A few months ago, I began working with Brown Babes Rep Too. I decided to work with them because I have been going through a personal antiracist journey and I was struggling with how to bring antiracism into my company and how to create inclusive spaces within the H+S brand.
"Brown Babes Rep too is a collective made of women who are raising children of color and are dedicated to ensuring inclusiveness in the handmade & small shop community. We strive for inclusiveness through anti-racism education for small brands, diverse representation on brand sites and providing an inclusive community where influencers of color can work with brands that represent them." - Brown Babes Rep Too
They encouraged me to share my personal anti-racism journey. At first, I was like, “Wait, what? I’m not supposed to center myself!” but they explained to me that this is MY company, and I should share why antiracism is so important to me and therefore Holley + Sage. The following is very personal, but I believe in honesty and being real, so here we go.
I would say my journey started a little after September 1, 2016, which is the date of the 49ers game where Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem.
Before we go there, I want to take you back a little to how I was raised and where I come from. I was raised in Pensacola, Florida. If you don’t know anything about Pensacola, it’s a military/fishing town on the gulf coast sitting right under Alabama. It’s pretty much Alabama. I was raised with the very common white mentality that everyone is equal, we don’t see color, we all have the same opportunities if we just work hard enough, etc. But also, the “bless their hearts”, manners are everything, be kind (to people’s faces, but not when they aren’t in the room). All this to say, I was racist without knowing I was racist.
Pause – if you are reading this and thinking, how is that racist? Please stay, please learn but also please hold your tongue (keyboards) while processing the information.
I originally attended FSU for 1.5 years before I transferred to art school in San Francisco. I remember being shocked that there was a Black Yearbook at FSU. “Why do Black people need their own yearbook? There isn’t a white yearbook.” Blah, blah, blah. Ignorant white privileged girl shit.
So continue on, I moved to San Francisco, went through a culture shock, became a democrat (actually I think I was technically unaffiliated, but I voted for Obama, the second term, not the first, I didn’t move to San Francisco until 2009) But through all that political change I think my views on racism and race in America were pretty much the same. Which is why I bring it up - Antiracism is not political.
In 2014 I moved to Charlotte, NC where H+S began.
So now we arrive in 2016 and Colin Kaepernick takes a knee. Black Lives Matter is all anyone is talking about and for some of us, the first we were even hearing about it. I remember that phrase somehow insulting me in a way. Like why don’t I matter? Isn’t saying Black Lives Matter, saying other lives don’t matter. I was obviously confused and unaware. I know that now.
So one night shortly after, my husband and I had a very long talk. I expressed what I was feeling and somehow he explained it to me in a way that made sense or at least got me to start thinking differently. No one is saying white people don't matter, being Black in this country (and other countries) is not the same as being white. It is statistical proven that being Black or Indigenous in this country is more dangerous than being white, just because of the color of your skin. Yes, white people have hardships. I've had plenty, but I've also had plenty of opportunities granted to me because of my whiteness and what that means in America. There is so much more to this obviously but this post is not for that.
Another thing we talked about that night was how I was so confused as to why he had to kneel, like what difference did it make? My husband said something along the lines of, well if it didn’t make a difference, then why are we all talking about it? Kaepernick needed to do something "shocking" to get us to listen.
Have you ever had your kids just not listen to you? You tell them to do the same thing over and over again and they just don’t do it, so you sort of “lose it” and all calmness goes out the window? Yeah, it’s frustrating when people don’t listen to you, and you are just trying to tell them something painstakingly obvious. Sometimes you must take “drastic” measures. You also notice how your kids stop what they are doing and listen. Obviously, I don’t have kids old enough to have had this personal experience, but I remember it happening to me as a kid and I’ve seen it in many other situations (a few weeks ago my sister lost it on my mom because she’d told her the same thing a million times and she just wasn’t listening). Which is why understanding tone policing is so important. WE WERE/ARE NOT LISTENING!! Sometimes the only way to get people to listen is to disrupt the current train of existence.
So, from that night on I started listening. I watched documentaries (13th came out a few weeks later – if you haven’t seen this, please watch it), I read books, I took myself out of my all-white reality. I have been through many ups and downs: guilt, self-loathing, forgiveness, walking away, coming back.
Seeing the world for what it really is, instead of the illusion I was living in, is not easy. There have been times, months even, where it’s just too much and I’d push it way back in my brain. As a white woman, it is so easy to step away. We can go into our worlds and pretend it’s not happening. I did a lot of this between 2017 and 2020. But the truth is, it is happening. Every single day. And if we ignore it, we are part of the problem.
When George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were murdered last year, it returned to the forefront of my mind. It also seemed like the whole country was now paying attention and ready to learn and change.
I really began to immerse myself in learning and unlearning. I realized my discomfort is nothing compared to the reality of Black and non-white people in America. Also lying at the end of discomfort is growth and strength. Strength needed to fight racism.
Antiracism is not political; it is not religious. It is fighting for humanity and a world where we recognize and dismantle the oppressive systems that have been built for generations that are literally killing people. It is fighting for a world where we can celebrate our differences but also realize at our core we are all human. I was born into a world where I have more opportunity and quite frankly a better chance at staying alive because of the color of my skin. I’m choosing to use that opportunity to fight for a world where the social construct of race does not determine one's starting place, nor threaten their very existence in life.
So, I will continue sharing the things I learn. I will continue striving to make H+S spaces safe for BIPOC and all WOC. And most of all, I will continue working on myself and my own internal biases.