I've been browsing about the Etsy forums tonight, as I do most nights, and I came upon a seller asking if anyone knew of a way to determine how many African-American sellers there were on Etsy. They had no underlying reason for asking; they were just curious. I was kind of surprised to see how many of the responses were snippy at best and at worst, rather hostile. So I added a comment expressing my own feelings:
"On a site like Etsy - and the arts and crafts world in general - I'd say, the more diversity, the better. So I think an honest curiosity about Etsy's diversity shouldn't be seen as a bad thing.
I respect the intentions of people who say they are colorblind, but I've often found that the word can mean that they are blind to any influence race might have on any given thing - good or bad. Race does not matter on a resume; it does not matter when it comes to being an Etsy seller. It is often, however, a factor in an individual's self-expression, and thus can have an influence on the art that that individual creates. And the diversity of self-expression that comes from racial diversity is not a bad thing."
As you can see from the photos on this blog, I am white. Besides that, I live in the South, where race is an even more sensitive subject than it is anywhere else the US. So I understand where the strong feelings are coming from. For a lot of people, it seems like race is something you just can't talk about - a "don't go there" subject, as if not talking about it will make all the problems go away. But isn't it just the opposite? If we don't allow open and honest conversation on tough issues like race, how are we ever going to find a resolution to the problems that plague our cultures and societies? Our world?
And does anything associated with race have to be negative? Does acceptance of all people mean we all have to be "colorblind"? Is it wrong to be simply curious how many African-Americans there are on Etsy? Can't we treat all human beings equally, show them tolerance and acceptance, while appreciating the beauty of their diversity of experience and, yes, race?