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Quilting Space Is Not A Pleasant Space: An Interview With Stephanie Forsyth

15 Jun

racism

Two days ago, I asked a question; it was a simple question. What I got was not a simple response. Today we’re going to talk to Stephanie Forsyth from The IndieQuilter. To beat a dead horse, I’m (trying) doing 4 interviews to go along with a quilt I’m making. One interview per block. Homophobia and Sexism are already done. Now I’m looking to do one on Racism. I tried to find someone to interview, but many people are afraid to come forward after seeing the vitriol being spewed by some of these people on the quilting groups of Facebook. Stephanie was one of the defenders on my post in Quilting Space and let’s check in with her…. (Also check out the screen shots from the conversation. I got as many as I could before it was removed.)

EricTheQuilter: What’s new some our last interview?


Stephanie: I made it to the Minnesota Quilt Show last week. I was supposed to spend the weekend there with my mom, but she passed away in April. It was hard to go, it was sad but I’m also glad I went. It was good to connect with friends up there, old and new. I was even able to have dinner with Minnesota’s Quilter of the Year, Karen McTavish. (So much for certain someone’s trying to ruin her!)


ETQ: It’s good to hear you made it to The Minnesota Quilt Show! How was dinner with Karen?


Stephanie: Amazing! It gave me the opportunity to finally meet Frank and his partner Bill in person. And, we got to dine on lilac ice cream, so there’s that! Frank was the speaker for the Modern Quilt Guild meeting there – he gave people ideas on how to quilt their modern quilts.


ETQ: That sounds like a blast! I’m super bummed I could not make it, but I had a convention to do on Sunday and my schedule just did not permit me. As I’m sure you recall, I’m doing interviews to match up with a quilt I’m doing for the HRC annual dinner in Washington DC. You were the interview on Sexism, and Frank was the interview on Homophobia. The next interview is going to be on racism. I posted in the Facebook Group, ‘Quilting Space’, asking if anyone had been a victim of racism in the quilting community. The responses were not what I was expecting. What kind of response did you see my question having?


Stephanie: Honestly, I saw what I suspected. A whole lot of white people angrily exclaiming that there is no racism in the quilt world. In fact, many claimed that the only racism that is in the quilt world, is because people like you and I bring it up. I tried very hard to rationally respond to several of the comments with honest questions about whether it might be possible that they just don’t see the racism because it’s not directed toward them. As far as I saw, there was only ONE person of color that answered the question. It was so bitter that one of the women sought out my FB page to complain to me that I am racist against white people. At least that’s what it seemed like she was trying to say. Who knows, she ended her tirade against me that she came to my page to write, by blocking me when I informed her that I am in fact white, and provided a photo as proof of it.
The post you put, was a simple and direct and non-confrontational question. It was immediately attacked. The post was deleted by the admins without a word. It’s sad that they essentially shut down a conversation that might have been had. I can’t imagine how that must make people of color that may have read it feel.


ETQ: I was actually appalled. If only people were as against racism as they are against talking about racism. I simply asked if someone who was a victim of racism would like to be interviewed. There were comments that the only racist person there was me, and I was racist for trying to shine a light on the issue. Many people tried to minimize it. I can tell you what I gathered from the comments… Racism is alive and well in the quilting community. I had a couple people message me to say how horrified they were by what these women were saying, but one of them said anything on the actual post. A few people did stand up and say it was a legitimate question. Do you think that response is very indicative of the times we live in?


Stephanie: It completely shows the times we are in. People feel free to say whatever they want, even if it’s not true or down right cruel. Every day there is a new video of some asshole white woman or man, calling a person of color a word I will never use or repeat, that starts with the letter N. They feel emboldened to be the racists OUTWARDLY that they’ve always been INWARDLY.


ETQ: Do you personally feel racism is an issue in the quilting community?


Stephanie: Yes, because it’s a problem everywhere. There’s no reason it’s not in this hobby/profession as well. I think either there weren’t many quilters of color on that group where your question went out, or it was deleted before any of them had the chance to read it. How often do you pick up a quilt magazine and see any black quilters, particularly in the ad photos?


ETQ: That’s a very legitimate question. I did have a few quilters of color contact me, but don’t want to do the interview because of the backlash they saw on the post. I can’t even blame them. I understand the fear. Anyone who reads these comments on my question can see the hate. Why do you think people don’t want to talk about racism in the quilting community?


Stephanie: If you talk about it, your own racism starts to show. It doesn’t inherently make you a bad person, but shame is silencing. Look, I’m a white woman and shouldn’t be a spokesperson for people of color, because that’s not MY voice. But what I see right now in the post, is that a mob rule inherently took away the voice of people of color. That makes me really sad to see. If people of color are experiencing ANY racism in our community, I want to hear about it. I want to be able to help work towards stopping that bullshit in the community I spend my time in. I don’t want PoC to be afraid to speak up and out. I want them to know they have allies.


ETQ: I couldn’t have said that better myself. I will do everything in my power to help foil this type of injustice. However, a lot of people don’t view the comments made by these people as racism. I can assure you it is. One of the comments called both of us Social Justice Warriors. How did they make you feel?
 


Stephanie: Honestly? I’ve never understood why I would ever be ashamed of working for justice. If the people using that phrase ever really gave some thought, they would realize it’s a compliment not an insult.

 

ETQ: I totally agree. I would much rather fight for social justice, than fight to commit social injustices. I’m sure people are tired of us by now, so any last thoughts to add?

 

Stephanie: If just talking about racism in our community and whether or not it exists makes someone so uncomfortable they tell people to shut up about it, it’s a huge bull’s eye that the problem is definitely lurking somewhere in the community. Much like any other issue, if light isn’t shed on it, it will fester and reproduce itself in the dark where it’s being kept hidden and safe. We need to flush this stuff into the light and talk about it.

 

ETQ: Thank you so much for talking with me!

 

Stephanie: Thank you, I really am sorry that the conversation was so tense that no people of color felt safe enough to speak out publicly. But I hope people realize, that it’s NOT the job of people of color to make these changes happen. It’s not their full time job to teach white folk to not be racist.
(Below are the screen shots of the entire exchange.)

 

 

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5 Responses to “Quilting Space Is Not A Pleasant Space: An Interview With Stephanie Forsyth”

  1. Andrea Rennick June 15, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    There’s no racism in quilting because it’s full of white ladies! 😉

    I say this tongue in cheek of course – it’s also pretty damn classist. I live in an area with 94% white people, so to most around here racism doesn’t exist HERE because there’s “no one” to be a victim of it. Out of sight, out of mind…

    (oh hell yeah it exists, we like to pretend in Canada it doesn’t, but it does. Just more subtly.)

  2. CathyG June 15, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    I read a wonderful report on FB about a young man who did a report on “White Fragility” that upset some people. His defense of his report is cogent, well-researched, and really thought provoking. Take a look, you may find some great ways to dialog with people who are threatened by the term “racism” https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1n6Y-RA1NzEdj4EciCVsmnL13nATbKKUo2c43JWgoMow/edit#slide=id.p

  3. Mx. Anony-mouse June 15, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    Me and a bunch of my friends got kicked out of a knit and crochet community *aimed at social justice* for saying the words “white women” and explaining politely what White Privilege and Fragility are. And before that, people got vitriolicly shouted down for trying to explain cultural appropriation and why it’s bad. In a social justice and resistance fiber arts group.

    Hell fucking yes is there racism in fiber arts. I don’t see why quilting would be any different.

  4. negativitysucks June 16, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    I find it sad (and ironic) that a group of people deny that racism exists in quilting, by actively demonstrating that it does.

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