Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Inclusion by Exclusion

In June of this year, the popular knitting website Ravelry banned support of U.S. president Donald Trump from the platform with the following statement:

“We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy.”

Interesting. It’s inclusion by exclusion. And it’s trending; the gaming forum RPG.net had previously banned expressions of support for the president in October 2018, explicitly referring to his “open white supremacy” as “evil”.

Binary Thinking

I’m not looking to debate the rights and wrongs of President Trump’s administration, but we can hardly fail to observe that what is increasingly being offered to the American people is a binary choice between full capitulation to the PC narrative or else being labelled card-carrying members of a nascent Fourth Reich. Those are two pretty poor alternatives.

In any case, approval — even carefully qualified approval — of a sitting president is now being considered tantamount to open support for white supremacy. That’s worth a little reflection.

So let’s simply run some actual numbers, leaving aside all the hyperbole and rhetoric.

On the low end, Gallup says President Trump currently has the support of 41% of Americans, exactly equal to support for former president Barack Obama at the same point in his presidency. On the high end, Zogby has him at 51% as of August 19.

Either way, that’s an awful lot of fellow Americans to tar with the “white supremacist” brush.

My Fellow Americans ...

Then there is the rather important question of exactly what sort of fellow Americans we are talking about. After all, not all those who approve of President Trump’s performance are white.

The ethnic makeup of the U.S. population is generally broken down into what appear to me to be excessively broad and poorly-defined categories, but I am not going to try to reinvent the wheel for the sake of a blog post. It is currently something like 18% Hispanic, 12% Black, 6% Asian, 3% “mixed”, 1% Native American and 61% “white”. Sticking with those same broad categories, it is currently estimated that 23%-29% of Hispanics support the president, along with 16-35% of Blacks, 18-27% of Asians, and up to 37% of Native Americans.

Are the policymakers at Ravelry and RPG really telling us that the 7-11% of Americans who vocally support President Trump as members of an ethnic minority are all pushing an agenda of flagrant white supremacy? Really? Why on earth would they do that? And if the president’s ethnic supporters have reasons other than white supremacy to support him, then surely it is reasonable to suppose that some of the many whites who support the president are equally uninterested in race-based dominance. Some of them have more pressing concerns. Try abortion, for one.

Excluding the Majority

Even odder, assuming both the ethnicity and political preferences of Ravelry users break down along the same lines as the U.S. population more generally, Ravelry is choosing to alienate a minimum of 41% of its user base (including gay men) in order to virtue signal its unwillingness to offend an absolute maximum of 32% of its users. That cannot be called “inclusive” by any definition. Nor is it rational. The policy excludes far more Americans than it purports to accommodate. It’s actually conceivable fewer real people would be “triggered” if Ravelry banned expressions of support for Democrats instead.

It’s fair to ask whether this policy actually has anything to do with inclusion at all.

On the other hand, it would be difficult for anyone to quibble about a policy that says something like “We don’t talk about politics at all here. It’s divisive, and we’re a tight-knit community.” Fine and dandy, fair and reasonable. But that is not at all what’s happening.

By Truthful Speech ...

What has any of this to do with Christians? Good question. Well, for one, servants of Christ are to be truthful in our speech. That doesn’t mean we are always 100% correct in everything that we say, but it does mean that we say what we believe to be true, and that we do not pretend to approve of things we don’t. That said, it also doesn’t mean we ought to be garrulous, or that it is wise or noble to blurt out everything we think.

In fact, I try very hard to keep my political opinions to myself in the workplace. Sometimes that involves stuffing my knuckles in my mouth, because politics are an all-too-regular subject of conversation. On a recent placement, a co-worker trash-talked the U.S. president for a good ten minutes, finishing almost every clueless recitation of a CNN talking point with “Don’t you think?” and “Isn’t that just idiotic?” I just kept banging away on my keyboard, and eventually she gave it up. But the fact that I did not vocally agree with her was not lost on her. She began to mutter about what she had concluded were my obvious political leanings.

See the problem?

Fights Worth Having

Christians are also to be people who promote reconciliation. Blessed are the peacemakers. Some fights are definitely not worth having. They solve nothing, and merely alienate people. Christians have bigger fish to fry than the culture wars. If you can let a false statement slide without egregiously misrepresenting your beliefs, I say let it slide. But is it really promoting peace to quietly accede to the slander of almost half the American people? Is it promoting truth to concede the brazen redefinition of the English language? I have difficulty with that.

Ultimately, you can only stay out of a fight to the extent people will let you stay out and, increasingly, they are determined not to let you. When the venue is a knitting website, hey, no big deal. We can talk about knitting elsewhere.

When the venue is your workplace, a Christian response that you can make in good conscience is something to seriously think about. Preferably before it happens to you.


  1. Why don't you append this blog to the Ravelry website? Or you don't know how to knit 8-)?