with liberty and justice for all

Dear friends,

As I’ve watched from across the ocean, I have been absolutely broken-hearted by the killing of George Floyd and the treatment of peaceful protestors marching in his name and in memory of many others. But I’ve been encouraged to see so many fellow Americans of all races rallying behind signs saying Black Lives Matter and standing in solidarity against the injustices faced daily by our black brothers and sisters.

After reading, watching, listening and reflecting, I would like to share some thoughts with you. And, before I begin, I want to acknowledge that I’m bound to make some mistakes here. For that I ask your forgiveness in advance. I’m still learning.

Over the last few days, I’ve had the Pledge of Allegiance in my mind. It’s not said as much now as it was when I was young. But if you grew up around the time I did, I bet you still remember it.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It’s become clear to me that these lofty phrases sound hollow. We are dividing, not unifying as one nation indivisible. We do not treat others the way we would want to be treated, as would a nation that lives under God (or whatever moral authority guides you personally). And clearly there is not equal liberty and justice for all.

Until we can say that the words of the Pledge of Allegiance are descriptive rather than aspirational, we as a society have work to do. And that work can be done by both individuals who march and vote and by businesses that create products and have platforms and followers.

I’ve also been saddened to see the crafting community turn in on itself a bit over the past week. As some companies have taken first steps to express their support for social change and justice, their statements have been met with angry responses of “All lives matter!” from one direction and variations on “Too little, too late!” from the other.

We as a community of creators are better than this. I simply can’t imagine someone posting photos of a first sewing project and being overwhelmed with negative comments about the pattern chosen or the quality of the sewing. Just as with our sewing, we learn, improve and grow with experience and practice. (And by “we” here I mean primarily white people who have not lived with systemic racism and companies that have never before taken a social stand.)

The best in the crafting community encourage, support, and help others improve in their skills. We can do the same here. You may be further along in your journey, but many are striving toward the same goals now. Rather than criticizing and getting angry, use your voice to encourage and improve. Let’s lift each other up so we can accomplish our goals. We are stronger together and can accomplish more by helping each other than we can by cutting each other down.

So how do these thoughts relate to us and our company? I’m not sure if you’re aware that we’re tiny, with very limited resources. Despite that, if you know us you know that we strive to live up to our beliefs, and we are constantly trying to improve. We have made efforts to be more inclusive in our sizing and our selection of models. We have made donations to organizations that provide relief to those in need. We will continue to do these things with an increased focus on issues of social justice and equality.

Can we do more? Of course. We want to do much more. And we’re going to work toward those goals thoughtfully and deliberately, not with a single action or donation this week but with continued steps in the months and years to come and in ways that feel authentic to us and that represent our beliefs.

One last thing. Personally, I also want to hold myself accountable for my beliefs and thoughts, and my work to improve my understanding of the black experience in the U.S., in addition to doing more to support my black brothers and sisters. To that end, I’m going to add a comment to this post listing some of the books I’ve been reading and the things I’ve been listening to. If that list helps you, wonderful. I’d also encourage you to add to that list anything that you’ve read or heard that has helped you. I’ll follow your suggestions as a way to continue to grow.

Black Lives Matter. Let’s strive to make our nation (and the world) truly indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.



 

35 Comments

  1. Here’s my list so far:

    Books
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    March: Books 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
    Becoming by Michelle Obama
    Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law by Preet Bharara

    Video and resources
    Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters: Racism and our Need for Repentance https://t4g.org/resources/david-platt/let-justice-roll-like-waters-racism-need-repentance/ (part of the Repentance Project https://repentanceproject.org/index.php/an-american-lent/?fbclid=IwAR0LK74t0l_B4g77FPezjS62hFNMEKBg0rJsDDSuRMvU-j9C_CLW8gSVwy8)

    xo,
    Liesl

    1. Liz

      Another book suggestion:

      Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

      Thank you, Liesl, for this post and for your suggestions. Much appreciated!

    2. Oh, I also forgot to add the podcast 1619, which was powerful and made a big impression on me.

      1. Rani

        Thanks! I just subscribed to it

    3. Martha Kiger

      Thank you so much for this post and encouragement to really really uphold who we should be as a nation. United we stand!

  2. Allison

    Thank you, Liesl.

  3. Jonelle Bellis

    Bravo, Liesl!

  4. deanne lewis

    Thank you. As white Americans, we all need to re-examine and understand what white privilege means and how we can be more sensitive to our sisters and brothers of color. I, personally, am on that journey and am working hard to become enlightened. The United States has become too complacent with the status quo. Now is the time for change.

  5. Francesca

    Thank you for this thoughtful post, Liesl. I was selfishly glad you wrote this because I love your patterns and have committed to boycotting any and all who do do not show realistic, active and genuine support for anti racism. I have unsubscribed from umpteen marketing emails from designers and bloggers over the last ten days. I couldn’t believe it when I received “as normal ” blog posts etc. Nauseating. (Maltese national and resident here who is sickened by the racism of many fellow Maltese)

  6. Charlotte

    Thanks Liesel!

  7. Annigje

    Thank you Liesl! I would add a book by Ibram kendi, called HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST.

    Every sewing vendor whom I purchase fabric from on line has made the same ledge that you have. I applaud them and you, because small businesses do not have a lot of wiggle room, time or money. If other vendors respond the way I have seen textile and pattern vendors respond we could begin to see so much change.

  8. Michelle

    I agree that we are becoming more and more divided, and the false solution Marxism is being pushed. This is a book I plan to read when it comes out July 21:
    https://www.amazon.com/Destroy-America-Three-Easy-Steps/dp/006300187X/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=how+to+destroy+america+in+3+easy+steps&qid=1591734389&sr=8-2

    1. Marcia

      No one is pushing Marxism. This book, by conservative Ben Shapiro, will exacerbate current divisions. It will not lead to healing this nation.

    2. Julie

      It’s really rude to hijack Liesl’s reading list. This is not the place for your recommendation, because it sounds like a plea for the preservation of the status quo. The conversation here is about making substantive changes to improve the lives of all people– including you and Ben Shapiro, because being anti-racist is good for your soul.

      Moderator, I would encourage you to deactivate Michelle’s link.

      1. Francesca

        Second this, Julie.

  9. Heather Bird

    Thank you for your post Liesel. As a white Australian, looking on in horror and deep sadness at what is happening in the USA, l am shamefully aware of the desperate situation of the indigenous people in this country and support the calls for meaningful change. You are brave to put yourself on the line, you deserve 100% support from your loyal customers.

  10. Lety

    Thank you! I am relieved to read your statement. SO many companies are staying silent, and I am glad you are not.

  11. Patti Harrison

    Thank you for your post. I too have much to learn and I’m trying to do so.

  12. Sandy

    Thank you for speaking up. It’s only the beginning of change, but a good one. Keep learning and reading and also try to reach out to black peoples. We can all learn a lot from each other.

  13. Susan

    Thank you for your comments and thoughtful insight. Well said. I appreciate that you took the time to share your beliefs with your customers. I applaud your commitment to social justice and equality.

  14. Jennifer Harley

    Thank You

  15. Margaret Koster

    Thank you for this, Liesel. Another good book for your list is Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt. She’s a social psychologist who has studied how unconscious bias functions and the book is understandable for the average reader. Also, The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson about the great migration and a beautifully written book. It is tragic that it took this horror for us to engage with the history and reality of American racism, but I am heartened to see so many stepping up to do the hard work.

  16. Sara K.

    Thank you for taking a stand! This is such important work. I’m writing from MN where many of us are shocked by the events that unfolded – which tells you how much work my community and myself need to do to uncover the systems that oppress people of color. Change must come! And like you said, it starts with ourselves. Thank you for doing your post.

  17. Patricia

    Thank you, Liesl. These dialogues are important and necessary step to create change.

  18. Meg

    As I’m sure you’ll agree, the work of ending white supremacy is hard. There will be conflict and struggle. I urge you to lean into your discomfort with the current conflict in the sewing community rather than try to quell it. Listen to these voices, especially those of people of color; to try to understand why they are pushing back. This is the work we need to do.

  19. I understand what you’re getting at, but it feels important to say that white people DO live with systemic racism! They live with it, they don’t die from it – but the system that we *all* live within and are part of is racist, and it impacts and involves us all. An absolutely vital part of dismantling that racist system will be white people becoming aware of their place in it, and no longer being content to live with it.

    This comic seems very relevant to your concerns about the discussion within the crafting community: https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/tone-policing-and-privilege/ . I don’t think reactions to a first sewing project is a good comparison in this instance – if someone’s sewing project was part of something that threatened my life, I don’t imagine I’d be polite about it!

    Thank you for opening your online space to this discussion.

    1. Francesca

      I really don’t think Liesl was comparing sewing projects to life threatening actions. Her point was more about people’s inherent actions.

      And comparing the racism black people in predominantly white countries face from birth with the systemic racism you point out is totally invalid. I can only equate systemic racism for white people with the brutal genocides that took place in the Yugoslav wars, or prior to that WWII. Travellers (previously called gypsies) all over Europe constantly face racism, and some EU nationals do get picked on in some European countries, viz polish plumbers in the UK…

      If you’re talking about the way the capitalist system has bred generations of people to keep the economic machine going, I don’t call that racism. And if you’re thinking about different sexual orientation, that’s not racist either.

      The comic was genius, and I totally agree with it, but what does tone policing have to do with the issue?

      Please don’t try to divert this issue and marginalize the black issue. Black lives matter.

      1. Hi Francesca,

        Sorry, I should have been clearer. I didn’t at all mean that white people suffer racism against them (although it can happen, as in the examples you’ve given) – I meant that white people live within the same system as the rest of us and therefore also live under a racist system. Many white people are/have been content literally to “live with systemic racism” being perpetrated against their neighbours, fellow citizens, fellow people. I feel it’s important to recognise that everyone is part of this. I do believe in the idea, too, that an injustice to one is an injustice to all, nobody is free until everybody’s free, and so on – that’s not at all to suggest that white people are suffering remotely in the way that black people, or other people of colour (like myself) do.

        I felt that Liesl’s concerns about people “criticizing and getting angry” tended towards tone policing. I thought there was a suggestion in the post that we ought to be able to discuss racism (which kills) in the same manner that we discuss sewing, and I felt that was an unrealistic expectation.

        I hope that clarifies my points! Thanks for questioning my meaning.

        Nina

    2. Addie

      I support Nina’s comment, “I felt that Liesl’s concerns about people “criticizing and getting angry” tended towards tone policing.” If you don’t know what Tone Policing is, “Here’s a good rule of thumb: when you are out of line, you don’t get to set the conditions in which a conversation can occur. That’s privilege at play. You need to truly listen to how and where you went wrong, and then do better in future.” That’s from Tess Martin on medium.com (https://medium.com/@tessintrovert/racism-101-tone-policing-92481c044b6a). I am glad that Liesl has written something on her company’s stance against racism, however flawed. The same thing that bugged Nina bugged me too. I will leave my suggestions for anti-racism resources is a separate comment.

  20. Kathy

    Thank you, Liesl. I’ve been feeling the same way; that I’ve been lied to for my entire life about how fair and equal the U.S. is. But I also realize that I am accustomed to my white privilege, and I also hope to learn to be an anti-racist. Thanks again for starting the discussion.

  21. Rani

    Thank you, Liesl, for your thoughtful post. It always makes me happy when other makers/crafters/superstars out in the world who I admire are compassionate and like minded.

  22. Fiona McEwen

    Fine, noble and thoughtful, dear Liesl. God bless you. Many blessings for you, S and Todd. Australia also needs healing.

  23. DianeLyons

    Thank you for your compassion and leadership, Liesl!

  24. Addie

    I have been waiting for a public response from Liesl and am still disappointed that I didn’t see it on Instagram first. I didn’t see this blog post right away because that part of my inbox is full of other similar messages from other indie designers etc. I’m glad you spoke up! I second the recommendation for March, excellent cartooning and history telling, not just for young people.

    Here are some of the best resources I can share today,
    1. Scene on Radio podcast, I am listening to the current season, episode 11 was life-changing, but their second season is especially important: “Seeing White” is next on my list.
    2. Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Hill. A comic that may be appropriate for older children and teens as well as adults.
    3. Tears we Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. It uses vocabulary from church tradition but it’s metaphorical.
    4. Seeing My Skin: a story of wrestling with whiteness by Peter Jarrett-Schell. Available through Church publishing. This is written by someone I know who is a white pastor of a predominantly black congregation in DC. He’s also married to a black woman and the father of a biracial child. This is a good opportunity to come to terms with his own whiteness and privilege and dismantle it.
    5. The Good Ancestor podcast with Layla F. Saad. I also plan to read her book, Me and White Supremacy.
    6. Brene Brown has a new podcast called Unlocking Us which I just downloaded.
    7. Trevor Noah’s show has a YouTube channel with additional material called “between the scenes” and his interview segments are available there too.
    8. On Instagram, @ckyourprivilege is a good place to start.

  25. Hannah

    Another book recommendation: White Guilt by Shelby Steele.

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