Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Fool Me Once

When I read the below editorial piece I had to agree wholeheartedly.  Seattle has some type of nirvana belief that has dominated the landscape of Sound and Mountains all my life.  I lived there most of my life and the only place that does not have any of that is here in Jersey City.  There are racists here, idiots here, foreign born, white folks, brown folks, black folks, more languages than even I recognize and in turn we don't all get along but we get along enough to prove that over the last few weeks as unrest rose, we chose to be vocal but civil and that is the point.  A five minute train ride and I am in Newark a city plagued with massive problems and a history of going down with flames and yet they too rose which means something when even just a little voice can add to a larger one to drown out the hate.

I did not realize I was in fact a Racist until I went to Nashville and then as I sat there horrified at what I witnessed, experienced and felt it was then I knew it was all to familiar. I do want to say that the focus on Religion there is an additional issue that further contributes to many, as in many of the problems that plague that city in ways Seattle has managed to avoid.  But besides that the two cities could be bookend as Nashville aspires to be Seattle and Seattle aspired to be San Francisco, the two cities never wore their monikers well and still don't.

Seattle elected the name, The Emerald City, reference to the faux city of Oz or in fact the idea that we were so green due to the rain we were shiny as the jewel itself. Either/or the reality is that again it shows that we like to create a false face like the city of Oz run by a sad little man behind a curtain who had none of the powers and terror that Dorothy and her motley crew believed.  And that defines the people who migrated there over the years as they were in search of the elusive magic and jewels that they believed would give them the persona they identified with.   And today that is not just Billionaire but that is Binary, Cisgendered, Liberal, Gay, whatever you choose. And the idea that it is live and let live is ludicrous as Capitol Hill where CHOP/CHAZ (proving that even picking a name is a very Seattle thing) is located is the most gentrified and expensive area in the city itself and none of those people could afford to live in any of the apartments that align the very streets they are camped out in. And largely I suspect most have been doing so long before the zone was created.  For if there is one thing Seattle shares with San Francisco is an immense homeless problem.   And it is a problem that existed for decades long before the Bezos ship sailed into the Port of Seattle.

Seattle was working class and union organized. There was strong philanthropic roots and even characters that defined the Seattle persona but that too was a false hold as the KBO movement (Keep the Bastards Out) firmly established the us against all the "others" who wanted to live in the city of Emeralds.   The Seattle Freeze became a badge of honor and it marks the character and quality of life in that city that if anyone questions or comments on is immediately further denigrated or ostracized and the joke is that few if any are in fact actual born and raised Seattleites as over 60% of the population is from elsewhere and that any one born and raised there doesn't give a flying fuck as they have theirs and that is what matters. I have mine is a motto my friends that should be the motto of the United States, as that is the state of our country today. Austin has its keep it weird mantra,  and that has not been true for decades either, as when I lived there it was neither weird nor much different than Portland, their sister city in concept.  A city that is so white and so racist its history speaks for itself.  But in today's politicized world we believe that being "liberal" means one is not racist.   So wrong.  The only place that lives up to its hype or its truth as we like to say is Massachusetts. Masshole is a name well deserved and again that many long term famous Liberals came from that state is that they are outliers, even Elizabeth Warren is not from there, she just lives there.  Point proven.   Again look to their history over race and the Busing issues in the 70s.  Then the scandal of the Catholic Church the past decade.  Yeah, they are trash bags there in ways that again make me laugh.  A city that revolves around Harvard and where half the people there could never set foot inside their racist legacy walls.

And that brings me to Nashville. I have never once felt it was anything but what it was, a shithole.  And it was after walking into their public schools I knew immediately there was  massive problem. Then a book came out, Making the Unequal Metropolis, and its history about their schools and segregation that confirmed the reality that in the South education is for the rich and the rest can well go fuck themselves.  I heard it openly and it was public the racism, the loathing for the "outsider" and of course the arrogance that accompanies that level of rage and hate.  It was across the board regardless of color and it was the most divisive city I have ever lived in or visited in my entire life.  And then I read, How to be an Anti Racist, and went oh yeah I get it.   The idea is that we all carry conceptions, biases and beliefs that we act upon either directly or subliminally that affect our perceptions and attitudes about the "other."  And we all do it.  We all hate anyone who is not like us despite the fact that we may share many commonalities we seize upon the most obvious, the most extrinsic and in turn we embrace that as a way of validating our "beliefs."

I looked at the schools in Seattle and realized how so bad they were it explains why I never went back to full time Teaching. I really hated being a part of it.  I never verbalized it out loud nor cared enough to actually do anything but try to keep my head above water.  You can pick and choose schools so I quit going to the troubled ones, the Rainier Beaches, the Aki Kurose's and the rest of them that had so many issues, from turnover of Principals and Staff to massive discipline and other issues that plagued the district.  There was a Native American school and it closed, there was an African American school closed, Alternative schools with a independent streak closed.  All of them run by faces of color who were committed or just misguided but wanted to try, but they had no political clout.   Superintendents who were hired and fired, quit and moved on.  Teachers who taught about Social Justice, disciplined or fired. Problems with field trips from sexual abuse to other issues, and on and on and on.   I never worked for a school that had not had a vote of no confidence regarding the Principal, and I never worked or knew of one that was capable. They were deck chairs on the Titantic, and the ones that were good were at high achievement schools, aka, white.

 Two local bloggers exposed many of the problems and they too were harassed and goaded to finally shut shop. True they were very Seattle in that you either agreed with them or did not and if not you were ostracized and shamed, it is the liberal version of sheep,   but they were lauded and placed on magazine covers; however, when one attempted to get elected to the School Board openings it did not happen as that is the last person they want on a board. Curmudgeons are popular in the press there but not in any position of influence and that goes across the boards from the City to the County, they elect and place people regardless of their race or gender or sexual identity who quickly tow the line to prove that they are doing well for the community, when all they are doing is maintaining the status quo. And as they did that they did that with Mayors in the same way and there have been few who ever made it past the state line for importance of note. That is not the Seattle  persona, you never do more than what you said you would and what more importantly given permission to do.  Anyone who does  try to do more are worried in reality about their agenda than that of the those they represent, as you will see in the article below. That is Seattle and that is everywhere. I got mine.

I used to think something was very wrong with me and in turn I became a loner and isolated myself from others to avoid this shit.  I occasionally emerged and then quickly realized that I was not safe and in turn I got mine was the mantra I had to live by.  I had to protect myself at all costs and to finally land in New Jersey with a pandemic on my ass and civil unrest just above it I knew I was finally safe.  Funny how that worked out as I feel safer here dealing with the idiots here than I ever did in Seattle or Nashville. Denial does not to seem to be a problem here it is out there with every other person who is just doing their best to make it work however they choose.  Politicians come and go here, corruption is everywhere and yet look to Camden,  a city that disbanded its Police a decade ago. Funny how that worked out and it is not perfect but its better than it was.  It all happens here but in oblivion, that is New Jersey, an afterthought.  It is a perfect fit for me.  It is the butt of the joke it is the land of the Shore and of the failed Trump casinos, of loudmouths and of the Sopranos and it is all here and very much just a part of a large state that has it all.  Let's not tell anyone.

Seattle is a shithole like Nashville and that Nashville aspires to be it, I have news for you, you are just not as well educated and more religious but you worship the same thing, being rich and white.


Don’t Be Fooled by Seattle’s Police-Free Zone

The city looks progressive but has a history of racism and exclusion. This could be a turning point.

By Margaret O’Mara
Contributing Opinion Writer
The New York Times
June 24, 2020

SEATTLE — Seattle’s police-free “autonomous zone” is coming to an end.

After two largely peaceful weeks, shootings over the last several days near the Capitol Hill Organized Protest area, CHOP for short, left a 19-year-old man dead and three others wounded. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Monday that the city would retake the abandoned police precinct at the heart of the zone and wind down the occupation.

In its brief life, CHOP has reinforced Seattle’s reputation as a quirky left-coast bastion of strong coffee and strong progressive politics. Many white Seattleites like to think of their city that way too. But Seattle’s progressive appearance is deceiving.

It is a city and region with a long history of racism, of violent marginalization, and of pushing back against more radical movements for social change. It is, in short, much like the rest of America.

The global protests of the last few weeks have rightly generated the feeling that the world is at a turning point on redressing racial inequities. This moment has great possibilities, but the history of Seattle and other seemingly progressive places should make us realize that change is not that simple.

A 2008 report found that black people make up less than 10 percent of Seattle’s population but well over half of the drug-related arrests. The police department was placed under federal oversight in 2011 after incidents of excessive use of force on nonwhite residents. The public schools here are more segregated than they were three decades ago. Less than three weeks ago, the police sprayed protesters with tear gas on the same streets now given over to the teach-ins and community gardens of CHOP.

There is, to be sure, a radical streak in the city’s history. In 1919, Seattle shut down for five days as 60,000 unionized workers walked off the job in a general strike. In the 1930s, the Communist Party was so ascendant here that James Farley, a close adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, said that “there are 47 states in the Union, and the Soviet of Washington.”

Huge anti-globalization marches greeted delegates to the World Trade Organization meeting here in 1999, causing a partial shutdown of the conference and such a ferociously violent police response that the chief was forced to retire.

But these movements often have been squelched by pushback from political leaders, even those who once were allies. Mayor Ole Hanson, who led Seattle during the 1919 general strike, once had been a labor-friendly moderate but quickly turned into an implacable union foe.

“The Soviet government of Russia, duplicated here, was their plan,” he wrote in an essay published on the front page of The New York Times shortly after the strike’s end. Now, he assured anxious readers, “law and order are supreme in our city.”

Paul Schell, who was mayor during the 1999 protests, was less pugnacious in his analysis but remained reluctant to condemn the police. “I wish everybody had behaved themselves,” Mr. Schell later reflected. “And that it would have been more civilized.”

But the story here goes beyond political leadership. It involves deep, systemic racial inequalities baked into the fabric of this overwhelmingly white city.

“For most of its history,” James Gregory, a historian, observes, “Seattle was a segregated city, as committed to white supremacy as any location in America.”

Discriminatory mortgage lending and racially restrictive covenants limited Seattle’s nonwhite population to a single neighborhood, the Central District. Fair housing laws opened up new parts of the city and suburbs to minority homeowners and renters after the 1960s, but Seattle’s overwhelmingly single-family zoning limited the housing available to new buyers.

Such zoning has been remarkably difficult to change. The region’s homeowners may vote Democratic and plant racial solidarity signs in their front yards, but often resist higher densities that can increase the affordable housing supply.

Civil rights issues, particularly measures to combat anti-black racism, can be subsumed by broader social justice agendas. The city’s most prominent voice on the left in recent years is Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected to the City Council in 2013. She has focused much of her ire on Seattle’s high-tech employers and the politicians who support them.

As protests escalated in recent weeks, Ms. Sawant frustrated some allies by renewing her push for an “Amazon tax” on large employers to bolster homelessness initiatives. After the tax became a rallying cry at a recent Sawant-led demonstration at City Hall, one protester asked in exasperation, “I want to tax Amazon too, but can we please for once focus on black lives?”

Similar patterns have shaped politics and opportunity in other seemingly progressive cities. In Minneapolis, the poverty and police violence that killed George Floyd are legacies of a century of racial segregation, enforced by restrictive covenants, zoning and an Interstate highway that sliced through the city’s largest black neighborhood. A comparable mix of public policies and local prejudice have maintained segregation and inequality in Oakland and San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, Los Angeles and New York.

Nevertheless, this looks like a moment when Seattle and other cities like it might move past their histories of racism and exclusion.

Almost every day for weeks, Seattle has seen peaceful marches organized and led by black and minority activists but drawing heavily white crowds. Silent marches organized by Black Lives Matter brought nearly 85,000 people to the region’s streets one recent, rain-drenched Friday. “B.L.M.” and “Silence=Violence” signs have sprouted along the roads in affluent suburbs. Similar scenes are playing out across the country.

This extraordinary swell of activism is happening in Seattle for many of the same reasons it is happening elsewhere: horror at police violence, anger at Covid-19’s inequities, the pent-up energy created by months of lockdown. Another factor is the energy unleashed during the Trump era. From the Women’s Marches to March for Our Lives to Black Lives Matter, progressives have gotten familiar with inking up protest signs and putting on their marching shoes.

What comes next? Will Seattle and other cities embrace the changes necessary to end racist policing? Will citizens change their everyday lives to match the ideals that propelled them out into the streets?

Clearly something remarkable is blooming in this season of pandemic and protest. It is forcing our city to reckon with truths that can and should make white citizens like me uncomfortable, and that remind us just how much Seattle is like the rest of America: impossibly divided, and impossibly full of hope.

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