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We had a really rough week in babywearing, around the name of a wrap, around the design of a particular brand that theyâve carried and that I own. Iâm calling it â itâs a hot mess. I found the pace of this conversation concussive, the need to know what your thoughts are right now, to decide right now, act today, go go go go. I canât do this without reflection, and so I have reflected.
I need to make space for all the hearts I heard this week.
What is the concept of making space? This is the best description Iâve heard, offered by American Melissa Nightingale on her first maternity leave here in Canada:
âCanadians have an expression that I didnât know until I got here. They talk about âmaking spaceâ. And it took me awhile to get the hang of it but itâs basically leaving conversational room for the other person to express their ideas, to dissent, to disagree.â1
I’m making space for the things I wish had happened in this debate.
“This situation is deplorable. I have a quick tip for you. If you’re defending the oppressed POC by oppressing another POC, you’re doing it wrong.” — F.L.
The level of assholery heard on the internet during this entire discussion was unbelievable. I witnessed people:
There was very little grace in this discussion. My foremost recommendation in any sensitive discussion of this nature is for civility.
We must listen to all the voices.
“If I had to pick a single word from my childhood that meant ugly, uncivilized, unkempt, savage, or wrong, it was the word, âIndio.â Suddenly I had flashbacks to third-grade Cynthia who was trying on dance shoes and her dance teacher said loudly and to the class, âSi tienes pata de Indio, estos zapatos no te van a quedar y podemos ordenar otros.â (If you have Indio paws for feet, these [fine] shoes wonât fit you, but we have others we can order.)Â […]
AngÃ©lica de la Cruz:
“I am Mexican and I have never felt offended by the word Indio (Even when it is not the right term- as from origin- since the correct would be Indigenous) whatsoever when someone says I am an India referring to my indigenous background, from that point of view… I am an “India.”Â And guess what… I am proud to be!!! I am Mexican, indigenous background is my root!! When someone feels inspired by my culture I feel proud and honoured not stolen from. When someone brings so much passion and love to dedicate her life and company to a babywearing industry full of love and raising awareness for parents to have their babies in their arms I see just that: LOVE!!! How can something with so much meaning can be turned into a hate campaign??? Didymos spread the babywearing word to the world, many families are now carrying their babies close to their heart because of that and that is the important part of the equation. Why is anyone attacking someone when she is no longer here to express her idea? How can they speak about Mexicans when this was not started by one and is just now arriving to Mexico because of this campaign? We do not need strangers telling us how to feel…. Diamonds patterns have existed all over the world, the thread, the patterns, everything has been used all over… It is not a copy. I feel offended but by the recent description of the word Indio!!!! I wonder if they researched it in the dictionary?? It means nothing of what they describe. Those words are racist and offensive not reflective of Didymosâ pattern or name, not their design, not theway Didymos used and honoured the word for their inspiration!!! I do not see the mistake… I just do not feel offended nor stolen from.”
From Samantha Venn:
“Never a term of endearment. Misused. From The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective By Ramon A. Gutierrez “There are, however, other racial categories and skin color referents invoked among ethnic Mexicans to mark other phenotypical distinctions made among them. Racial categories such as negro (black), Chino) (Chinese, or Asian more generally), and Indio (Indian) are widely used by ethnic Mexicans to designate individuals with African, Asian, or Indian phenotypical features. It was very common in the Southern California world in which I was raised to find individuals with strong African, Asian, or Indian features who were referred to in these terms. they were generally ranked below a mestizos (because they were less white) and place near the bottom of the racial hierarchy. But it is very clear that the most derisive term and devalued racial category invoked was the term Indio. It signified the very bottom tier of the Mexican gradational racial hierarchy.”
From Nancy Arlette Rodriguez GarÃ¬a:
“Sorry for my poor English but…I’m Mexican and I have felt honoured since I knew this beautiful design was INSPIRED by my Culture. Please, don’t let negative people destroy all the love that Didymos has created through your work. Please keep the name! I feel proud to be a reference in the babywearing world. I’m pretty sure that the Mexican moms that have an Indio like me, have never felt offended for the name. I’m sorry you are facing this disgusting campaign.”
From Allanna Robinson:
“I don’t doubt Erica Hoffman did think it was a term of endearment- there’s been a few people who’ve said their family uses it as an endearment, it’s very possible she met ONE person who she heard use it as an endearment, went back to Germany, and made her wrap without consulting anyone else.”
To me LISTENING is about hearing about all the familiar and unfamiliar things. The comfortable and the extremely uncomfortable. To not decide right away, to occasionally be at the consensus point, to give relationships, connections and experiences the time to evolve. Many have very negative experiences with the word Indio, it brings flashes of pain, experiences they should not revisit ever.
But not everyoneâs experience with Indio is negative. Does that mean the name should have remained? Some Mexicans felt empowered by it and through this mess only one voice is being heard. I want a place where people can share their experiences. This was no debate in my mind’s eye, but one thing repeated over and over again. I have friends on both sides of this and I have been listening to all of them and itâs been hard as hell.
If someone tells me it means something particular to them, that is their truth. Can we not hold space to at least listen?Â We NEED to listen, and respect the voices who live in Mexico and honour them in their place in this living active culture.
To my dear friends who felt empowered by this carrier, who felt valued. I understand, but too many were hurt by it and I am sorry that no one got a chance to hear you. There was a language barrier, there were many whose experiences were negative, this happened so quickly from your perspective that you also must still be reeling.
The word Indio has been sullied throughout this conversation. In the English language, its primary meaning is now only that of a racial slur, when it has much greater depth than that. It was also being used as a word of empowerment among some latino Americans to take back and undo the negative, this work has been put back years.3
However, this word has caused pain and since that pain needs to also be recognized, it must be changed.
This did happen. Didy apologized and the wrap now has a new name.
From the Didymos â Das Babytragetuch facebook page, published November 2, 2016:
“Dear online community,
We are writing to inform you all about a change that is happening here at DIDYMOS. We have thought long and hard, have researched extensively and as a result, are issuing the following statement.
It is a sad day when a term of endearment changes with the times to be used as a racial or derogatory slur. We at DIDYMOS have always known the word âIndioâ as a term of endearment but since there is now a negative association with the word for some people, this offensive meaning is not in keeping with our company philosophy and the love we wish to spread. As a result, effective immediately, we have decided to move forward and substitute the name âIndioâ for a new name. This new name will be announced soon.
The pattern itself was a labour of love from our company founder, mother and role model, Erika Hoffmann, whose life goal was for parents to keep their babies close. It is a montage of historical weaves inspired by the first shawl Mrs. Hoffmann was given by friends and by classic weaving patterns or European tradition. The final pattern was achieved through the collaborative efforts of Erika Hoffmann herself and the master weavers at the mill in Germany, almost 45 years ago, using the weaving techniques and technologies readily available at the time.
This change will take some time to put into effect but we are working hard on it all. We apologise to anyone who was hurt by our use of the word âIndioâ. We very much would like to thank those who have been in close contact with us from all around the world, especially from within America, discussing this matter quite intently these past days and weeks.”
This one is questionably the very hardest thing to do. To acknowledge and believe it when someone says this word was ugly to them. To believe when someone says, âI am proud to be Indioâ and are complemented by the carrier.
Cristi Adams, an Aboriginal Canadian:
“Are you even a poc? As an aboriginal what I’m tired of is white social justice warriors speaking louder than the folks in question. Part of being an ally is not speaking louder than the people impacted. So sick of dealing with that as a POC who has run many, many anti racism and social justice boards.Â To take over a fight that isn’t yours and run with it and be louder than those impacted and to tell the people impacted that they are wrong, that is not recognizing your own privilege either.Â I’m aboriginal, and I’ve seen this time and time again. It is one thing to be supportive it is quite another to turn it into a situation that revolves around you. Good on Didy for recognizing the slur and changing the name. Good on Didy for being inspired, not stealing, and creating a beautiful wrap with input from the community.
—-Signed – an aboriginal with a didy wrap conversion, who loves that the babywearing community is about LOVE and beauty and not all this anger. Also part of a strong kick ass POC community who are more than capable of speaking for themselves.”
In Canada, we have a system of taking a very deep look at troubling issues that need to be explored, our beloved Royal Commissions, our Task Forces, our Inquiries. These investigations are a long, gory process that requires us to pull everything out into the open and we hear from every person affected on the issue. These investigations make us deeply uncomfortable, and they are supposed to. More than two decades ago, it started with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Then we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Currently, we have the Inquiry into Murdered Missing Indigenous Women. Trust me when I say, the light these investigations shine into our world here in Canada is sometimes incredibly ugly. But it is important. For all the voices need to be heard.4
Through this process, we have learned how Canadian Indigenous people have had their culture suppressed, stolen, families broken, and belong to a system that ignores their voices. Most importantly of all, they have not been validated.
During the Babywearing in Canada Conference, we had the privilege of hearing from Stephanie George, an Aboriginal midwife and IBCLC. When asked by an audience member listening abroad in the United States, âWhat can we do?â her answer was this: âAsk them.â
Her answer was not to go in with a solution, not to talk for them, not to make the decisions on their behalf. Indigenous Peoples have had enough of others talking for them.
What have my Indigenous friends living in Mexico told me?
Directly from AngÃ©lica: “We do not need strangers telling us how to feel….”
They understand the origins of the wrap. They can talk about its weave, its similarities, its differences.
My role in this as an ally? It is to stand by them. Iâm keeping my Didymos wraps, what are you doing with yours?
1. Melissa continues as follows: “As far as I know, Americans donât have an equivalent cultural concept. As a group, we are quick to dissent, vocal when we disagree, and not shy about expressing ourselves.” Read the rest of her piece here.â©
2. Cynthia Soliz shared her experience here. â©
3. More definitions for Indio here. â©
4. More about Royal Commissions, and other Canadiana (including our quirks) located here.â©
5. All other quotes were pulled from the public Didymos announcement on their Facebook business page. See the post hereâ©