Self-serving white myopia

President* Trump,

Laura just let me know that your goons are here in Seattle and about a minute later the Seattle Times sent a breaking news alert email telling folks that the police declared that protestors in Capital Hill (home of the former CHOP) are rioting, which allows police to use flash-bang grenades against the crowd. Apparently they’ve also used tear gas even though the City Council voted unanimously to ban it starting tomorrow and since Federal Judge James Robart issued a temporary restraining order against the tear gas ban and the use of blast balls, they’ll be able to keep using those violent crowd control tools for the foreseeable future. Robart said he was staying the ban because he thought it would escalate police violence against protestors if they couldn’t shoot them with blast balls and choke them with tear gas. Hmm, that’s some interesting logic. Sure seems convenient for the police to get to continue to use things that are likely to hurt lots of people at once rather than figure out how to stop being a f*cking occupying force in our neighborhoods of color.

It looks like the property damage the police referenced to justify the riot declaration was at the construction site of the new juvenile detention facility, which the Black community and allies fought hard to block several years ago but that the city decided to build anyway. So get this – it wasn’t random property destruction, it was targeted at the future building that no one in the community wanted and that promises to do an even better job of warehousing and disrupting/destroying the lives of Black and brown children in our area.

People do things for reasons.

I know, duh. But it’s so easy for white people to ‘tsk, ‘tsk over “out of control hordes” of Black and brown people who’re “destroying their own neighborhoods” when we white people stay at a comfortable remove and don’t ask what the historical and current context is and what message is being sent. It serves us (white people) to not ask those questions and so it doesn’t even occur to us to pause at all – we assume the worst of the people of color and not of the situations they are resisting.

I’m saying all this because I did this just now with this situation. I saw the headline about rioting and property destruction and felt frustrated and sad that the protest didn’t just stay peaceful. I’m not aware of having been overtly judgmental about individuals but it didn’t occur to me at all that there might be a specific problematic site or structure that was selectively targeted until I read the Tweets at the end of the article pointing out that it was a trailer on the new detention center construction site that was set on fire.

Frankly, having this information changes how I feel about the property destruction. Yes, I know it’s unlikely to derail the construction long-term in and of itself, but it might get our Mayor’s attention in a way that could bring her into conversation with BLM leaders about how a huge new youth detention center in the middle of our historically Black neighborhood is auguring in systems of oppression and is not what is needed. At all.

Seriously, can you imagine how oppressive it would be if you were a young Black or brown person who has to go by the damn detention center every single day on your way to school (when school can happen in person again, a related topic for another day) knowing that your older brother or sister or neighbor down the street was sent there and that it may well be in your future too. White youth do not ever have to deal with this sort of literal structural threat looming over their everyday lives. So I say burn it down. Now.

May we all be safe from white self-serving myopia.
May we be willing to compassionately consider contexts.
May we be strong enough to stop building prisons to control Black and brown communities.
May we accept that overturning our profoundly racist systems is not without risk.

Tracy Simpson

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