Three weeks ago, Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd. Outrage over his death sparked protests around Minneapolis and throughout the world. As a resident of Minneapolis, it feels like change is really happening. It’s up to us to make sure change happens, to stay vigilant and to work toward a better, more equitable society. My lot in life is a result of privilege, and I need to do more to help those who haven’t been afforded the same chances.
So what does this have to do with woodworking? That’s a great question. As a company invested in inspiring and supporting makers, we cannot be OK with the status quo. You know just how powerful and fulfilling woodworking can be, and we want to empower everyone to be afforded the opportunity to have that same feeling. We want to teach and inspire all.
As woodworkers, we’re skilled at building things, fixing things, making things better. Do you need a place to sit? Here, I made a chair. Are your dovetails a little gappy? That’s no problem. Some thin wedges, maybe a little glue and sawdust, and they look much better. It’s time to help fix our society.
If you look through the pages of Popular Woodworking
(or any woodworking magazine)*, you’ll see mostly* white hands and faces in the pictures. You’ll likely also see almost* all men. This lack of diversity is unacceptable. And we’re going to change it.
How’d we get here? Research indicates most of our readers (hobby woodworkers) got into woodworking as a result of owning a home. You buy tools to fix stuff around the house, and then you wonder what else you can make with them.
Looking at the demographics of Minneapolis (where I recently also bought a home), there are some pretty clear lines between race and homeownership. Minneapolis has a history of redlining. When they built the interstate, I-94 destroyed the historically black Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. Once redlining had concentrated minorities in certain sections of the city, I-94 cut North Minneapolis off from its adjacent neighborhoods. Similar stories have played out across the state and the country.
This leads to the state of Minnesota today, where only 25% of the state’s black population owns a home, versus about 75% of the state’s white population. (As a whole, about 65% of people living in Minnesota own their homes.) Homeownership is the primary way generational wealth is built. This is just one example of systemic racism that is present at all levels of American society.
I don’t believe Popular Woodworking can single-handedly change that, but it can be one of many voices working toward a more just world. It can be a voice that listens more, that owns up to its faults, that encourages its audience to change for the better.
With the full support of our parent company, Active Interest Media, we’re going to seek out and feature more makers of color online and in our magazine. We’re going to feature some projects for people that aren’t homeowners. We’re going to be actively anti-racist. We’re going to do our best to help create the world we want to live in.
But there are more urgent needs too, right now. And to that end, I’m raising money for Minneapolis’s Northside Funders Group to help rebuild North Minneapolis, and I’m matching donations up to a total of $1000 (out of my own pocket) through the end of June. Make your donation here. Forward me your email receipt from your donation (send to firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll match it (up to a total of $1000). I’ll update this post if we meet that goal.
And please, reach out to let us know how we’re doing, if there are makers we should work with or if there are things we can do better. I know we won’t get everything right, but it’s more important to make progress and fix mistakes than to wait for the perfect opportunity. My email address is email@example.com. I want to hear from you.
Update: We met our $1000 goal on Sunday evening 6/21/2020. I made my $1000 matching donation this morning (6/22/2020). Thank you for your support!
*Language and phrasing is important – when I initially wrote this, a few readers rightfully pointed out that by hedging words and looping in all woodworking magazines, I was deflecting responsibility from what we’ve done in the past. In that spirit, I’ve made the changes and am working each day to be better in supporting more positive change regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.