Love Thy Neighbor

Once upon a time when I was 14, I attended my first homecoming dance. My family didn’t have much money then, but somehow my mom managed to buy me the dress I really wanted from the trendy teen store – a purple satin number with silver flowers in the Asian style that was popular in the 90s, before the idea of cultural appropriation was a thing. I felt like I had arrived in that dress, and I confidently left to meet my friends at the dance.

That night I discovered that some of my friends’ families didn’t have much money, either. One arrived in a denim jumper, but she didn’t seem to think anything of it, and went about mingling with the crowd. But one friend arrived in a black velvet dress that was a touch off-trend and what 14-year-olds of the day would’ve considered a bit childish in style. This friend was clearly not happy with what she was wearing and said so. I thought she looked nice, but I was concerned the dress was going to keep her from having a good time, so I desperately searched my brain for something I could say that would make her feel better about it. My adolescent solution was to take her over to the friend in the jumper and say, “See? She’s wearing that and it’s fine. Your dress looks great!” Later in the evening I saw my friend in the jumper crying, but she wouldn’t tell me why. It took me until the next summer, after I had moved away, to realize what I had done.

You see, I had been so concerned with making my one friend feel comfortable that I had inadvertently ostracized my other friend, and this is what I don't like about what's going on at Ravelry right now. On June 23, 2019, Ravelry announced a new policy silencing any support of President Trump, to include patterns, profile pictures, and discussions on their forums. I understand that they are a privately owned company and freedom of speech doesn't necessarily apply there, but to say that the purpose of this policy is to make their space feel more inclusive is no different than my desire to make one friend feel more comfortable at the expense of another's comfort.

Ravelry says that support of Trump is inherently support of white supremacy. What, then, am I to make of this? I, who am what Ravelry calls a BIPOC – a "black, indigenous, or people of color"? This term, by the way, is not something I like being used to describe me. It makes me feel like all that matters about me to others is the color of my skin. But I digress. No, I did not support Trump in the last election and I don't consider myself to be a Trump supporter now. But what about my dad, who is also a BIPOC and did vote for Trump in the last election? Is he now a white supremacist? How does he reconcile that with the color of his skin? What about other people who support Trump for policy reasons, religious reasons, or even "there just weren't any better options" reasons? I personally know many people who support Trump for various personal reasons, and none of them are what I would call white supremacists. They don't give a second thought to being friends with me, after all.

Ravelry says that conservative views are still welcome on their forums, and that even Trump supporters can stay as long as they don't talk about their support of Trump. How is this any different than the military's former don't-ask-don't-tell policy for LGBTQ+ serving in the military? We know that don't-ask-don't-tell led to many soldiers living in fear of being found out and discharged. Ravelry's policy is no different. What it really says is conservative views aren't welcome there; rather, they are welcome to leave.

As a fellow business owner, I support Ravelry's right to run their business in a way consistent with their moral values. And I'm sure they support my right as a customer to spend my money in a way consistent with my moral values. My values include open discourse, being challenged with new ideas, and loving my neighbor, even (especially!) if my neighbor disagrees with me – even if my neighbor harbors what I would consider to be hateful views, because as Martin Luther King Jr once said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
I choose love. And that's why I will no longer be supporting Ravelry.