Monday, April 17, 2017

Seattle Disgraced Itself Last Saturday

And by Seattle, I mean the liberal, so-called progressive and largely white residents of the Seattle area who attended the city's Tax Day March on the 15th. The sea of white, middle-aged faces I saw upon arrival was my first hint that I should have saved my energy for the Black Lives Matter protest that was to take place later that day, but I was already there and there was a big inflatable chicken with Trump hair.

I hadn't seen an official schedule for the march but I'd assumed there would be speakers, as there usually are at things like this, and that said speakers would speak for about a half an hour to an hour at most. Well, things got started a little late, and as time went on it became clear that the organizers had invited too many speakers and/or had not vetted their speech lengths. As the speaker time approached an hour and a half, people began to get restless. They started chanting "march!" in small groups within the crowd, and I was with them when an incredible, moving speech by Pramila Jayapal was followed by the first male speaker of the rally.

But hell, I've never organized any kind of march or protest before, and I'm sure it's a ton of work. So I'm not gonna judge. The real problem came when, after a lengthy and meandering speech by someone who was promised to be the last speaker, the host came on stage and asked that people tolerate a few words by one last group of people representing the movement to block the new youth jail being built in Seattle. People began booing at this and my heart immediately sank. Then, as a group of young people of color walked up to the mic, hundreds of white protesters started walking away.

Firstly, I don't know what happened with the organizers and these final speakers. Had they been forgotten? Or did the organizers not reach out to them at all and so they had to approach them and demand space to speak? Either way, that is a bad fucking move on the organizer's part. Well done inviting so many women, many of them women of color, to speak. But failing to include or forgetting about such a diverse group that's fighting an issue that has such a deep impact on youth of color in the community is shameful.

But not as shameful as all of my fellow white individuals who decided that they couldn't wait another couple minutes to listen to the group of brown people coming up on stage about something that's killing them and destroying their futures, and instead turning their back on them and leaving in droves. I stood gaping at them, trying to find words, and failing, as they split off from the rest of us and started marching on their own.

And now they're on the Seattle Tax Day March Facebook page saying that these youths are the ones who were "divisive" at that rally. Fuck off.

And when a young woman of color from the anti-youth jail group got up to the mic and called out the white protesters walking away, saying "what are you doing," people booed her. And when another went up to the mic and started condemning the transphobic pussy hats, more booing from the cis white crowd.

I really shouldn't be surprised, but I am deeply disappointed and disgusted. It was another disgraceful display of the white, middle-class liberal racism, transphobia, and privileged refusal to listen and examine one's harmful behaviors and attitudes that is so common in Seattle. And another reason for me to be suspicious of anyone who self-identifies as liberal.

After that, I marched for a little bit, and then had to go run back to my car to feed the meter (because I didn't think the whole thing would take so long). But by the time I got that done I was so dejected by what had happened, I didn't want to march with them. I met up with some friends instead, and a migraine was the last signal that I should not have attended at all. I had to go home and missed the BLM rally entirely.

I'm terrible at face-to-face confrontation but I'm good at writing. And so I'm telling you now, Seattle. You made me feel sick to my stomach last Saturday, and I'm a white person. So I'm 100% certain that the people of color you literally turned your backs on that day feel 1,000% worse about what happened and about you. You are part of the problem. You are dividing what could be a huge progressive community with your privileged impatience, your defensiveness, and your refusal to listen to the people most impacted by the current administration.

Shame on you. Either pledge to be better or stay at home. Your divisiveness will kill us all.

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