Earrings Ignite Racial Tensions: Woman Told Coworker She Can’t Get Earrings Like Her Because She’s White

Some ethnic things are just not meant to be shared outside of a certain community. If you deny someone who wants such an object, should it be called racist?

In a recent post on Reddit, a woman who lived most of her life on a reservation met a white woman who took quite a fancy to her beaded earrings, which the women in her community never sold to outsiders. When she told this to the lady, she was accused of racism.

Her story

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She started by giving some background to her story: “I was born on res and lived there for most of my life until going to college in a nearby state. 

In my community, we have a number of talented women who are amazing at beading. They make some truly remarkable stuff. “

The caveat is that they will only sell or trade with other people from the community and possibly another tribal group. It’s just how they do it.”

They were a constant source of pride. 

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She had around 30 pairs of earrings, and she wore them with pride.

Almost every day, she wore a brick stitch earring of some kind to work. To her, it represented her roots. It brought her a lot of joy.

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Love those earrings of yours.

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At work, a co-worker fell in love with the earrings. She kept complimenting them and also examining them. 

She did not have any issues with her doing this, because she knew that many people liked those earrings.  

Gotta get me one of those.

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One day, she asked the woman where she got them and if the person selling them has an “Etsy” shop or something.

She pointed out that the lady was completely white, with no trace of her heritage. 

She was reluctant to tell her about the women in her community who made those earrings.

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Is there an Etsy account or something?

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She had no issues with a white person wearing earrings, but the women in her community were not going to sell them to outsiders.

Initially, she avoided the question by telling her co-worker that the person did not have an Etsy account. 

She kept pushing.

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However, the co-worker was persistent. She asked for the contact information of the seller, so she could commission a pair. 

The woman kept refusing, and told her that the person who made them was very particular about who she made them for. 

But the co-worker was simply not willing to let go, she told her “Well, let her make that decision!”.

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Go make them yourself. 

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The author got tired of her pushy coworker and told her to her face that the maker wouldn’t create or sell anything to a white person.

She added, “If she wants beaded earrings, she can learn to make them herself, or she can buy them from anyone else.”

That’s racist. 

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The coworker got upset and threatened to make a statement to HR about the author being racially discriminating.

Not sure if she had done something wrong, she decided to post the whole thing on Reddit.

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You were rude. 

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Nearly a thousand comments came on the post. Many people found both parties responsible for the issue.

“She shouldn’t have kept pressing. You were wrong because there are 1,000 different ways to tell someone that the people who make them exclusively sell to the people in their community won’t budge on that.”

Your answers were vague. 

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But others felt that the entire blame lay at the woman’s feet:

“Yes, she kept pressing, but isn’t that understandable since the author was giving very vague responses? 

Asking questions and trying to understand the situation by pressing isn’t the wrong thing to do.” 

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I would have done the same. 

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But there was also quite a bit of support for her position.

“(She) didn’t want to be responsible for siccing this annoying woman on these artisans, and I can see how it would be embarrassing for her to have the coworker reach out saying, 

“[she] gave me your information, so pretty, please make an exception for me!” I wouldn’t have passed the information along in her position either.”

You shouldn’t have done it in a workplace. 

Credits: DepositPhotos

People also warned the woman that the whole thing might end up being taken too strictly by HR.

“It’s a work environment, and telling someone, “They aren’t going to make you the earrings because you are white,” is a really easy way to bring up a workplace discrimination case against yourself.”.

Do you think the woman did the right thing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Earrings Ignite Racial Tensions: Woman Told Coworker She Can’t Get Earrings Like Her Because She’s White”

  1. This is not racism. Racism can only come into play if there is a power differential. Here, we have two coworkers. The White woman probably feels that she is being denied something that is her basic right to own. These types of feelings of entitlement/privilege are probably the reasons that the Native American jewelry makers deny outsiders the opportunity to own their jewelry.

  2. You worded it all wrong and made it offensive. A lot of people would have taken exception to what you said. It may have been true, but it was tactless and rude. You could have explained that the pattern is exclusive to members of your tribe. It isn’t sold to or should be worn by anyone else.

  3. “The author got tired of her pushy coworker and told her to her face that the maker wouldn’t create or sell anything to a white person. ” Lets change this, now many people now find it offensive. “The author got tired of her pushy co-worker and told her face to face that the make wouldn’t create or sell anything to a black person. ” Although, very blatantly obvious, I switch these types of things all the time when teaching students, and it is quite amazing how quickly it is found to be racist. Although I don’t personally believe it was racist, it’s all in the perception.


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