I have just taken inventory of every deck we currently stock, and those that are about to come in, so I can look at the state of representation in my purportedly ‘diverse’ shop.
Scope of this exercise
We currently stock 53 decks by 33 different creators, with four more decks created by five new-to-us creators confirmed to be arriving soon. (There are also other decks in the pipeline which we expect to be stocking in the near-ish future, but I had to draw a line somewhere.)
In this exercise I looked at decks currently on the shelves (inc out-of-stock-but-returning-soon decks) plus those ‘coming soon’ items that are confirmed. I did not include those where a positive conversation between me and the creator is happening, but an ‘order’ has not yet been confirmed.
I am counting individual creators rather than decks.
I have not included books or other items.
I have focused on creators’ sexual orientation, gender identity and ethnic identity, but also see the need to repeat this exercise to look at dis/ability, fat representation, class, and other marginalising factors.
In a small number of cases I have had to make assumptions about the identities these creators hold (e.g. assuming someone is straight, assuming someone identifies as ‘black’). This means there is a fair margin of error. However the aim is not to end up with a perfectly accurate dataset, but to get a snapshot, an overall picture of the state of QTPOC representation in my shop at this moment.
NOTE: These numbers cannot be added together. Many creators hold two or more intersecting identities and a couple tick every ‘box’. People of colour includes black, and LGBTQ+ includes trans, nonbinary and genderqueer.
None of these offer good enough representation – not in a general sense, and particularly not here in this shop where my vision is literally to be a hub for marginal representation within tarot.
So why are these numbers so low?
First and foremost is my white gaze. My ingrained white supremacy has me believing that my curatorial eye is ‘neutral’, I bring together decks that I ‘like’. In reality, I’m bringing together decks that I ‘recognise’, that are comfortable to my white gaze, meaning that I’ve not actually paused to give consideration to many POC-created decks. I have written about this elsewhere and am committed to challenging this, both through personal anti-racism work, and also through re-thinking how curatorial decisions are made.
Capacity is another issue. Not an excuse, but an issue. It is hard to convey quite how much work this shop takes, and how many hats I am continually swapping on and off. I have let the question of representation slip further down my priorities list (especially in the past year when I have been so focused on re-structuring this business in a legal/paperwork-y sense). No more. I am clarifying my vision for this shop so I can put it front-and-centre my decision-making, and will not let it slide again. Regards capacity, I am exploring what more I can hand over to Hele, to my accountant, to other paid service providers rather than assuming I have to do everything myself. My job is to clarify and hold my vision and to use it as a compass to steer this business, not to drop it because I can’t handle all the different jobs.
Cis/straight/white people are over-represented. As a micro business (it’s literally moi, in my spare room, with a freelance assistance working a few hours per week) I’ve held to the belief that I needed a selection of ‘bestseller’ decks to carry the ‘smaller, less well-known’ ones that are my passion. It’s (possibly) true that that was the case years ago when getting this store off the ground – selling those ‘cult’ decks brought in the money to invest in all the others. But I now question whether this shop still needs to lean on this income to survive. I think not, and I will be (slowly, gradually, experimentally) shifting this balance, letting go of some of our best-sellers to make room for an ever more diverse selection.
The wider ‘indie tarot landscape’ is similarly cis/white-dominated – of the many, many emails I get asking me if I’d stock this or that new deck, the vast (and I mean vast) majority are by apparently cis/white/straight creators. But this is slowly, slowly changing. I would like for Little Red Tarot to be an active driver of this change, rather than a passive recipient, and I am putting energy into a long-held dream project for doing this. This is not ready for announcing – I have an embarrassing track record of announcing plans and schemes only to drop them – but I will state my commitment here that I am actively working on it right now.
That’s all I have for now. This was a useful exercise in spotlighting the realities of representation here, snapping me out of the delusion that I run this ‘really diverse shop’, and focusing me on finding solutions at very different levels: personal/internal, structural, and within the community. Now I’m off to take this work further and build on what I’ve learned.