Thursday, June 15, 2006

An Open Letter

An open letter to the women of Patternreview who posted in the folder "Calling a Spade a Spade" in the Miscellaneous section of the board...

I was truly offended by 90% of the content written in that folder. It was embarrassing and distasteful that when I flipped into a folder on a sewing site and ran into a group of people who under the guise of expressing their right to say and write anything as it is guaranteed in the First Amendment, would disparage and generally show their ignorance about race relations in America.

As a black woman living in America for the last 47 years, as the daughter of a woman who traveled by bus for miles to attend a segregated high school because the school nearest her home was attended by whites only, as the granddaughter of sharecropper grandparents who drank at water fountains marked for colored only, and as a black woman who can't trace her heritage further than a plantation in South Carolina....I am totally and absolutely offended by well-meaning white/Caucasian/European people who can't understand how racism has affected black peoples lives in America!

I am tired of being told to get over it! I am tired of being told to lighten up! I am tired of people who through the magic of a computer and the internet can enlighten all of us with their ignorance! And if I have to read one more folder on a sewing site full of tanning information, I will just loose it! Most of you don't want to be black in America just have the golden sheen of a not so dark black person!

Most of you think no further than the cul de sac, country road, exclusive neighborhood or luxury high rise building that you live in! Oops, did that sound stereotypical ~ ohmygosh than you must have felt for just one second the horror/disgust/annoyance that I felt when I read that folder. See this is the thing, if a race of people or a section of that people feel betrayed, enraged, horrified by the use of a word or words then don't use them! It doesn't matter if you don't understand! Show some respect for the other person's feelings! Or is that point that only your feelings matter!

What happened to the golden rules - "do until others as you wish to have done to you," and "until you have walked a mile in a person's shoes, you won't understand their situation." Words hurt. Words wound. Words can even kill a person. Do you really want to be responsible for that? Or, in your self-righteousness, do you not "see" this!

I will probably delete this post since my blog is really dedicated to all things sewing! But I needed to respond to this in a manner that wouldn't cause a flaming war on what is suppose to be a sewing site! And because I stand by my words and my feelings ~ I will not switch any of the settings on my blog. I personally know that people can be mean and hurtful! Hey, the first time I was called nigger I was just an innocent six year old standing on the corner with my mother waiting for a bus in a northern state!

And Gigi, Ann and Karla ~ thank you for trying to bring a little decency to a small corner of the world!


  1. Carolyn, I happened onto your open letter when I was browsing in the "Timmel Fabrics" folder at SW and thought I'd check into your blog (I've always enjoyed your posts at SW and on PR). Your letter prompted me to read the PR folder and all I can say is, I'm sad and sorry. I feel as though anything I'd write would be inadequate to express my concern and longing to reach out to you. The truth is that no one can really understand another's experience. All we can do is listen and try harder to find ways to connect. Even in writing this I feel ignorant. I just wanted you to know that I read what you wrote several times over and it has been very thought-provoking.

  2. Carolyn I love reading your site and I read that thread and commented on it, being from Australia and discovering that connotation for the first time I was quite shocked. I don't know much about race relations in America, I didn't know about most of what was said in that thread. After reading your post I too feel so ignorant, I had no idea how hurtful it was as I'm so disconnected from it. Keep your post up, don't delete it - it's important that how hurtful this can be is highlighted, especially for those of us who live on the other side of the world where it's all quite foreign. You might want to contact Deepika and ask if she will delete the thread - I'm sure she would after reading your post, I know I would. Ignorance is no excuse and no matter how much I don't know, I would never ever want to make someone feel bad!

  3. Carolyn, as another Aussie, what can I say? As a country we are a mix of zillions of cultures and all are accepted. We are so laid back (aussie expression) we could not possibly understand how you feel. I hope I never say something that would offend - but it would be so possible as I would not be aware that I was doing it. I agree with you sentiments, that if you are offended then the other person should not do or say what gives offence. Keep your post, as it educates us overseas people!


  4. It's very disappointing to see that thread at Pattern Review. I agree, words to hurt quite a lot.

    I've always maintained that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from responsiblity. Choose your words carefully.

  5. Carolyn, Thank you for this post and please keep it up on your blog. It is so seldom spelt out so clearly and this ignorance continues and not just on Pattern Review but also on SW. I have not read the PR folder and don't know if I will. At the risk of being controversial, which I will embrace in this case. I just wanted to point out an incident that happened to us while in Australia. The lives of the Aborigines mirrors very closely that of Black Americans and it is one of saddest things to observe. During our visit there, Cairns was one of our stopovers. My son was then 4yrs old and we walking down 'main street' when a passerby (male) who was smoking a cigarette, knocked the ash off on my son's head!!! and kept on walking as if this was just something everyone did!!!
    Well, our visit was over at this point and we left in a hurry.

    This ridiculous ignorance and racism rears its ugly head everywhere and is not just
    a black/white issue.

    What you said about not being able to trace your heritage is one of the worst things to have happened to black slaves, extinquishing their past and future for that matter, and is really one of my pet peeves.

    Please feel free to delete this post if you find it inappropriate for your blog.

    Thanks again for standing up for decency.

  6. Carolyn, please don't delete this post. I'm glad you wrote this, it needed to be said. While I love PR, sometimes people on the message boards get carried away with inappropriate and rude thoughts. I believe the intent of the originator of that PR thread was not aware of the meaning of the topic when she posted it and she did not expect it to turn into what it did. BTW, I love your blog and your writing style.

  7. Hey,Girl
    I'm starting out with a salutation that I know you've heard often between Black women, and I want you to know that I feel you. However, let me, if I might, offer a bandaid for your hurt feelings.In a book I'd heard about on Oprah, called The Four Agreements; the author suggests the following: don't take it personally. I know this sounds trite, but it has really helped me in seeing racism for what it is.
    It is a very effective tool of evil.It fosters hate. It fosters darkness of spirit. DON'T let it affect you in that way. You've a joyous and wonderful spirit, the only way it can be deflated is if YOU let it happen, yaknow? See it for what it is and pray for those who exist in darkness of spirit. Now get back to that sewing room!God Bless You, Girl.

  8. Carolyn, you said it better than anyone else could. I'm so sorry that you were hurt by all of this. Sending you a big hug!

  9. Carolyn, I so agree with everything you say. I was appalled at the response I got when I said that I thought that the phrase and the postings in response to my objection to the phrase, were offensive. I was so upset that I have decided to not even bother with the PR boards again. I was always taught by my Daddy to respect people regardless of race, creed or political leanings. But the internet allows people to hide behind anonymity and to spew venom without having to show their faces. So thank you for your post. Please don't delete it, and don't let some ignorant, cowardly people wear you down.


  10. Carolyn, I have just recently started reading your blog and I like what I see. I totally agree with everything in your post. I came upon PR as a way to check out pattern, I had no idea they were that "open". I only have a trial membership and after seeing the type of people there, I don't wish to join. When I join a community, whether sewing, knitting or crocheting, I'd prefer to stay on topic. As you can see from my pic and my blog, I am very much a Black Woman (mixed, but still black), living in the very "Deep South". You just can't bring up certain topics with certain people... they just don't know when to quit. They were so hot on that folder that it seemed like they were waiting on that topic to be posted! Everybody had a race story to share. I totally agree with you on that tanning thing! That's infuriating in itself. I've had to deal with that since I can remember, especially at work. There's always one dingy chick that comes back from tanning on her lunch break and wants to compare herself to me and go, "Look Erica, I'm darker than you!" Didn't mean to vent on your blog, but that issue really resonated with me. Keep sewing those beautiful things!

  11. Ah Carolyn, I didn't read that whole thread, I only know about the first few pages and the last few pages but when Gigi pointed me here I felt could just cry. I don't read the boards much anymore, not pleasant like it used to be but there are a few people who are bright lights and you have been one as are the other PR'ers I recognize who have posted a comment here. Please don't delete your rant. It speaks the volumes of frustration that need to be said. I am so sorry you read the thoughtless messages submitted to the PR board. I hate it that we are being driven away from what used to be a lovely learning space.

  12. Carolyn, I have not read the folder on the PR board and no nothing of it until reading your blog. I will just not go there! Do not remove your comments from your blog. Its your blog and your comments could not be put better. I have tears in my eyes writing this after reading your comments as I see too much of this hurtfulness to too many people and it pains me that this continues. I believe anything I can say would be inadequate but I appreciate you and your comments should remain.

  13. I typed and deleted and typed and deleted and decided the best and most accurate response I've got is:

    Carolyn, I'm so sorry. For all of it.

    Keep sewing your wonderful creations and posting your thoughtful entries; it keeps us connected in ways that really count.

  14. Carolyn,
    I have not read the folder and I have no intention of reading such hatred. I have become weary of the "us versus them" venom...especially from people who profess that they want to be Christlike.

    My heart aches that once again people have reminded you of the second-class status that people of color have in our culture.

    Maybe...just maybe the next generation will figure this out...We can only pray that they do.

    Hugs to you,

  15. Carolyn,
    It appears the thread has been removed. Please leave your post on your blog. I keep hoping that one day this nonsense will be over and done with, but I am an optimist. I'm praying our kids get it right.

    I'm also Black and a little older than you. Racism hurts. I don't care how many times you're a victim of it, you never, ever get over it and it never gets easier.
    E.B. DuBois said at the turn of the last century that our biggest challenge as a nation would be the color line (paraphrasing here). I wonder if he'd be surprised that it still is?


  16. Carolyn, I have been reading your blog a while now and your insight into so many things is wonderful.

    What I found most wonderful about you was the fact you embraced ALL people. Your love of sewing showed no color lines and you have been stabbed in the back for it... And our society wonders why black men and women are so angry. We tell the world we fight for equality and yet we don't have it at home.

    My e-mail is attached and if anyone wants to mess with you you send them my way. I'll tell them whats up.

  17. Carolyn,
    I am sorry that the whole thread on PR got state I have only read bits and pieces of it did not find it worth more time in reading something like that. I love your sewing work do keep it up. I enjoy you blog it is great in fact after reading your blog I have been considering starting one.

    Carolyn don't let the stupied topic on PR get to you.. You are much respected and love in the varies sewing boards you post in.

    Linda E.

  18. You have all posted wonderful messages of support and understanding and I truly appreciate them! However, the folder at Patternreview does still exist and since the way their system works, that folders are viable for at least 30 days if there is no activity, anyone will be able to find and read that ignorance for weeks to come. And also since it is the internet and everything is archived with a little effort you will be able to find it forever.

    I am not going to ask Deepika to remove it. I truly believe that several people have shown their "true colors" there and the world should see that! I am also amazed that there hasn't been one comment "for the other side" posted here. So does that mean my open letter didn't reach them or that they only had the guts to say something on Patternreview when they were among "friends"?

    I have decided to leave my open letter on my blog because as many people have written me (either here or at my personal email) this is a sewing related issue and since my blog is dedicated to all things sewing, I guess this is just the dirty, underside.

    One final thing ~ Susan, I hope you don't mind but I have used your words as the quote beneath my signature on all the sewing boards. They rang so true in my spirit and will let people know what I stand for. Thank you for saying it so brilliantly!

    And now back to sewing....!!!!!

  19. Carolyn,

    Thank you for leaving your comments on your blog. Maybe someone will be enlightened after reading your thoughts and the comments. If I remember this is the second time that we both have seen this behavor on a sewing board. The first time was on SW. I read the PR folder and keep thinking how little understanding of racism there is. I thought about responding but I didn't want to start a flamming war or feed into their lack of understanding. Unless you have walked in our shoes, no one can imagine what is is like to be considered inferior to another group of people just based on the color of your skin. No one can understand what it is like to grow up with boundaries that you can't begin to understand until someone calls you a nigger. I grew up in a totally black community and it kept us insulated from most of the racism. When I started working as a nurse, it was eye opening. To have patients refuse to let you take care of them or call you names because of your skin color. Racism will always be alive because of people's fears and ignorance.

    All in all, it made me a much better person. I became a much better nurse. I don't let other people define me. I enjoy the color of my skin and my heritage.

  20. Carolyn over the weekend I have read your open letter so many times. I keep going back to it. Not having the right words I haven't said anything.

    Being a 'bad' member of the sewing society, I don't have a subscription to Pattern Review and so haven't read the thread. I can only say that my heart and head hurt with the feelings you describe. I can't even begin to imagine what you must feel, but I do my part daily not to contribute to your hurt.

  21. Carolyn, I look at your blog from time to time because you have such a nice way of expressing my own feelings about sewing. After I read your post about the PR folder, I went looking for it. I was appalled and very sad. Thank you for sharing your heart with us, and for reminding us that people everywhere have history and perspective that must be respected.

  22. Carolyn, I really didn't pay attention to the thread at PR. I'm really sorry to hear that it got nasty. I hate racism and don't know why people have to be so hurtful. I have to admit, I didn't know that I didn't know that quote was a racist comment, though. I'm glad that Ann pointed it out. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you were hurt. -Jeanette


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