As a general rule I don’t cover hot topics in this part of my quilting world. Hot topics were reserved for the magazine blog & social media spaces. Then someone of note in the industry said/did something that not only did I disagree with it was in fact demeaning and demoralizing. I wrote this Op Ed piece. It seems changes are being made.
More frequently than I’d like I see comments on social media platforms saying “keep politics out of quilting.” Blocks such as the “T” which stood for Temperance, “Burgoyne Surrounded” and “54-40 or fight” are blocks based on moral/political situations. Quilt makers use their tools to express opinions and our tools are needles, thread, fabric, and our brains. To tell anyone keep “politics,” “morals,” and “ethics” out of quilting dishonors our own history as quilters, as women. More often than not what we really want in these moments when we’re telling quilters and pattern designers to “keep politics out of quilting” is something rather different, we want them to keep quiet about something that is painful, or nudges our own conscience in a most uncomfortable way. “Keep politics out of quilting” is a corollary to “keep faith out of quilting” because you’ll alienate people who are supporting you.
A quilter I know who makes quilts to raise awareness of domestic violence, telling as best she can, what happens when the person being abused is isolated from their family. The quilts while pleasing in and of themselves to view, tell a truth that’s downright painful. Though “I can’t imagine” why. Awareness that leads to an ability to imagine the plight of another is good, and when that leads to action that makes change it’s even better.
There was a period of time in recent quilt history where so many quilters were making Underground Railroad quilts. Quilts that as a collective were believed held secret meaning for enslaved people escaping said slavery and using quilts to identify safe houses and or the way north to freedom. Perhaps somewhere there is a thread of truth, something identified homes as safe places were they quilts on a porch or washline? I don’t know. What I do know is that slavery dehumanizes a living breathing human being, reducing them to property to be bought and sold – separating families, using people who look physically different because of the color of their skin – to accomplish tasks we don’t want to do ourselves so that we might live in a luxurious way, make lots of cash is immoral. And yet in this world of ours it still happens in countries we do business with.
The effects of slavery still live in this country. “Keep politics out of quilting” or else I’ll stop buying your product and not follow you on social media are ways we perpetuate those effects. For so many of us quilting is our happy place, the place we go to escape the day to day difficulties we experience. Me too, so in a sense I get it, and in a sense I don’t get it. There are a lot of people I agree with on the issue itself wherein clear and direct action is needed to correct a horrific wrong , I might not agree on the how we get there and correct it. I’m not willing to silence them simply because I have a different point of view. I’m still willing to help people with differing points of view as quilt making is one point of commonality. Our humanity is the biggest point of commonality and it is essential to honor that commonality and hold space for people to express themselves in whatever way they need.
This posture of holding space to listen offers the opportunity to hear, really hear how friends are hurting then do what I do better talk to people one on one, quietly, behind the scenes offering necessary help where & how I’m able. What I can tell you with absolute clarity is that people need to be treated with dignity and respect. Always. When people, black & brown people, tell us they are hurting and fearful, they are, believe them.
Ending this post is a bit challenging as I want to issue a call to action for my readership. But no that’s not it. I want to say all the incredible things I’m going to do to hold space for others. But no, that’s not it either. I want to continue trying to treat people, people of color, with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings, with all of the uniqueness they bring to the whole of humanity. But that’s not quite right either. I want to say (insert good deed here). And that’s not right either.
Quilters of color I appreciate you, I see you. You are a gift, you bring richness and depth to our community.