Sunday, June 28, 2020

61 Years Being Black in America

I was watching commercials the other day and I was struck by two things...

One was a recycling commercial - and all I can think is that as a child we recycled everything.  Milk was delivered by the Milkman and we washed the bottles out, put them back in the steel box on the porch, and the Milkman took them when he delivered our new order.  This was in 1970.  We were given paper bags when we shopped at the supermarket, unless we shopped in a small store.  Then we took our own cloth bags. Arts and crafts at school were done with recycled coffee cans, toilet paper & paper towel rolls and popsicle sticks that we washed off and brought to school.

Recycling is not new.

Another commercial was about black people using black businesses. I had a black pediatrician when I was a little girl.  My recollection is that white doctors didn't really mess with black people. I remember having to be courteous and well behaved as a little girl when we went to the white people's pharmacy.  My mother insisted we use that one because she was a nurse at the local hospital and knew they had the most current drugs.  The corner store was run by a black man.  I got my hair done at the black beauty parlor and I went to an all black church.

Most of my dealings were with black businessmen when I was little because integration hadn't really taken place yet...and I was raised in the Northeast.

I was called a nigger at 5 years old.  I knew white people were different and lived different lives from black people because it was constantly pushed in my face. My kindergarten teacher was amazed that I was well spoken and could read, that my Mother read to us at night before bed and wasn't a domestic. I grew up in the Northeast.

I was never told I was pretty for a black girl.  You know why?  Because I was a light-skinned little black girl with long brown hair in braids to my waist. White people appreciated that I looked more like them...other darker black skin people not so much.  But that's a different tale for a different day.

When my parents bought a home in a predominately white neighborhood, one by one the houses on the block were sold by the white families. In two years, my entire block was black. The next block was mixed for probably the next five years. They made it harder for black folks to buy houses on that part of the block. By the time I graduated from high school there were only two white families still living there.

I was ten when they burned a cross on a black family's lawn three blocks from my house. And I was eleven when New Jersey made integration mandatory in towns, so I was bused to middle school to make the town racially balanced. BTW, the white kids left in my area, walked to school. I WAS bused thirty minutes away. The only good thing about it was that we were bused to a brand new school.

In high school I was pretty popular with my peers and their parents. But in my sophomore year our town experienced race riots at our high school. I was on one of three buses of ALL black children trying to leave the campus. We were surrounded by white parents who shouted, spit on us and called us every racial epitaph but a child of God. It was 1975. I was a sophomore in high school and some of those very parents had complimented me for a drama club performance not two weeks before.

I lived in a predominantly white town in New Jersey in 1975.

I won't even begin to detail the micro and macro-aggressions that occurred as I started working.  Things other black friends and family members had a hard time with because they'd grown up in predominantly black towns and went to black colleges. I thought I knew white people having lived with, gone to school and college with them, but even I was surprised sometimes by the racism, cronyism and downright ignorance.

All this to say, I haven't been sewing.  The news still feels like a foot on my chest and I'm having the hardest time breathing. I'm actually relieved that I don't have go to work every day because being the only black person at my firm, I don't have to act like this shit doesn't bother me each and every day. That I'm not constantly worrying for my black sons, grandsons and my brother.

Wearing my mask on NJTransit 
(public transportation) headed to NYC

...let's not add Corvid-19 into the mix and how it's rearing it's head everywhere people think it's a political decision to wear a f*cking mask! A MASK - that protects not only others but yourself from catching a life-threatening disease.

My sewing is stifled by all of the things occurring around me. Now I take responsibility for letting this affect me. However, I'm STILL not capable of sewing garments and taking pictures to share on social media while the world seems to be going to hell. So my blog sits dormant. I've bought no fabric. I've sworn off Hobby Lobby, Michaels & Joann's and the NYC Garment District just opened for business with social distancing last week. Although, I'm still working from home for the next couple of months...

This is where I'm at...maybe there will be more sewing later in the month. Maybe there won't be...

...as always more later!  








110 comments:

  1. Sending you cyber hugs. And thank you for the update. You keep it real.
    Theresa in Tucson.

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  2. I wish I could take all of that, or any of that away. I’m doing my best to be a positive influence on my part of the world. You are so valued here. I hope we come away from this time with more progress gained.

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  3. Hi Carolyn, im sorry you have experienced that. I wish things had been different and were different now. I live on the other side of the world. I really enjoy your blog. Dont give up. We see you. M

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  4. My FIL complained that everyone is negative now. My thought was 'everyone is being honest now'. Thank you for your honest words.

    RE: the No Chain Pledge: I need a place to buy notions online that isn't Amazon. 1.5" wide nonroll elastic, to be specific, but the other stuff too (needles, thread, you name it). Black owned business would enjoy our money. Someone in here has a source/sources, US please (cause international shipping is $$$).

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    1. Not Carolyn answering here, but the Sewcialists website has a link to a database of Black owned sewing and craft related businesses. There is an article and call for resources halfway down the home page on the left with more info.

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    2. Having no luck finding the Link you've mentioned here..."Black owned sewing and craft related businesses"...Any chance you can provide the link?

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    3. Try these links to help find resources: https://thesewcialists.com/2020/06/06/spending-your-money-where-it-counts/ and https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/15P6UD3e3JeInCiKal10eKI5IKZ5VJ7ZuDg6sJDIKob8/htmlview

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  5. Hi Carolyn,

    You are loved and admired. Stay safe and and keep writing what is in your heart.

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  6. Hello, have been worried about you, thanks for the update. I read and appreciate whatever your write. Lets hope some good will come out of all this. take care, best wishes Angela

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  7. There is nothing I can say that will make the past go way or the present better, but I hope I can influence the people around me to think about their actions and voices.

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  8. I have been reading your blog since I started reading blogs. You are an amazing seamstress! I am always impressed by what you put together. I find that when I feel down I can go into my sewing room and create something. Thank you for your honest words! I guess I will have to think about you as a person and not just a seamstress. Again, you are an amazing writer and seamstress! Take Care.....

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  9. Thanks for sharing. I always appreciate what you write.

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  10. I remember reading that the pool at Palisades Amusement Park, right in Fort Lee, NJ, didn't allow blacks to swim in it -- into the 1960's: it's not ancient history.

    I remember using paper grocery bags to cover school books: it wasn't till later that you'd actually buy paper specifically for book covers. We were must less wasteful in those days.

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    1. We covered our books like that too. We had to pay for our books so it was in our interest to keep them clean as possible. And you could decorate them with crayons. I still have a cookbook covered in brown paper bag and has my favorite recipes written on it.

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  11. Sorry, my earlier comments weren't working. All I wanted to say is the I hope you can keep writing. I enjoy seeing your beautiful clothes. I think of you everytime I see a lemon. Would it help if you found a project to sew for someone you love?

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  12. I love you. That's all I can say to you. Nothing I say can fix this. Your post brought tears to my eyes and gave me a glimpse, albeit small, into what it's like to live with racism every single day. I try, but will never fully understand and for that I am sorry.
    Hugs, and I hope our world becomes a better place and that the protests don't stop until we have equity.
    I remember when integration started, but my elementary school was in Syracuse NY, so a little different climate?
    One of the things that really struck me when I started high school was that black students were treated as "other" in a bad way in the city school district. In the suburbs and rural school districts (we moved a lot) there might be one or two black families and I never understood why it was okay to be a lone black kid (read athlete or scholar, depending on the school) in those schools. I don't understand how anyone can hate a child. Any child. I don't understand how people hate. I don't even hate the POS aka ex husband. God loves every one of us. No exception, no "if" - not even if they have never heard of "my" god or don't believe in any god.
    That's my rant. I really wish I could do something significant to make this world better.
    Lorrie

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    1. Thanks Lorrie for saying what I wanted to say--so well.

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    2. Hi Carolyn,
      Today I discovered your blog page. I love what you do. As I read your story it was as if I was reading and reliving my own story. Thanks for sharing! Much Love and Peace and Blessings to you.

      P.S. For those of you who posted such heart-felt statements like," I wish things were different", "I'm trying to do my part to make things better", etc, etc, etc.... This is what you can do. Take the challenge that the young man on Oprah did. Go get some pills and turn your skin dark, wear a head-wrap or get a curly perm then go out into the world. THEN, YOU WILL KNOW!!! (Immediately!) it's the age old idiom - "Come walk a mile in my shoes". I don't mean anyone any disrespect but the truth is: when so-called well meaning white people will stand up and speak truth to power against racism, injustice and inequality and demand that the one drop rule and 3/5 of a human law is eradicated, there will be no change. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke Talk is Cheap.

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  13. Admire your honesty and viewpoint. I am 65, grew up in Florida, and I am amazed we are where we are. I was the first female in an all male bank department. It seems we could have done so much more and should be further along the path.

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  14. Carolyn,
    Thank you for posting and for helping those of us here in this piece of the internet understand this complicated issue. When Renee posted I sent her a note that I will essentially repeat here: I am so sorry. I appreciate your candor, and I am grateful for your willingness to help people understand because understanding can help lead to change.
    I hope you will continue to post and return to sewing. I love your blog and your willingness to share so much.

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  15. I have to say I shed a few tears over your post. The topic in our adult Sunday School class yesterday was on racism and the bottom line is that it is not an easy fix but the fact that conversations are happening all over the country about racism is at least a start. I hope this gives you some hope. I lived in NJ for 60 years and moved to Oklahoma 6 years ago to help raise my 2 granddaughters. I hope you can get back to sewing. Sewing often helps me when I am feeling sad, frustrated, mad etc. After my daughter was born and I had gone back to work (teaching) I decided I didn't have time to sew and put my machine away. Then almost a year later a friend asked me to go with her to a fabric store. Just being there made me feel so much better so I dragged my machine out. I've been sewing ever since. I will pray for you.

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  16. I'm sure it was very painful for you to write that, Carolyn. I thank you for doing it. I can't begin to know what all of that feels like. What a struggle it must be to face the world each day. What I want to say to other White people is that it is our responsibility to take up this fight. The future of our country is at a crucial turning point. Do more than march for Black Lives. Do the follow-through. Take a hard look at our privilege and be willing to share it with everyone. Open your mind to defunding the police and reparations for slavery and all the injustice that came after. We have to go so much further than just being a "good liberal". Wake up and see the world as it is and do your part to create a new and better one.

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  17. I'm about the same age as you. The same skin color. Same gender. I got called nigger when I was five, too. But it was done by a little boy the same skin color as me. I didn't know exactly what he meant, but I could tell by his tone of voice and what he'd said afterwards, that he was being hateful. I didn't take it personally, to any great extent. Partly because I was a child, partly because I knew, instinctively, that he'd gotten that from the people he lived with, and that it was a nasty reflection of those that were raising him, and of him, who had little sense than to repeat such vile things.

    I didn't grow up in a white community. I was reared in a city that was predominantly black, and as such, didn't have to deal with racism every day. The reflections and people I saw looked like me. Not that there weren't whites in my daily life. They owned the corner stores, ran the government and populated the local law enforcement, but mostly, everyone that surrounded my life as a child growing up in the sixties and seventies looked like me.

    Which, as I now know, has resulted in how I view and have viewed the world; and has for the most part, kept me balanced when it comes to the issue of race relations in America.

    My view is this. For the most part, PERSONALLY SPEAKING what white people think about me doesn't matter to me. I do know and understand what racism is all about. But I've been lucky. I haven't for the most part, been discriminated against. I've experienced racism my whole life, but since I don't think that white people are the be all and end all of anything, I've been able to shake off their constant attempts at what is now called "microagressions". In short, Carolyn, I just think that they have problems that they, as Toni Morrison so aptly put it, need to deal with.

    Now, bigger issues like discrimination and police brutality, yeah, that makes me boiling mad. I am heartened to see our young people of all ethnicities, out demonstrating and demanding equal treatment and justice under the law.

    I read a blog post by a black woman a few weeks ago. What shook me and has stayed with me is/was the fact that what was so painfully clear to me is that she lives her life according to what white people think. That post was one of the saddest things I've read from a black person in a very, very long time. I feel badly for her that in this day and age, black people still think that what white folk feel about them (on a personal level) is of any consequence.

    I've worked around unabashedly bigoted white people. And yes, it was hard to deal with. I called it being on "white people overload". Did I speak up? Sometimes yes, sometimes, no. The times when I didn't speak up weren't because I was afraid though, Carolyn. It was because I felt like the (white) person or persons were diseased. You know? Sick. Ill bred. Pitiable. Again, as Toni Morrison put it, "they have a problem". I knew I DIDN'T have a problem. I knew it was they that were twisted. What else could it be? To speak and behave in such a manner?

    So, for me, what white people think about me, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, Carolyn, try to convince me of, that is, that on account of a insignificant thing, that being skin pigmentation, means that I'm inferior to them?!!!!

    Well, that is utterly ridiculous. As such (again, on a personal level) I don't entertain such stupid thoughts. I don't let it bother me.

    Kay

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    1. I really liked reading this. your point is very well taken.

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  18. We hear your pain and wish there was some way to take it away. We know there isn't but do know that there are many, many of us who will do what we can to rectify the injustice and hopefully make the world better for you, your children and grandchildren. I hope that somehow you can once again find a way to sew again and enjoy that part of who you are. But until you can be kind to yourself.

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  19. If I could just....add one thing more? Perhaps this might make clear what I was trying to say. It was one of the greatest gifts anybody has ever given me, really. It reinforced what I knew to be true all of my life. That is, that NO ONE defines my existence, no one on this planet. But whom I allow to. My sister told me this, years ago:

    There was a new mall that had opened up in the neighboring city, and everyone frequented it. So much so, that it was always wall-to-wall, elbow-to elbow, jam packed. Particularly on the weekends. My sister said that she was in the mall, going to whatever store she had in mind, and she and a white woman inadvertently bumped into one another.

    The white woman immediately called her "nigger".

    My sister said that she in turn, immediately said to her:

    "I'm not the nigger, YOU are."

    Well, upon hearing that, I definitely got my sisters' meaning. Sticks and stones.

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  20. I can't help but hope that honest communication like this is going to help lift us all to a higher state of being. We're about the same age, but our lives were quite different. I can only get better by listening to everyone's stories and desires. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. It makes me sad that ANYONE should/could/and do, feel as you and others, do. Just know there are still good folks out there ...... that hurt along with you. Hugs.

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  22. My heart aches for you and for our country - we MUST do better, and I think we can.

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  23. You are certainly an excellent writer, you make me see and feel what you see and feel. I wish the world and people were not like this, but we are. I do think racism is a mental illness. How do we go about training it out of us? Many people see no reason to change. There are still places, like the beauty shop and the church that are entirely segregated voluntarily.

    I am not as good as you at expressing myself verbally, you really make it clear, how it looks and feels to you. All I know is I want to have a world where people are not hated, feared, and reviled because of anything.

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  24. Adding a thank you for sharing with us & reminding us of much better we need to do. I hope we keep hearing Black voices and eradicate some of the horrific racial injustice.

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  25. I'm a wrinkly old white woman of privilege who just needs to sit on the porch with my arms around you so we can cry together mingling our tears and our hurting hearts. And then we need to get up and fix the world together. I'm embarrassed, ashamed and heart sick in California.

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  26. Hang in there, Carolyn. I have no words of wisdom to share, just compassion.

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  27. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I grew up in a bubble here in the Northwest. I know racism exists but I never witness it so I am not reminded of it until I hear stories in the news. In college, I did a semester exchange to Alabama because I had never been to the south. This was in the 80's and I was horrified at the racism I witnessed there. My roommate was a black woman and I couldn't believe the racism she experienced. I was so relieved to get back to the northwest where I believed we didn't have racism. I now understand that it still exists but is just not as visible here. I cannot believe that there is such evil in the world and I am so sad to hear stories such as yours but I need to keep hearing them so I don't forget. I hope a big change is coming and I hope that you are able to destress and enjoy sewing again. I too feel strange posting my sewing projects right now when it seems so trivial however, I also find it meditational. Peace and love to you and thank you again.

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  28. Hi Carolyn,
    I very rarely comment on blogs, but this post moved me so much. Life experiences must be shared and LISTENED TO by white people. It's not an easy thing to hear, but we must listen. We MUST be able to put ourselves in someone else's place and hear their pain in order to understand.

    I grew up with a step father who shoved his racism, bigotry and prejudice down our throats with every meal. I don't think most white people can make this claim, but I sure can. Today he would be called a White Supremacist. But despite that and through my church, my mom and most importantly, through my friendships with black people at church and school, I recognized that he was wrong.

    While racism is a difficult conversation to have between black/white people, it can also be difficult between just white people. Some white people refuse to believe that racism still exists (I actually had a coworker who said that and fully believes there is such a thing "reverse descrimination") We've had some heated discussions because she chooses not to see what's right in front of her face. Long before the current controversy, I have spoken up at work and in social gatherings, which has not made me popular.

    All this to say I hear you. I stand with you. I hope that soon you'll be able to find peace and joy in your sewing again. Namaste (The light in me sees and honors the light in you.)

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  29. Wait, I do have one thing to say (to your readers, I know you don't need me to tell you this): VOTE! Vote in every election, from the local to the national. Vote your conscience. Vote for justice. But be sure to vote!

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  30. Thank you for sharing your experiences and providing insight to your growing up years. I love your blog and hope you can get your energy back.

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  31. Thank you for sharing - for your honesty, for always sharing your experiences not just as a sewist, but as a human being.

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  32. My age is only one year off from your, we've lived the same times in different places. I'm Caucasian, more pink than white. When I think of the discomfort I've endured being an educated professional woman, I can't imagine what you've endured. I can't change the world, but I can be proud of you. You have endured and without (obvious) bitterness. These are trying times for us all. LindaR

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  33. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I am sorry that you have had to endure racism and all that it entails. I am truly hopeful that we will see changes in our society that will make it so future generations do not have to experience the same pain. Thank you for all that you do for the sewing community- you are a treasure.

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  34. I wish to heaven I could say something to ease your pain, Carolyn. But I really can't, can I? And maybe that pain and anger is exactly what will move us all to something better. Instead, I want you to know that your life matters to me.

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  35. {{HUGS}}


    *that's all I have

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  36. It's been an interesting exercise, watching my children grow up in a predominantly white area, attending predominantly white schools. It has been 1) ingrained that this is "better" but 2) the reality is that they receive more funding and have more resources. What I know now is that it's a sort of psychological torture to live as a black person that is nearly 100% surrounded by white people, nearly 100% of the time. As the rest of the people are seeming to learn now, being in a "liberal" area doesn't make much of a difference.

    I grew up poor, in an ALL black neighborhood. All of my teachers were black (my daughter had a black teacher in 12th grade, my son - never). My doctors and dentists were black (my kids have probably never actually laid eyes on a black doctor in person). My sense of self as black woman has been so much more concrete. But also, I was probably 15 before someone- a bus driver- called me a nigger. I literally punched him in the face. And he threatened to call transit police and I sat back down on the bus and told him I would wait. Yeah, he didn't call. My son was in 3rd grade the first time it happened to him. I've had so many experiences in "progressive" Minneapolis where a simple misunderstanding (bumping into, cutting off) resulted in some white person IMMEDIATELY calling me the N-word. As an adult? I look at them and laugh. Because they've really, really expected to have hurt me.

    And don't get me started on politicizing a public health crisis. Absurd. Completely absurd.

    Thank you for sharing with us. The dampened sew-jo is understandable.

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  37. The trauma of racism is deeply felt and difficult to explain. I feel you Sis. Similar stories, similar paths cannot minimize personal feelings and its affect upon the individual.

    "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" 2 Cor 4.

    The impact of slavery, kkk, jim crow, white privilege, racism, etc. bears a ripple affect upon an entire race of humanity. How can we not be affected?

    This is a painful, tedious journey. Take your time.



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  38. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Our world is badly broken, badly in need of all the love we can muster. I love your sewing creations, your insights, your point of view, and your leadership in the sewing community. I wish I could do more to shoulder the heavy burden of the hate, ignorance, prejudice, racism and violence that falls so heavily on black lives. It is wrong and I am learning better how to be an active anti-racist. When the time feels right, my wish is that you may find moments of relief and respite in your many talents. You are loved.

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  39. Thank you for having the courage to write what is in your heart. I’ve been reading your blog for so many years but have never commented before today. I admire you (and your sewing skills and your sewing cave!) and I wish so much that you had never had to experience discrimination and hate. Please know that so many people (like me) are doing what we can to make sure this time things finally change. I feel like I can only impact my corner of the world but that’s where I’m starting. I stand with you and I hope you’ll keep writing your thoughts. You are in my thoughts every day.

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  40. I'm sorry you had to deal with all that, I grew up in an all white neighborhood in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Are neighbors to the right of us tried to have us put in an orphanage, and they were also white. They thought the final cut to us would be selling to a black family, ha the joke was on them. They were wonderful neighbors. But the point of my story is some people are just shit, it is just that simple. Moral of this story is love who you can and screw the rest. There will always be ignorant people. Don't let them steal your joy. Love and Hugs

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  41. I wish you would keep your blog about sewing!

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    1. Critical yet lacking the courage to actually stand behind your comment...rich.

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    2. You don’t have to read these stories if they make you uncomfortable. Just don’t call the police because of your discomfort it could be dangerous to those of us with melanin in our skin. ��

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    3. It is about sewing. She's explaining why she isn't able to sew right now. You need to open your mind and heart.

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    4. How entitled you sound, believing you have the right to tell her what to blog. Her blog, her right, her story. You would be better served to read and learn than to complain.

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  42. Thank you for sharing these aspects of your life experience, Carolyn. I have "known" you for a long time as that insanely qualified sewist. Now I am learning more about you as a person who has been treated hatefully for a completely absurd reason (racism) and I am so sad that you have ever been maligned for such a miserable, horrible reason by ignorant, horrible white people. I hope that your sharing these experiences can shed light on racism in a way that will produce change. And I also hope that it will help you to better contextualize your own feelings at this time - because (as I have come to understand in the last few years) the past is a portal to the now. I too have been introspective lately, not so interested in the quotidian. But sewing brings joy to you and I am hopeful and confident that your sewjo will return. Everything has its time. xo

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  43. Carolyn, I have followed your blog for many years and always admire your point of view. Living in Memphis, TN I have received an eye opening experience about racism. I cannot say that I have not contributed to it because I have. I am learning more and more how to change my behavior to eliminate racism in my thoughts, words and actions. I do feel shame at how I treated others in the past without realizing how racist I was.

    My daughter is an activist. She was denied ordination as a minister into our denomination because of her work with Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community. The false rumors, innuendo, and a perception that is totally untrue caused them to deny her ordination. Slowly, under her guidance, I am becoming more educated about racism and the inequality that exists in our society. I cannot ever fully understand what you have endured from supposedly white Christian families. I am sorry. I love your take on this crazy world and will pray that you are able to return to your wonderful sewing soon as it does seem to give you joy. Until then, I appreciate your words of wisdom on this segment of society and the direction that our country is going. Keep up the good work. (((HUGS)))
    Blessings with Christian love,
    Marty in Memphis, TN
    Brighten each corner where you are ... SMILE!!!


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  44. I am so sorry for what you and all black people are going through now and have throughout your lives. And thank you for letting us know how you are doing because we do love and care about you. When you are ready to talk about sewing we will be here. Meanwhile, if you need to vent, educate, or explain anything, it's your blog and I will be here to read it. Jean

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  45. Hi Carolyn,
    My heart hurts as well, and I sometimes feel at stand still. I will sew beautiful things, but can't get it together to post, I too just been commenting on other beautiful makes.. This sometimes gives me inspiration, but I then think "where am I going", or I think: screw it, I'm going to make it and be beautiful.. I will get my sewjo back soon. The fabrics are calling me..

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  46. The horror of George Floyd's murder is hopefully the tipping point for real, institutional change in our country. Your story, Renee's story and all of the black writers and columnists I read make all of the many indignities real. Sharing your life is necessary for you but also so important for your readers. One of the comments above wished you'd go back to blogging about sewing. I find it hard to believe that she could read this and not understand. Take care of yourself.

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  47. Thank you for your beautiful and honest post. You have endured what no person should ever have to. I am a white Grandmother of 3 black grandsons and I have seen some of this hatred and it makes me sad, angry and fearful for all of you. No words can tell you how sorry I am, but please keep up your sewing and blogging. So many people love and respect you.

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  48. I so appreciate your candor, and I am happy we are having these conversations now, even if it is FAR later than it should be. Keep sharing and keep sewing. XOXO

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  49. Carolyn,
    This post hurts my heart. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share this with us. I know we can do better and be better.

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  50. Thank you for writing this post which I imagine wasn't easy to do. I hope this awakening in our country is real and results in positive change. Stay well and I hope your keep on sewing and blogging, you are such a positive influence on so many! Sending you a hug. And I agree with many other commenters - perhaps you have another career ahead as a writer. very evocative and a voice I would like to hear more from.

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  51. Thank you for sharing your story. I love your blog and you are such an amazing woman and sewist!

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  52. I grew up in a very different place. The first non-white people who moved to the really small city, I grew up, were refuges from Vietnam.
    Later in the canton capital I saw black people. This city had a University and a theological program that students from the African continent attended. They mostly spoke French and were a splash of color and life in a still and over orderly middle age city.
    Even later, my first time in the US, in Asheville, NC, I was told that there are areas that were not good. I was told that the family I stayed with, that their children didn't attend the local public school.
    I remember that the black cleaning lady asked to touch my hair. (I have blond but curly hair.) To this day I would have loved to do the same and touch black hair, but I felt that this would not be right.
    Now I live in California. I have no black friends, which I regret.
    I strongly feel that as soon as you have friends that are different from you the prejudices melt away. It becomes hard to ignore and brush aside when things you don't agree with happen to people you care about.
    Black people have a nicer skin tone, they age much better than I do. (Tanning or artificial bronzer is a poor substitute). I love their natural hair. To me it looks like a force of nature, standing upright against the physical force of gravity.
    You will hopefully go back to sewing when you are ready, many readers are waiting to see your creativity.

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  53. Thank you for sharing your story. As a middle-aged white woman from the Deep South, I was never aware of how privileged I was/is even though we were probably lower middle class or how systemic racism was/is. My parents taught us to be respectful of everyone but that we should stay separate from black people... not going to church together or dating. I went to an all white private Christian high school and graduated in 1983. My mother would brag how progressive her father was because he owned a store and would let black people shop there... as long as they waited until the white people left.

    Hearing your story and other stories similar to yours, I am learning how wrong I have been regarding race and equality and I hope I can become part of a global shift to improve our world.

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  54. Thank you so much, Caroline for sharing your feelings and history. We all need to know these things. Sadly, many do not know the pieces that make up this quilt of humanity. I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised mostly in Lafayette. I know personally horror stories about the Klan, etc. I was very blessed that my parents quietly taught me a different way.It was dangerous to do otherwise. I so wish I could share stories with you over a glass of wine. There are just so many. I'll never forget the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird. My dad WAS Aticus Finch, larger than life, strong, quiet, and with integrity and morals you could not shake. it was not easy to be that way in small town Louisiana back then. But he was and he and my mom taught us so much about respect for others, kindness, empathy. Every day, as I age, I realize more and more what an incredible gift that was. I consider you my cyber friend, Carolyn, and it because of my parents this little Southern girl can do this. My heart goes out to you and yours and all mankind for the cruelties we impose on each other. It is time for better. We can all do better. Until we sew again...........hugs and love.

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  55. Carolyn I wish I could take away the hurts of the past, but I know I don’t have that ability. I appreciate your honesty. I have been reading your blog for a while a believe you are a beautiful person and a very talented seamstress. Much love and hugs.

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  56. I grew up in Massachusetts. I’m 67 this year. First time I found out that I was different was 1st grade. Got told that I was dirty that’s why my skin was brown. High school in Cambridge MA, sitting in the 5 and 10 in Harvard Sq, we were often ignored while sitting at the counter. One day I said loudly that if they wouldn’t wait on us they wouldn’t wait on any one else because we weren’t leaving. We got waited on but not with smiles and courtesy. Working my way through college watched the manager accept an application from a black woman an after she left threw it in the trash in front of everyone, they didn’t want her for the counter position. Currently treated badly in restaurants, followed around stores insulted by a woman’s husband when I reminded her she shouldn’t walk away from her bag. He said I was probably the thief and had already stolen her belongings. The stories are endless and ongoing. My children and grandchildren have their own stories. We need normal everyday white people to speak up when you see something wrong. Do not assume that the person being treated badly deserve d it, or that the police are handling a bad character. Your presence could save someone’s life.

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  57. Thank you for sharing. I may be about your age or a tad older. My parents would never have participated in taunting any child on a bus. But riots brought fear and less understanding than we wished. The language behind closed doors at my (white) home is nothing I am proud of, was not proud of even as a child. It sickened me to hear it; it must have been devastating for you. I try to do better, but I know I'm flawed. I hope and pray that Peace finds you soon. I pray for all of us in this country. Things have got to change.

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  58. Dear Carolyn, I am so sorry your heart is broken. Even though it is painful for you and painful to hear, thank you for sharing your life. I am so sorry for all the indignities that you and all people of color have to endure on a daily basis. I am listening. I shed tears reading you essay. I hope change will happen. I have been heartened by the multiracial protests continuing every where. Please dear heart, take care of yourself and know that you who gives so much is loved.

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  59. Thank you for your words. I understand so much more when I read or hear of individual experiences. I feel a little silly commenting because there is really nothing I can say, but again, thank you.

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  60. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate you putting into words your feelings. Please, if you could, offer some steps that we, as a country, could take to improve the situation. I know that each person has to make an individual change to be the difference. I want to know what you would like to see us do. Thanks again.

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  61. Thank you for sharing your story. I realize how difficult it must be for everyone to post these very personal histories, but I appreciate so much being able to listen to the voices and experiences of those who are willing to share. Being a bit younger than some of the other commenters in your audience, it always felt that in school we were taught that racism was a thing that "happened in the past" and that we examined it in a very academic and detached context, and that it was something that a person was, rather than a system that encompassed everyone and everything in our society. Being able to hear everyone's stories has made it so clear how wrong this view was, and that racism is not a problem of the past, but rather a problem from the past that we still need to deal with and get rid of in the present. Being able to understand what exactly we are fighting against and being able to empathize with those who have suffered the most really adds a lot of context and clarity that I feel has been hidden from those of us who grew up (especially as white children) in the US. I've always lamented my lacking history education (I think I had... one? history teacher who wasn't also an athletic coach in high school), but this past month has made it even more clear exactly how little I actually knew about the way things really work in this country. The fact that we also have people protesting masks... I don't know if I will ever be able to fully comprehend how we got to this point where everything is so completely broken. I don't know that there is anything that can be said to ease the pain that exists, but I hope that the support from the community you have created here on your blog can help provide some comfort because we all love and respect you for everything that you have been willing to share with us.

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  62. I feel you, Carolyn. Though I've done some sewing, I have zero motivation to blog about it. I wrote a post about what's been going on and have yet to post because I AM TIRED. I'm tired of saying the same thing over and over - only to have to repeat it AGAIN after the next assault on Black life. The torment is daily. Hourly.

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  63. I feel your pain. And I'm sobbing at the depth of love and thought expressed in these comments and in your words. I can do better. Thank you for the resources on Black-owned businesses; Amazon gets enough of my damned money; thank you for your honesty, which encourages it in others.

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  64. I have not read your blog before. It popped up on BLoglovin today. Though I do not make garments, I am glad that I read this blog. I grew up in the same years that you did. I had little understanding of what was going on with racial issues. I just knew there was unrest and I too was involved in being bussed across town to school. I am sure that unwittingly I was part of prejudice and racism.
    Mostly what I want to say here is thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I was moved and convicted by your words. I want this world to change. I want to change my own perspectives and deep seeded, short-sighted ways in regards to any prejudice against others. I believe that all people are created with equal value, each a treasure. I want to act and think that way thoroughly. Your memories hacked away at me...and that needs to be done. Thank you. Do not let us forgot. Bless you.
    And, as someone else stated, try not to keep this from stealing your joy. You are obviously a talented, gifted artist. Use those gifts!!

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  65. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I have survived so much of what you shared and am grateful that you put it to words. For most of my life, I have lived and worked where there were only a handful of black people. And it was a different experience. I have also been unable to sew during this period and didn't quite understand why. Thank you for your insights. Please take care and know that you are appreciated.

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  66. Thank you for always sharing your honest feelings with us. I admire and appreciate you so much, and have read your blog since 2007. Jane in Wisconsin

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  67. I've only just discovered your blog. I'm a UK subscriber, 65 year old grandma, and your words brought me to tears . Thank you for this and I'm so sorry for all the crap you've had to endure, and that people of colour are still enduring. The recent murder was just hideously shocking. Sending love and support from the UK.

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  68. I'm praying for a better world. When I was a child in the 60s I thought the world was getting better, I maintained that belief until the election of Trump. I am 60 and still have so much to learn. As a white person in Canada, I will do everything I can to do my part to make sure this racism doesn't continue. I am wishing you comfort and peace and that knowledge I care and I'm sorry for your pain.

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  69. Carolyn, I've been thinking about you and your family. I hope you'll write more here when you can. I don't care about the topic, just write whatever you're led to. It's our only way of being "with" you right now.

    Donna in Ohio

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  70. I'm crying so hard I can hardly see to type. I grew up in the segregated South and it always hurt me. My father was a Baptist minister and instilled in us the truth that we are all God's perfect creation and are the same inside, needing Jesus and His love. I've had many friends of several different colors and since I know I'm a sinner inside in need of Jesus, I realize that we are brothers and sisters one and all. Please read in these lines the love and admiration I have for you and let it help comfort you. I, too, have had a hard time watching the news. There is wrong going on all over. I'll pray for you, dear Friend!!!!! Jane

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  71. Thank you for your honest and heartfelt post! I think it is very important that all of us who are white understand what you have gone through in a very honest way! I have so much to learn and I so appreciate the time you took to express your thoughts. Your blog post came up on my feed as a suggestion since I am a sewer and I am happy it did and I will be following along and I hope at some point you can and want to sew again because I know for me it is very helpful!
    I also feel so strongly about the masks and how it became political is beyond me!!!
    Stay Safe and Stay Strong!

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  72. Your rage is righteous. Let it burn, illuminate, teach. Your emotions may feel overwhelming, and that's ok, let them out. I hope your voice, railing against injustice, brings you comfort as it challenges those in denial and inspires us to stand up.

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  73. I rarely comment on blogs but your post touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing your experiences. They help others like me grow in awareness as we stumble our way into being better. I've always spoken up when I've seen injustice in front of my face, but I have learned - from what you and others are saying - that much has been hidden (from me) in plain sight. And also learned that I have lived a sheltered life. After the Civil Rights era brought changes, I was happy because I thought problems had been fixed. Before I retired, I said that to a Black friend at work and she looked at me as if I'd lost - or maybe never had - my mind. My parents and church taught me all God's children are equal, but I now also realize how many people were taught differently. I wish I had answers instead of rambling through my thoughts like this. I wish you peace and a better world that is free of pain and discrimination. And will do what I can from my small corner to help make that world a place we all want to be in.

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  74. Hi, with all your talents why can't you go and open a sewing store in a poor black neighborhood and make clothes for the children and elderly especially in the cold winter. You seem to have enough money to buy tons of fabric for yourself why not shear it with others. Try to get out of your basement and go and help others with all your time and talents. Godspeed

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    Replies
    1. @rosie: Sigh. Well. WHERE. ? Do I start. Sentence by sentence? Or the whole (ridiculously ill mannered) statement, at once. Hmmm. Oh, btw. Carolyn, forgive me for taking it upon myself to answer this. I know, I know. " I don't let them bother me", I said earlier. Ok, so I'm letting this bother me. Just enough to respond. But not in kind. Or more to the point...UNkind.

      Rosie, it's like this. (I'm gonna take this in it's entirety, first) Carolyns' post was about her experience living in America for her whole life, being African American, and what that means and has meant for her. Alright? Nowhere. NO. WHERE. In her post about her experiences does she talk about black people, or any people, for that matter....needing clothing. Whether they're living impoverished lives in "a poor black neighborhood" or in the poor white farmlands in hollars in the middle of Virginia. Understand? Your suggestions aren't germane. They don't have anything to do with what she wrote about her experiences being her ethnicity in the country she was born in.

      Now. Let's take a look at what you've tried to do (be insulting) sentence by sentence, and see what we can discern as to whether or not it makes sense that way, because as a whole, again, it has nothing to do with what Carolyn said.

      So. 1. "go and open a sewing store in a poor black neighborhood and make clothes..." Ok well.."open a sewing.....store and make clothes...? That wouldn't be a "sewing store", dude. That would be a CLOTHING store. I mean, really.
      2. "You seem to have enough money to buy tons of fabric for yourself why not shear (I don't have to comment on why you didn't have spellcheck turned on here, do I?) it...(um...that's denoting a SINGULAR item...."tons of fabric is PLURAL) with others. Did you forget the question mark at the end. (I didn't. I'm just not adding one for emphasis) ;-) Ok, well. Of course, you're jealous that she has this fabulous collection of fabric that you very likely can't afford yourself, so you're hatin'. Haters gonna hate! Honestly! If you want a fabric collection like hers, well you can have one! Go. Get yourself a job. Make money and check out the fabric store to see what you can possibly purchase! It's as easy as that! Godspeed!
      And finally, C. " Try to get out of your basement...blah blah blah. Uh hunh.

      Whatever.

      Get a life.

      Godspeed with that.

      Kay

      Carolyn, please delete this when you get around to it. Thanks, doll.

      Delete
    2. Kay - I'm NOT deleting yours or the original commenters post. Unlike some people in the world I don't censor. Plus I think it's important that everyone realize that micro aggressions like this occur all the time! However, I don't respond because I don't need to justify my existence and how I choose to live my life to ANYONE. Though Kay thanks for taking the time to share your opinion.

      Delete
    3. One more little add on... I want you to ask yourself: If she was white would you have said the same thing to her?

      Delete
  75. Thank you for your story.
    Mary

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  76. Thank you for sharing this with us, Carolyn. I know sewing brings so much joy to you so I hope you are able to return to it soon.

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  77. I cannot imagine how you must feel because I have never been black. I'm horrified that you and I are damn near the same age and you were treated that way AS A CHILD, as a young adult, as a young working woman. I despair that so little has changed in our lifetimes. I had thought that we were getting somewhere 12 years ago when Mr. Obama was elected, I thought finally there were enough people ready to let go and to overcome racism and stamp it out for good. Clearly I was wrong. I am so damn disappointed to have been wrong.

    You're not feeling your creative energy right now, and honestly who can blame you. I'm hoping it'll come back eventually. I miss seeing your beautiful creations, and I hope that you get your equilibrium back. I hope we all do.

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  78. I have read many of the comments along with your post.

    Thank you for sharing. White America, including myself, need to hear them. We need to think of those as our kids, our brothers and sisters, our family. How would we feel about that? Unfortunately I discovered in recent years that there is still so much blatant racism out there. I had thought we were past that. How wrong I was. I am working on my biases and I am working on calling it out when I hear it. I may not change that person, but maybe some kid overhearing me can change themselves and realize the behavior they see everyday is not okay. People are people. They happen to have different skin colors. Unfortunately due to our history in America, treating everyone equally is no longer enough. We must atone for the infrastructure we set up to hold people back based on the color of their skin. Unfortunately I wish it was all that easy. I will keep working on me, the people around me, and to raise my child to be exposed culture and learn that we are all human, but realize we are not all treated that way. Stories and discussion are a huge help. I wish I could hug you (if you are a hugger).

    As for COVID-19? No words at how selfish people are. It is a freaking piece of cloth on your face. It doesn't bite.

    As for quilting. I have stopped to and I am working at getting going again. It has been my rock. I work for the State of Michigan and I haven't left my house much in 4 months. (I am used to traveling 2 weeks out of every month).My childcare has been closed (and I am not sure how I feel about it opening) for 17 weeks. He turned 1 yr old at the beginning of this. My husband has still been leaving the house to work so I have been the primary caretaker and full time employee. It has been more than tough. I am a much better mom and stronger than I could have ever thought. Thank goodness my husband also stepped up and assisted a ton.

    Now. I need to go back to quilting. I am laid off on Mondays and took thisTthis off work and will be spending time with my little buddy and quilting.

    (Sorry in advance for any other things I don't understand and are clear by my comments. I will keep working on it.)

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  79. There is a reply that has been posted here that I suspected, in fact, I was waiting to see. I've seen posts akin to this on another sewing bloggers' site. She too is African American. I didn't write a reply then, but the words I'd read stuck with me. That was weeks ago. It's my feeling that a lot of "liberals" and "sympathetic" white people think this way. It goes something like this:

    "I cannot imagine how you must feel because I have never been black." Schmoomom




    That sentence needs a bit of space behind it. Now, this isn't some nasty retort. I hope that those that would care to, really take a look at that sentence, let it soak into your mind and really think about what is being said. Because that sentence is at the heart of what racism is all about. That is, "I'm separate from you." "We're different from one another." Based on one single, solitary thing.

    Skin color.

    I mean...that's just absurd. It really is.

    "I have never been...black."

    Hmmm. Well. I have never been to Paris. I have never eaten blowfish. I have never seen the Aurora Borealis in person. Those are all things that I can attest to because I can choose to do them or not. But forgive me, Schmoomom. One can't "choose" to be a different ethnicity. I mean, I suppose you could...lots have done it...passing for white...or black, for that matter. Look at that lady in Seattle. She got ostracized for it though, didn't she? Well anyway.

    My point is that justifying, or attempting to justify ones' "separateness" by saying "well, I'm not your color, so I can't relate", is frankly, baloney.

    I would ask you, and all those who try and hide behind these "us" and "them" worldviews, this:

    Why can't you relate? We're all human. So what's not to understand?

    How about this.

    I happen to love old movies. One of my favorites is called "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes". The stars are Edward G. Robinson (one of the best actors...ever!) Agnes Moorehead (super underrated) and a young Margaret O'Brien and their daughter.

    I love that movie, because Robinson played a farmer of (if memory serves) Swedish descent just living his small, quiet life in a rural community. The film is about him and his relationship to his young daughter. He affectionately called her "Yentame". Now, I don't know exactly what that means. But, I do know what he meant, when he spoke it to her.

    It meant the same as my nicknames for my daughters meant to me, when I said them when they were girls.

    I can definitely relate to that humble farmer, how hard he struggled to keep food on the table and clothes on his wife and daughter, a roof over their heads. When he went out of his way to wake her before dawn and drive her to the next town over just to see the caravan of the circus acts drive by (not take her to the circus, mind you...he couldn't afford that) and then pay one of the men who handled the elephant all the money he had on him.....about five dollars...so she could see the beast; well, I understood, and was delighted and humbled to witness such an act of love.

    These were white actors. Their being white didn't have anything to do with my ability or lack thereof, to understand what they were trying to portray. It was a HUMAN story.

    Maya Angelo once quoted a Greek African playwright: " Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto ", or "I am human,... nothing human is alien to me."

    NOTHING HUMAN IS ALIEN TO ME.

    Nothing.

    We are all human beings on this planet. Every one of us can relate to the triumphs, the pain, the suffering, the joys, sorrows, etc. of each of us.

    There is only one race. The human one.

    Kay

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  80. I completely understand. I have been sewing, but am motivated by the things my family loves, and esome xtremely precise mask making. I don't feel pressure to take pictures or report on my progress in any way... just taking a day at a time.

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  81. In my mind, always thought racism was mainly in the south! I read your post and realized I was totally wrong. I also realize how misguided/naive I have been. I believed that black lives were much better than when I grew up in the late 60's; yet the more I continue to research and learn the more I realized that we have a lot more to work to do! I am continuing to boycott the stores in support of blackmakers. I am so ashamed of our President and making the epidemic political and his current rhetoric about anything and everything. I have always been an independent registered voter and mostly voted for democratic candidates. I have become more immersed in the upcoming election as our current President was not the one I supporter in 2016 and sure in hell will not in 2020.

    I have always admired you for your sewing skills, for your writing ability and appreciate your openness. I thank you for sharing your back story as it teaches me to become less naive about racism.

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  82. I feel that it’s the collective stories of individuals that are making a difference this time ‘round. Thank you for sharing as much as you can while also taking care of yourself. Your life story of negative discrimination supports my experience and observations from my white perspective. I have high hopes that real change will take place. I graduated high school in 1976 in LA where busing occurred so that my mostly white neighborhood could have a balanced mix of skin tones on campus. I don’t remember the busing going in both directions. I work constantly to overcome my early instruction in the arts of bias and judgement. Anti-Black bias was strong in my family (while at the same time they paid lip service to the enlightened idea that “prejudice” was unacceptable!), and also bias against every other group that could be considered to be a group different from my specific group. And I shouldn’t think I was any great shakes either! Fortunately it was so ridiculous that it didn’t make sense to this logical little girl. However, That doesn’t mean I don’t have unconscious bias that will cause me to misunderstand or misread an interaction with someone with a different upbringing, or display my ignorance. That’s why I think that telling our stories are so important. Stories help us to understand the truth of another’s experience, and to learn that humans are all one family. I wish you deep breaths and all the best.

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  83. Carolyn, thank you for sharing. Stay healthy and keep posting. I learn something from every entry you post whether it is sewing related or otherwise. Thank you for speaking the truth.

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  84. Hi Carolyn I can understand where you are coming from we are very similar as I am the same age and grew up in the Bronx with a similar story. I grew up in a mixed area Italians Irish and few blacks as we moved in they moved out I also changed careers late in life but I have since moved to the south with a very different culture I will stop there. Hang in there things hopefully will change for the better . P.S just finished listening to your interview on the love to sew podcast and enjoyed it. Thanks again for all you do

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  85. Thank you for sharing this. I came upon your blog today from a sewing link ... I can’t even remember what it was about now. Again, thank you for this.

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  86. I am bi-racial, and I thank you for telling your story. I think you have opened eyes and hearts.

    I do have hope as I see the marches that there may be some real changes in the future. That people will start to examine themselves. That real change will come. That the momentum continues.

    I love your blog, I love your writing. Please continue to write. As a friend of mine said "what comes from the heart, goes to the heart". You have really touched people with your writing. That is important.

    Hugs.

    Janet

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  87. Thank you for this blog post.
    I will always read your sewing blog for fashion inspiration you provide.

    Janice Southeastern WI, USA

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  88. 72 year old white girl here. My dad was in the army and I had a mostly integrated childhood. I went to school in Ks,Mo and Co then France in an army school, all us military kids, then Ks again and it was pretty integrated but not many black people so there might have been something I missed. A black doctor delivered my first baby in a military hospital and lots of black nurses and doctors here and there. Luckily I did not see black people mistreated or bad mouthed until we were stationed in northern VA in the 80s. the real estate people and the teachers were awful. They hated military people too.

    Love what I learn from your blog. You have taught me much. Keep up the beautiful work and try to keep in mind that there are a lot of people out here who do not hate people just because of their skin.

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  89. I'm so very sorry that the vast majority of white people are so horrible. I can absolutely relate to feeling like there's a foot on your chest making it hard to breathe, although my reasons are different that yours. I'm reading, learning and trying my best to survive and get through this.

    Know that I love you and you and your family are always safe here. Always. <3 g

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  90. Yes, we are all sorry for the world as it is. I am lying bloodied on my study floor, having had a battle to the death (by email) with a lady sewist from Virginia. I just got tired of hearing all that stuff about Robert E. Lee, and took her on. I have heard it all my life. Of course, living in Scotland, we don't know a thing. Except that we have an AfroMexican son, and he has three children, and all have suffered. God Bless you, and us. I love your sewing blog, even though I am 81 and can scarcely sit up! I just bought granddaughter above a new Janome. We looked at the picture of yours and decided. I hope it gets used!!

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  91. Today is July 28, almost a month after your original post and I found it while searching for something completely different. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for your pain. Since Covid19 started, I've become a news junkie and then came George Floyd. I truly do not know what is happening in our country, but please know there are so many of us who look different than you who support you and want racism to end. Period. I wish you peace in your heart, we are with you and support you.

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