness being intrusive. Also, check and see if you have a Be the Bridge group in your area, or start your own. I can not say enough good things about this organization and the work it does.

  12. Thanks, Karen. Your reflection and willingness to set aside the impulse to defend means a lot.

  13. I am Asian American. I don’t think you did anything that upsetting. I wish people in this country could chill. I imagine there are a lot of people in other countries who would feel that a trip to America would almost be like going to another planet. I forgive them. I am not offended.

  14. I do not like the way you were treated on social media……. it was mobbing , despite that you did make some errors which I see as truly unintended. I wish you had been treated with more compassion. We are all human and don’t know what we don’t know . Each of us deserves respect and compassion not attacking . I have seen on social media quite a lot of “exclusivity” in the knitting community not always related to race but also related to class, age and elitism. I’ve been more aware of the “influencers” which taints my pleasure of reading personal instagram accounts knitting or not. It has made me more mindful of where I spend my dollars.
    I appreciate you even though I do not know you . We are all doing the best we can and we can all do more. Be well !

    • I’m curious about whether you truly think that Karen would have responded with this piece if the reaction hadn’t been so swift, direct, and persistent. When a white person with a large platform, influence, and power wields it recklessly, being called out and challenged on the carelessness with which you weild that whiteness is a small price to pay for all of the privilege and success you’ve been granted. It’s simply accountability. I would also argue that no, we white folks are not doing the best we can most of the time when it comes to challenging racism and the structures and behavior that uphold it…though we MUST do better.

      Stop defending Karen—it’s unnecessary and even harmful in this context.

  15. I’ve been on vacation and failed to see the original post but read it now with your followup. You really are excellent in taking stock of an issue and trying to see the other side rather than take immediate offense. Thank you for the growth moment.
    “When we know better, we do better.”

  16. I have read all of the words. I am listening. I am convicted, I also see the heart of this good woman. I admire your evolution and hope to emulate it with my own attempts to educate myself. That may not have happened without this discussion. So, thank you.

  17. Some other books to consider:
    Racism without Racists, Bonilla-Silva
    The Racial Contract, Mills
    Any book by bell hooks
    Any book/article by Peggy McIntosh

    But I also wanted to address this idea that somehow being shown the impact of ones words is somehow not compassionate(this is in relation to some commentors). POCs are continually put in a place to have to teach those with privilege about that privilege (which, Karen you recognize). Compassion is taking the time to show where error has been made. I am continually asked to watch my tone and watch what I say because it may be “harmful ” to hear. It harms POCs to constantly have to relive their trauma/racist encounters to teach those who are privileged and dont see this. I am not responsible for how you feel hearing the truth. So I ask those who are quick to defend and quick to assume we aren’t being respectful and compassionate, feelings are involved but it also is hard to hear and learn from stuff you were born into and not held responsible to learn, listen to our words.

  18. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunities to learn from the events of this past week, and the labors of so many fellow knitters who have put their time and efforts in to sharing resources so I can better learn about my own privilege. There are stages to learning about white privilege and so often for me the first stage is denial and defensiveness. I’m hoping that together with you Karen, and so many of my fellow crafters, we can move into the education and then action stages. I appreciate your words here tonight.

  19. Thank you for starting a very important conversation, even if you did so quite unintentionally. And for not taking down your original post, as is liable to happen when something this controversial comes up. Because this isn’t about you, or your travel plans, it’s about self-awareness and education.

  20. I find it fascinating that a few negative comments amongst many very positive comments on your blog post about India ilicited not only a heart felt apology but also an entire post unto itself.

    I was one of the commenters and being white and happening to have visited India a few months ago… I did not read your subtext as other commenters did. I did not think you were implying what others thought but I understand why some might jump to that conclusion.

    Although now having been to India on our very first trip outside of the USA…it was like travelling to another planet. A better planet. A more hopeful planet and a planet that calls out to the best part of our nature than the toxic bubble that I call home. aka: the United States. India is, in every way. Magical. It’s culture so much richer than anything I have ever experienced as an Italian/Norwegian American…it could not be put into words how much to friends and family when we returned home. It changed us for the better and I think that India is one of the best places I will ever go. For every reason.

    What I am fascinated by Ms. Templer, is that I commented on a previous post where I am asking you not to support Heifer International and supplied links that you requested as to why…and have that point be ignored.

    People’s feeling about being misunderstood aside. Supporting an organization that directly leads to the exploitation of animals that, we, as fiber artists or fiber appreciators, cherish in our daily lives.

    • I’ve accidentally posted this in the wrong place, and so I’m posting it again to make sure you see it Paige:

      Dear Paige, I think you are failing to see the bigger picture. Comparing India to another planet creates an ‘othering’ in a major way. It alienates the people of India as well as all people of color. It plants a seed of distrust and superior-ism. It is offensive, and you’ve just added insult to injury. Not only have you further used the original comparison in your own statement, but you’ve also continued on to bring animal welfare into the discussion as comparable to the welfare of people of color. Shame on you.

      Do you see what you did there? It was the very thing Karen was apologizing for. You should choose your words more carefully and examine how you have just continued a cycle of aggression and marginalization against people of color.

      Karen’s response was not to one comment or a few, but a raging discussion on Instagram. Perhaps you’ll find some enlightenment there.

      • I’ve only just been made aware of this whole discussion, and after reading the blog posts and some of the comments, I still have questions. Maybe someone can enlighten me here.
        I get why talking about colonialisation and India is a problem, but I don’t get why saying: “To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, (going to India) was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars”, is. To me this could just mean that Karen was scared to travel far away from home (being it India, Mars or Europe) because of her disorder. No offense there, at least I can’t see it. Of course it could mean other things too..I mean, I can’t look into other peoples brains.
        Please don’t hate me for asking, I just want to learn how this could have been prevented.

        • Hi, Julia. I’ve described the problem with this above in the paragraph that starts “Second, …”

      • Dear Beatrice,

        This discussion is a bit beyond me at this point. Every word of my comment was meant with no subtext and nothing in my heart that would, in any way, or should have been offensive to anyone reading it.

        If I suffer from some sort of white privilege that is not in my heart then you are right to tell me that I should be ashamed. However, what I said about India was 100 percent honest, in my own words and true.

        If someone takes offense at an imagined subtext that is not there that is on them. You did not travel to India with my husband and I. You did not see what we saw and you did not experience what we experienced.

        My comments about India were not related to it’s colonialist past. They were directly describing what we experienced on our trip. I am a vessel agent and work one on one with many Indian citizens on a regular basis. I have had many discussions about what happened in 1945 and how many of them feel about it and how their country has changed since. I have not had one person who I have spoken with take any sort of offense at questions I have asked or how much I loved their country when I was there.

        India is wonderful. America right now, in this time and place, is not. I stand by my comments. Good luck to all of you. I will take my leave and wish you all well in your “enlightened state of offense”

        As far as bringing animal rights into this and being offended by that??? Well all I can say is for any of you snowflakes when you go anywhere in the world, maybe get off your high horse and give the animals a moment’s thought.

        Since we use their fiber, it seems only reasonable that we care about their welfare. How dare you deign to be offended by that. Shame on you.

        When you travel to India, just remember that all of the animals that you see…India, some 500 years ago, enshrined animal rights into it’s constitution. You are offended that I brought animals into the discussion?? I am equally offended that you feel that animals have no place in a discussion about Indian culture. India is so amazing. It is truly magical. Karen, I hope you enjoy your trip.

    • I mean honestly, you’ve completely hijacked this whole “movement” (for lack of a more thoughtful word) and tried to make it about something else entirely different.

      Just because you asked her to look into something doesn’t mean she agreed with the resources you sent her. People give me resources about charities I support, mainly Planned Parenthood, in an attempt to bring me to their side. I don’t agree with those resources and continue to support the charities I choose to support.

      I think she was a dealing with a much larger issue this week- having a community very upset with her while also trying to understand how her words affected people. She’s paid her pound of flesh and deserves a little slack right now.

    • I’m glad you had a positive travel experience. It means something. But saying India is a “better planet” is really problematic and here’s why: It’s exotifying and reductive. India is different, but on equal footing as every other major mutli-cultural society, in that life there is a whole spectrum, with a specificity and complexity to it that must be appreciated to be understood.

      Having grown up there, I have a pretty granular and foundational understanding of the complexities within Indian culture and politics. To prop it up as ‘better’ is simply naive and untrue.

      I have a REALLY hard time coming out with my story about growing up in India, so this isn’t easy. At this time I must assert that we stop it with the exotification–of India or of any place really–as it is just as harmful as perpetuating negative stereotypes. This is specifically what people have been talking about in the past few days!

    • I don’t know if you saw my reply on your last comment about this, but I am looking into what you said — beyond following your links.

  21. I am in awe of the dignity of this discussion, and the civility with which it has been conducted. What a shining example of the possibilities when education and learning are promoted instead of close minded defensiveness. Many of you are my new teachers, I hope I can learn from this as much as is being taught.

  22. Dear Paige, I think you are failing to see the bigger picture. Comparing India to another planet creates an ‘othering’ in a major way. It alienates the people of India as well as all people of color. It plants a seed of distrust and superior-ism. It is offensive, and you’ve just added insult to injury. Not only have you further used the original comparison in your own statement, but you’ve also continued on to bring animal welfare into the discussion as comparable to the welfare of people of color. Shame on you.

    Do you see what you did there? It was the very thing Karen was apologizing for. You should choose your words more carefully and examine how you have just continued a cycle of aggression and marginalization against people of color.

    Karen’s response was not to one comment or a few, but a raging discussion on Instagram. Perhaps you’ll find some enlightenment there.

  23. Honestly I have a real love/hate relationship with this blog.I like the style of clothing and the sparseness of design but it also comes across to me as a bit pretentious. I would love a blog where race, privilege, assumptions, society is discussed and maybe we figure it out together. Yes those of you born in the late 50’s we are revisiting this discussion because our parents didn’t do the hard work and we are left holding the bag. That isn’t this blog.

    Every time someone says “white privilege.” I grow very angry. I did not choose to be white as I did not choose the parents I had. I lived in the 60’s primarily in black communities, why? Because daddy dearest was an alcoholic who would not keep a job, thought he was an artist, physically abused his child, and yes every night did a half assed attempt to kill us. Four kids. We lived in black neighborhoods because that is all they (mom and dad) could afford. My view of the black community is one of strength, character, knowing right from wrong, and doing the best one could do. I remember the laughter, people dressing up on Sunday going to church, and my next door neighbor telling me to go inside the house when Martin Luther King was shot. I remember the quiet conversations my parents had, curfews, and yes the riots coming up the street. I remember playing with the black kids next door and I remember the time when Mrs. Gibbs put chicken outside for me and my brother and sisters to eat. I will AWAYS remember that kindness in such a brutal time. to tell me I am privileged and that I had it better because I am white is offensive to me. In the neighborhoods that I grew up in the white folks were nasty people, unworthy of the trust of a child or an adult. As I grew up my parents eventually broke up. but the damage was done. While we didn’t have a great father, our mother was equally damaging. once again drugs made a comfortable resting place with my family. Two sisters, one managed to survive but lives in the moment and doesn’t save for the future, the other the smartest, prettiest, most intelligent has been mentally ill for most of her life. I believe it is schizophrenia. White privilege? she got to go to hospitals, was an in patient at times, but my mother kept taking her to different therapists all the time. I have learned over the years that our family is rife with mental illness. White Privilege? My mother and sister play head games with one another and to some extent with me. You know, not one person in my family has EVER said congratulations, well done, or even asked how I was, not then or in 2019. I worked at McDonalds, dealt with sexual harassment, (me too movement part 1!) misogyny from one of the guys I dated, and just worked to keep my head afloat. there were recessions, taking classes and working full time. Failure, lots of failures, but I got up dusted myself off and started over again. Please do not assume that because I am white I am special. I am not a special person, I am just as Sly Stone said “everyday people” yes I am that old!

    Lastly I was talking to one of my friends and said how I wanted schools to be a safe haven for kids. We both said, “you never know what has been going on in someone’s home before they get to school. Always give them the benefit of kindness.” You don’t know what someone has experienced until you sit down and talk with them, honestly and with an open mind.

    • Dear a·non·y·mous,
      what white priviledge refers to from what I have understood ist not necessarily an individual’s experience it rather refers to the priviledged whiteness as a whole. When you wrote that you could only afford to live in black neighbourhoods that illustrates it clearly. That the black neighbourhood was the only affordable one means that the black community was poorer than the white community. In that, the white community as a whole was and is priviliedged.

      As a white person I realize that the priviledges I do have are ones that I have taken for granted. Whatever my personal story, I never have to suffer from prejudices against myself based on my skin color. I see myself represented in the media. Whatever my personal story that is a great priviledge and one that every person should have.

      Best,
      Lea

    • When someone says that you benefit from white privilege, it doesn’t mean that you’ve never suffered or struggled or are or were wealthier than a POC.

      It means that you didn’t carry additional struggles BECAUSE of the lightness of your skin.

  24. I went to bed late, got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but cannot fall back asleep and figured I should just write the thoughts out.

    Over the past year, I read these books, fortuitously in this order: Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, Yuvall Harari’s 21 Lessons For the 21st C and his earlier book Homo Deus. I read a lot, averaging 1 book/day. But these are the ones that had stood out over this past year. Pertinent to this, I am currently reading Harari’s Sapiens and Kia Fu Lee’s AI Superpower.

    I have been privileged, during my adult life, to have lived on 3 very different continents. I have also been privileged to have traveled to many different countries during my entire life. I believe one can read, review, and study other races and cultures, but only when you meet, live, or experience… do you learn what (IMO) is the most important lesson: that we are all the same.

    One can argue – oh, this race this, and that race that. This history. That history. Yes, the details distinguish, and none are trifling. But the human experience is just that: HUMAN -> love, suffering, wanting better for ourselves and our loved ones.

    In his Google talk, Dr. Robert Kaplan talks about how mathematics is a universal language. Excellent talk, but if you just want to capture the essence, listen to the last 10 minutes when he talks about an experience in a maximum prison and math. I thought: not just Math… Design, Art, Music… Beauty. All of these are the universal language. Because we are all human.

    After reading Factfulness, I was struck by the relentless, and very encouraging progress of humanity. Of course I saw this living overseas, people buzzing around, chasing the same things that I am (see above) on a micro scale. My work allowed me to see it on a bigger scale. After reading 21 Lessons and Homo Deus, and ESPECIALLY AI Superpower, I am even more impressed that HUMANITY is still progressing. As in… we/ Americans/ 1st world/ Level 4/ privileged people can get left behind.

    We can naval gaze, introspect, dissect and keep analyzing. We can keep looking back, looking back. Or we can acknowledge and push forward.
    Cause the “rest” of humanity is.

    When I read Karen’s first post, I though, ok, a bit provincial but Karen admits (!) she hasn’t travelled and she is hungry, open, and she will see. If you immerse yourself in another culture or country, it is almost impossible to miss the history and privilege to which everyone is referring.

    I am not white. Neither am I a POC. However, I am very familiar with discrimination, which seemed almost hourly growing up in America, because of my race. Yuvall Harari talks (in his Google talk) about how it is very difficult to change an adult’s biases (particular: race biases). You can outwardly make it more correct, but deep, inwardly… hard to change. When I was little, I used to wish people would change. I still face it regularly.

    But to me, the key is not to try to change people. Mari Kondo (of spark Joy fame) advises people who ask about other people’s clutter, to worry about your own first. Lead by example. Clean up yourself and others around you will follow. By your own example, do you change other people’s concepts. Not by trying to CHANGE THEM.

    I have been reading your blog for years, Karen. To anyone who has, it is abundantly clear that you walk carefully on this earth. Sometimes, almost painfully so. Sensitive to your choices, aware of your options, and careful to not take more than a very considered individual share. My guess, knowing how you look, is even your caloric intake is not a reflection of vanity, and wanting to be thin, but reflects an endeavor to be right and “enough” even with the earth’s calories that you consume.

    So as others have said, Go! And in peace. Visit India and please come back and share with us your undoubtedly amazing experiences (I am not brave enough to travel there with children). I have no doubt you will see to what the critique-ers refer, but that you will also see Indians racing on with their lives, too busy to naval gaze about their past history, but racing, racing ahead to the future.

    Best wishes,
    Priscilla

  25. I have been pondering all of this since I read this post last night. I hadn’t seen all the conversation until then. I woke early with it heavy on my mind.

    I have long known that as a white American woman, I was raised in a privileged way. I live in a predominantly white region. I rarely SEE, and even more rarely, have an opportunity to interact with, POC. In fact I had to think long and hard to come up with what POC even means. I know that I have racial bias, much as I wish I didn’t.

    When I read the original post, I was so touched by Karen’s disclosures, her excitement at her trip. I did not see the line drawn by the word colonization, I did not see anything in the comparison of Mars and India that was anything but her joy at exploration. That was our shared bias.

    I have learned so much from the ensuing conversation. Our unintended bias leaks out in ways we never dream, and it hurts people. I am going to keep thinking and examining myself, and check out some of these many resources.

    And I am so empathetic to how the people who were hurt by this must feel. One more example, however unintended, of how white society keeps us separate from each other. I am also empathetic to the pain Karen must be feeling, because she is a thoughtful caring person who works hard to create a peaceful place in the world, a place filled with beauty and acceptance. And to know that she caused others such pain is no doubt eating at her.

    I am heartsick. I am sure that I have done or said things that make people feel this way. An apology from me here is nothing, yet I offer it, and will work to educate myself.

  26. I work with horses. The ‘prevailing wisdom’ among many horse trainers has been that humans need to be the boss and the horse must do what we wish no matter what. If they fail to follow a cue the way we want, we escalate the pressure. Common references to horses as bad, naughty, disobedient prevailed.

    I was part of that world until some troubled horses came into my life. I began to see things from their point of view. Sometimes they had a history of being harmed for not doing what they were told. Sometimes they had pain which caused them to be reluctant or speak out on a violent spectrum.

    I have learned so much about myself and how I had an agenda, how hard it is to disregard that agenda and be absolutely and completely in the moment with the horse that is in front of me. I have worked hard to be happy for others who are doing amazing things with their horses, all the time concerned that their horses may be suffering in one way or another, and continue on my journey to try to be with my horses, see if we can find common ground, see if I can ask and, if they like, they can do. And if they choose not to, they can walk away.

    The reason I’m writing is that I have also come to understand that horses come with their own life, their own intelligence, their own understanding of the world. Their world is not my world as we each perceive it. And I must meet them and find common ground. There is often misunderstanding. That makes sense. We are talking different languages and I would like to develop a common one without coercion, escalating pressure, or bribery. Why? Because I want the horse to feel safe with me.

    This is my point: If I ask horse to do something and he does not understand or for some other reason he can not do what I asked, I have learned not to “beat” him for it. If I “beat” him for not understanding, I will lose his trust.

    Karen was blindsided by the responses to her blog post that claimed harm. She had absolutely no idea that what she wrote would harm anyone. So it’s natural that she would have initially defended herself, not with the intention to absolve herself, but because she just didn’t understand. Why would folks come back at her with “tone” when she clearly did not understand? Why would they not continue their peaceful message and have faith that she would come to understand it, especially as she is a kind and well-meaning person as you would know if you followed her blog.

    This is where you lost me folks. I understand, now, that perceived harm that the blog created, but I do not understand why you would “beat” a person for not understanding. Aren’t we all seeking unity ultimately? Can’t we seek it in peace?

    • Hi, Kim. Thank you for the thought you’ve put into this message. I have read it a few times rather than just immediately getting wide-eyed about myself (or anyone) being compared to an animal. I understand what you’re saying and appreciate it — and agree, in that I try to be compassionate and recognize that we never know what burden another person might be bearing. Which I think is what you’re getting at. But I do want to recognize that comparing people to animals is fraught.

  27. I couldn’t agree more, the word that came to my mind immediately was grace…doesn’t everyone deserve to be given grace? The grace to grow? Grace when they make mistakes? It is interesting to me that the majority of commenters that tried to shame Karen have yet to respond to her heartfelt apology and her willingness to learn, listen, and grow from this experience. What more would you ask of any person?

  28. Ugh! The navel gazing and self-flagellation continues. The smugness of some is quite unbearable.

  29. Going abroad anywhere can be exciting and scary too. I suppose that living in Europe we are more used to visiting countries with different languages, food, cultures and norms. We visited the US ,and were surprised that even though we spoke the same language our accents made it hard for us to be understood.

    I too read your original post as a person who suffers from anxiety getting excited by a much desired trip to India..

    I read the comments about how upset some were by the post, and then the apology and appeal for greater sensitivity.

    I think that as tourists anywhere we all need to show greater sensitivity to the people who live in the places we visit. Tourists are welcome, especially those who try to see ore of what we used to call in the 60s and 70s the “REAL” wherever. And that applies to all tourists of all colours and creeds, be respectful of the host country, don’t patronise, and be careful to observe local customs. In the UK please learn how to form an orderly queue and wait your turn.

  30. kimwfindlay, I understand why you would feel this way. I on many occasions have felt similarly. But what we have to understand is that Karen is not the abused horse! She is a woman born into a world that spins more in her favor compared to some of her POC sisters and while this is not her fault, it is her responsibility to be aware of that and learn how to change her mentality. Many of the POC’s comments have come not just as a reaction to KT’s post, but as a reaction to years (generations!) of hurt in a community that trumpets it’s kindness and inclusivity. They are in pain! I don’t think we should expect them to calmly and patiently explain over and over that they are being hurt. Especially since they are probably also having to do this in their jobs, schools, churches, and even families. This can be hard to understand as a white person. We have to deny our realities, shut our mouths, and truly believe people who have had different experiences than us.

  31. I’ve spent several sleepless nights wrestling with what happened. I’ve read and re-read reactions on both sides. It always comes back to the same questions in my mind. If everything had been the same, except that Karen was a POC, would the reactions have been the same? Would there even had been a reaction? Isn’t the issue that Karen is what is labeled a privileged white woman? Isn’t that also a racial bias? Why is this discussion only in one direction?

    • In my view, your what-if doesn’t really matter because the point is I am a white person and that left my words open to the interpretation that I harbor a fear of POC, or believe others should. And that kind of carelessness is what we, as white people, need to be more aware of and responsible for while we’re living in a world where fear/hatred of POC exists and leads to discrimination and violence. I never want to contribute to that, and hope you would feel the same.

  32. I’ve re-read the original post and I do kinda see why people thought there was a problem. Although with Trump in the Oval office, the growth of fascism throughout Europe, endemic racism in Australia that has ended up with them off-shoring asylum seekers and the continued violence directed at women, POC, and those with non-normative gender orientation and sexuality, I suspect there are better targets for our rage.
    I think the response was akin to bullying and there was some posturing that was, well, unhelpful. For an example of the rather silly extremes that people have adopted see Ysolda Teague’s instagram feed in which she declares that the “knitting community is racist” and that there is no debate on the subject. There is always debate.
    By the way, this article just appeared in the Guardian in the last few days – (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/12/it-felt-as-if-we-had-landed-on-the-moon-malala-yousafzai-on-life-in-the-uk )- In it Malala Yousafzai likens arriving in the UK to “landing on the moon”.

    • As is being extensively discussed, there is ample demonstrable racism in the knitting community.

  33. Honey it’s your blog and you can say what you want to say if people interpret in a way you didn’t mean they can ask for clarification. If you choose to give it then tell them how you meant it. But for anyone to attack you on your blog because they perceived something as racist screw them. Everyone is hyper reactive because anti racism is suddenly on everyone’s radar again. It’s always existed becUse that’s what people teach their kids and their kids teach their kids. It’s not just hatred against people of color it’s hatred of anyone who is different. Violence and oppression against people of color, women, the handicapped, the mentally ill. You name the group and there will be somebody who hates them. Stop apologizing and go enjoy India- it’s a beautiful country and you’re sure to be dazzled by the people, the country everything. If people needed an explanation of what you said then they should have politely asked. If they didn’t then screw them.

    • I agree with a lot of this and do think it would have been entirely different had this been a conversation around a dinner table, but where I disagree with you is the “screw them” part. Because I do genuinely care that anyone was hurt by my words, whether or not I meant it that way.

  34. Karen–

    Thank you for your courage in writing this post.

    I appreciate how personally difficult it can be to receive an abundance of negative feedback without realizing that your words may be hurtful to others.

    More participants in today’s global communities regardless of whether it’s fiber connected or other interests, need to take a more global view and understand one’s own perspective may not be that of people who read your social media, blog and other communications.

    All of us need to be more inclusive and aware of the power of words.

    Best,
    Heidi

    Heidi Cohen

  35. Hi Karen,
    I grew up in a multicultural multiethnic city, speaking a different language, and have traveled extensively and lived in several different countries in my short lifetime. I applaud your bravery in deciding to travel to places that are far away and that are full of different languages because I understand how it can be difficult, both emotionally and mentally, for ANYONE to go between cultures. It is still difficult for me and many of my intranational friends to live in the United States! I’m so excited to read what you learn from textile makers in India.

  36. I can only speak for myself as a bi-racial WOC but I want to add something to this conversation, perhaps something that will provide context to the “aggressive” tone POC have used when confronting people about their white privilege, etc. Many working in the field of psychology are seeing a correlation between (experiencing) racism and traumatic stress similar to PTSD. Just google “racism and PTSD,” you’ll get plenty of reading material. I’m not saying that we POC are mentally ill, I’m saying that someone’s seemingly angry tone is coming from a very real place of pain and exhaustion; the insidious nature of racism takes a toll.

    As a woman in my early 40s I’m not quite as “offensive” as I was, let’s say, in my 20s; part of that is because I’ve learned that ignorance isn’t necessarily the same as hate and, for my own peace of mind, I’m working towards being a more forgiving person. But I’m also just so tired of having to deal with this, having to explain myself and others in this so called “post-racial America” (which I hope that it’s painfully clear to everyone that that is total B.S.).

    Karen, I do appreciate the effort you’re making here.

  37. I am a woman from India, I was born and raised there and lived there for nearly 30 years. I am as passionate about that country as it is possible to be. I have to say I am annoyed by the appropriation of (manufactured) outrage. I am curious to see how many people from India criticized or chastised Karen. I read someone’s comment that was along the lines of “how do you think it made people from India feel?” Well, how about you ask them instead of experiencing emotions, making assumptions, and declaring offense on their behalf? Isn’t that appropriation? Isn’t that patronizing?

    I read and responded to Karen’s original post. I saw nothing wrong with it. Going to India is, in fact, a bit like going to another planet. I saw nothing but positive intent and excitement in what Karen’s said. I have followed her for some time and find her to be the antithesis of a colonizer. I suggested she take a spare suitcase because I knew how much she would love and appreciate the spectacular textile traditions of India. India needs the dollars of thoughtful travelers like Karen. India’s artisans need the influence Karen has with her platform.

    I did not read much of the social media “mobbing” but it angered me greatly. Certainly white people can do better. We can all do better. But it was wrong and unfair to target Karen.

    • Deepa, you’ve made an excellent point which seemed to be lost … the ‘appropriation of outrage’ … so true. White people should certainly be reflecting, listening, thinking, improving … what they should not be doing is speaking for POC or shouting them down. This was so disappointing to me and in many cases seemed performative ‘wokeness’. I noticed when a few WOC shared a different opinion regarding the blog, several ww swooped in to tell them their opinion was irrelevant. This is so wrong.

      I’m very much against tone policing … POC have every right to be angry about the inequalities and daily microagressions they face and I support them 100%. What I don’t support is righteousness and punishment that doesn’t move us forward.

      The discussion is valuable. I hope the outcome are safer and more inclusive spaces in all communities we are part of.

  38. Deepa, I agree with you and well said.

    I think Karen Templer has been absolutely shredded by the internet world. I wonder where is the understanding and sensitivity for someone who stated clearly that she has an anxiety disorder? Ergo, traveling to faraway places is a Big Deal to her. Her reference to colonizing Mars was about going to another planet where there are no people. It’s absurd to liken that reference to the British control of India for 200 years.

    I have been so fortunate as to travel to half a dozen countries, including a dozen times to Brazil, which is really far away from here. I love it, but have friends who have told me, “That is awesome but I could never go that far away from home.” They didn’t mean that Brazilians are terrifying thugs. They meant that travel to another country and culture is intimidating to them.

    To heal the racial divide and *divisiveness* in this country and culture, we need to work at listening and listening well. Effective communication is two way. The speaker is responsible but so is the hearer. The latter is called to listen for the speaker’s intent and thoughts, not jumping to recast what was said into caustic accusations. I read KT’s first post before the firestorm as well as her gracious response above. I am dumbfounded at the firestorm.

    In a healthy, reciprocal relationship, each party takes responsibility for their own feelings. Each party values the other’s input and even in disagreement, listens first. Unhealthy people read *into* the other person’s words. As another commenter noted above, where are the answers to Karen’s apology? Will it be acknowledged as graciously as it was extended and with as much energy as she was called out?

    As Deepa said, white people can do better, we can all do better. Yes. Let’s work on that and also avoid the kind of thinking leaps over gaps in communication to vilify someone who wrote a post about her excitement about a long-dreamed of opportunity.

  39. A lot of aggression and disrespect for the person. Karen was just happy to go to India. What history for a bad interpretation of his thought. What disgust internet. It is easy to verbally assault a person from a distance. And this whole story is lamentable. We are all HUMANS. And each country is a Mars planet for those who do not know this country.
    Karen, be happy and stop apologizing.

  40. The chummy club mentality within the knitting community is part of the problem, imho. I often feel excluded…like I just don’t quite merit inclusion. And it has occurred to me that if I feel that way (white, privileged woman that I am), then what might the effect be on the less privileged?

    By virtue of what is often discussed here, the perfect shoes, the best yarn, the most amazing outfits, the trip of all trips….those are the discussions and issues of privileged people. I count myself in that group, btw. I was one of the people waxing eloquent about India. I love the place and the people. And though I see how the post (and my response) sounded excessively privileged, I did not see how it was racist. I am only just beginning to understand how the two might go hand in hand.

    I will also add that a lot of the posts I have seen from white people within the knitting community seem excessive and inauthentic. More anxious to shame others, than to quietly do their own work in making things better.

    I am still processing all of it. My comments in no way come from any sort of expertise. They are just my own personal observations. I have started reading White Fragility, and plan to do Layla’s workbook. Just starting the second chapter of WF, and sheesh, it is already a mind blowing read.

  41. Karen, please know that not all of your readers view this post, or the original one, as anything other than someone excited for a trip. I love your blog and read it every day to learn about knitterly, sewist, hobby sorts of things. I will continue to read and love what you have to offer!!

  42. Hi, everyone. I’ve never done this before but have made the decision to turn off commenting on this post and the one that preceded it. There are loads of comments awaiting moderation, many of which I’m not comfortable having on my blog without a proper response, and I simply can’t respond to them all — I’m only one person and there are only so many hours in the day. So rather than even trying pick and choose, I’m closing it here.

    The upshot of it all is the same as what has already been said and responded to. So I just ask again that you please read what I and others have written, ask yourself why it may still be so hard to accept that people were hurt, and try to learn from it. I hope we all want a more just world, and honoring each other’s experiences and perspectives is an essential part of the process. Thank you.

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