Today’s post is not a parody. This yarn comes to you from inside the racist world of Competitive Knitting:
“Knitting is just so white. Let’s hope it gets better.” I overheard this puzzling remark in my local yarn store in Edinburgh, Scotland, last week. The store is in the affluent area of Marchmont, just outside the city centre. Its Edwardian and Victorian tenement flats, adjacent to huge green spaces, are popular with students and families alike. Two customers were chatting to the store owner: “It’s about time we had the conversation,” one of them offered. Her companion nodded in solemn agreement.
Knitting, which helps lower the blood pressure and keep the mind busy, has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity in recent years. The Internet has allowed for the proliferation of new platforms from which to buy yarn and patterns, and has helped connect artisans and hobbyists worldwide. Usually, it’s a calming and creative pastime focussed on aesthetics rather than politics. However, a short browse through the knitting posts on Instagram steered me in the direction of the source of the exchange I had overhead and the “conversation” it had produced.
On January 7, Karen Templer, a knitting designer and owner of the online store Fringe Association, published an innocuous blog post on her website entitled “2019: My Year of Colour,” in which she enthused about her forthcoming trip to India. To most observers, Templer’s post will read like a guileless account of her hopes and aspirations for her upcoming travels:
I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. I’ve a lifelong obsession with the literature and history of the continent. Photos of India fill me with longing like no other place. One of my closest friends [when I was 12] and her family had offered back then that if I ever wanted to go with them on one of their trips, I could. To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, that was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars. … Then about six weeks ago, the opportunity presented itself—a chance to go with a friend who’s been. … I said yes. And I felt like the top of my head was going to fly off, I was so indescribably excited. Within 48 hours, three of those friends of mine who are so much better travelers than me—but who are all equally humbled at the idea of actually going to India—also said yes. There has hardly been a single day since that I haven’t said in disbelief, either in my head or out loud, I’m going to India.
And what on earth could be wrong with any of that? Rather a lot, it turns out. After a series of encouraging posts from well-wishers, the comment thread took an aggressively inquisitorial turn. Templer’s previous posts had typically garnered between three and 30 comments, but “My Year of Color” has 197 at the time of writing.
One of the first people to attack Templer was a user named Alex J. Klein who wrote:
Karen, I’d ask you to re-read what you wrote and think about how your words feed into a colonial/imperialist mindset toward India and other non-Western countries. Multiple times you compare the idea of going to India to the idea of going to another planet—how do you think a person from India would feel to hear that?
Templer politely explained that Mars and India both felt unattainable to her as a child. This comparison did not strike her as imperialist, but she promised to give the matter some thought. “I have had responses from several Indian friends and readers today,” she added, “who had nothing but positive and encouraging responses. I’ll have to see if anything I said offended them.” Evidently unimpressed, Klein retorted:
Instead of asking your Indian friends to perform more emotional labor for you and assuage your white women’s tears, maybe do some reflection on how your equation of India with an alien world reinforces an “other” mindset that is at the core of imperialism and colonialism.
“I want to say this gently,” a comment from a user identified only as Sarah began, “because I can tell your intent is to share your personal evolution and celebrate facing your fear of the unknown, and that’s great. I just need to point out that there’s a lot of “othering” happening in this post.” She went on to explain that, “Your post upset some of my friends who aren’t white [and] who didn’t grow up in America,” and advised Templer to engage in “a little more reflection before you equate India with Mars.”
In an ominous development, previously supportive commenters now began to turn against Templer. Marie Carter, who had originally written, ”You are even more inspiring than I thought,” seemed to have had a change of mind three days later, and returned to correct herself:
I have read through the entire post again, and I am ashamed to say that I failed to consider the impact of this post on all of us non-white people. I skipped over the offensive parts because this space is so important to my well being [sic]. But my heart hurts and I won’t be able to live with myself unless I acknowledge the pain to me and others like me of the words used. I am no longer going to say nothing.
“Same here,” replied “Liz n.” (a “biracial POC”) a day later.
On and on it went. Templer patiently fielded these criticisms as best she could, but her inquisitors were not satisfied. “It is really disappointing,” announced Joey, “to see your defensive and dismissive responses to the two thoughtful posts that point out some of the problematic aspects of your writing. As white person to another white person, we NEED to take feedback with respect and integrity. … Instead of your “year of color” being about wearing brighter clothing, why don’t you make 2019 investing in contributing to people of color, buying their art, listening to their podcasts, following them, contributing money to them, buying literature written by POC.”
Comments like these set off a wave of critical voices across knitting communities on sites like Ravelry.com, the biggest source of online knitting patterns by independent designers from around the world and the home of many knitting chat forums. Most of the criticism amounted to sharing words written by knitting activists @su.krita and @thecolormustard, who posted “educational” content on their profiles for others to circulate. Instagram notes scorned Templer’s “peak whiteness,” and reminded her that “the world doesn’t owe you a patient explanation and education” and that as a “coloniser” she ought to “stay in [her] lane.” Su.krita also warned her white knitter friends that if they stayed silent and didn’t speak up against racism then they would be considered “part of the problem.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the jargon of contemporary anti-racism, the criticism of Templer reflects the movement’s more general critique of Western society. Overt racism, which anyone would agree is abhorrent, is not their main focus; rather, they are preoccupied with identifying subtle, implicit, and often unconscious manifestations of bias which, by their nature, are almost impossible to refute. In this fraught climate, writers may be shamed as racists, irrespective of their good intentions which are held to be irrelevant. As Jonathan Haidt, the American social psychologist, observed during a recent conversation with Joe Rogan, “It doesn’t matter what the intent was, all that matters is the impact—how the person felt.” When confronted with accusations of bigotry, white people are expected to confess to their primordial sins, repent by acknowledging their racial privilege, and to resolve to “do better.” Only then may they be granted absolution by the anti-racist clergy.
As outrage spread across Instagram’s knitting community, Templer published a new post on her blog entitled “Words Matter,” in which she prostrated herself before her critics and asked for their forgiveness:
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 to be more inclusive and supportive of people of color.
She reassured everyone that she was “shocked at herself” and was now reading The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison, as instructed.
If someone came at me like that I would most likely sound like Travis Bickle in my response. I wouldn’t get angry because I would assume they must be joking. That could have been a fatal mistake.
When a Social JUstice Warrior says something, xhe means it. SJW’s never joke, because THEY HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR. So if they say they are going to burn you at the stake, you better be wearing asbestos underwear.
But just because they are serious that doesn’t mean you have to take them seriously. This woman’s first mistake was engaging with them. If you are ever criticized by a SJW (online or RL) the correct response is “GO FUCK YOURSELF!”
Some of you may want to practice saying that line in a mirror before uncorking it in real life. Now if you are one of those people who just can’t say that word, or you’re at work and your employer frowns on the use of profanity, there is a still a word you can use. This word is like Kryptonite to SJW’s. If you want to totally destroy a SJW, just lower your voice so that only they can hear, lean in, and whisper, “MAGA.”
Why is it impossible to circumcise a SJW?
Because there is no end to those pricks.