Blanket from EighthGeneration.com
Blanket Designed with Kateri Masten and Chisa Oros
"Do your own work." "Don't ask Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to do it for you."
I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. Until one day I woke up and to my horror, saw white racism everywhere in my home. Before my day of horror, I had been reading books on antiracism and white body thinking. I joined a book club with three friends to talk about racism and figure out what we could do.
Do? I didn’t really feel competent to do anything specific.
I felt the words of the authors penetrate my white skin. From author Resmaa Menakem, I learned to look closely at culture, the culture of people and the culture of “things” and to listen with my body around other bodies.
From author Ibram X. Kendi I learned to ask questions about racism without fear.
Then one morning, I woke up and had a conversation with the grey wool blanket on my bed.
Me: “Where did you come from?”
Blanket: “I was a wedding gift. You know that.”
Me: “You have a circle of tipi’s on you. Who made your artwork?”
Blanket: “Read my tag, it is a white owned business.
I think the artist was a white woman.”
And so began my search through my house. Blankets, towels, a bowl, pillows, all had stolen Indigenous artwork. All were made and produced by companies that were owned by white people.
I was horrified. A piercing painful scream shook me about all this stolen artwork.
I went for a walk to clear my head. I got down to the beach and in my small town, I stood by the water looking up at two totem poles.
I asked the totem poles, “Where are you from?”
The totem poles told a long story and ended by saying they were made by a white artist.
Another wave of horror washed over me, how many times had I seen these totem poles and not wondered about their story.
I returned home and wrote to my city council about the totem poles on city grounds. I told them what the blankets and totem poles told me. I don’t know what would come of it, but I've been invited to a meeting to discuss it.
We have to respect boundaries. We must stop colonizing, stealing and taking what doesn’t belong to us. It’s ok to admire the artwork and to buy that artwork from Indigenous artists. But it is not ok to "take" that artwork or “colonize” the artwork.
I see the colonizing mindset everywhere. Not only in art. We must be more attentive to boundaries to heal from the colonizing mindset.
I’m cleaning up my house. Replacing “stolen and colonized” art. The blanket you see in the photo is my new blanket. It’s from EighthGeneration in Seattle, a Seattle based art and lifestyle brand owned by the Snoqualmie Tribe. Their tag line is "Inspired Natives, not Native-Inspired".
The story about the totem poles and the city council continues. I will keep you posted.
I am not sure where all this leading, but here are some things you can take away from this:
- Reading about racism, whiteness, and antiracism helps me see things I could not see.
-Being in a small group with others to talk about what I am learning and reading helps me develop my “voice” and break the silence about the racism that is everywhere.
-You will find what you need to speak up about when you are ready to do something. There is no band wagon to jump on.
There is so much to do to make our world safe for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. If you listen, you will hear the things that are calling you to stand up and speak about.
Be patient. I didn’t know that mine would be totem poles. You will know, you will feel it shake you, perhaps with horror at first. Feel free to tell me what calls out to you.