Seattle Protest: Stop Denying White Privilege
Above photo by Kevin Zeese. All photos by Kevin Zeese unless otherwise indicated.
Note: Most of the Popular Resistance team participated in the anti-racism protest held in Seattle on August 17th at the end of the Localize This Action Camp organized by the Backbone Campaign. Our hope is that activists across the country will emulate this protest to highlight the reality of white privilege and the need for the people of the nation to continue to work for racial justice.
We urge you to hold an event like this in your community, we can provide you with a pdf of the flier used, the elephant used can be shipped to you (it just goes in a suitcase) and below is the mic check we used to tell the story of racism in the United States. Of course, you can also modify all of these things and make your own version. The elephant does not have to be three dimensional, but can be a large cardboard cut out. However you want to do it, do it, we urge you to highlight the reality of racism continuing in the United States.
Racism: The Elephant in the Living Room
On August 17th during lunch hour in Westlake Park, Seattle people coming out to the downtown park for lunch saw an unusual site – an elephant in a living room. The elephant in the living room was so large it could not be ignored.
The elephant had a banner across it calling out “RACISM.” People were encouraged to sit in the “living room” to have a conversation about the reality of racial injustice. Many of the people wore a “White Privilege” blinder over their eyes. People spread through the area with fliers and began conversations about racism and white privilege. A common opening line was: “Is that elephant always there?” and when the response was “I don’t think so,” the reply was, “We think it probably is but we just don’t see it.”
A mic check which was repeated several times told the story of racial injustice in US history as well as currently.
People were encouraged to commit to take action to fight racism. The point of the protest, put on by primarily white organizers, activists and advocates in support of #BlackLivesMatter, was to show people that racism is the elephant in the living room and white privilege could no longer be denied.
The event, held in the same park where #BlackLivesMatter protesters interrupted Senator Bernie Sanders a week before, was organized by a collection of activists from the Pacific Northwest and around the country who had attended the Backbone Campaigns’ “Localize This Action Camp.” The organizers describe how the educational installation developed in a flier they handed out:
“We are responding to recent events of racism and to a request from people of color. We have been asked to educate ourselves in order to see racism, and then take actions to end it. As a group, we are predominantly white activists who are looking inwards and reaching out to our peers to join un in this action. We are challenging ourselves and others to commit to taking one concrete step towards racial justice and to share our challenge.”
The flier also described twenty daily effects of white privilege, some examples:
– I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented;
– Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
– I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harrassed.
As reports of police violence have become more common because social media and you tube provide tools that allow the stories of police violence to be told, it has become evident that simple actions like driving a car in your neighborhood, walking through a city or shopping in a big box store or mall can trigger police violence. Many African Americans report that they fear simple actions like walking, driving, running or shopping. White privilege means that Euro-Americans do not have any fear of these simple actions.
Part of the exhibit also included a series of images tied together, each one containing the name of someone who had been killed by police since January of this year, 736 in all. These were held along the sidewalk next to the Racism: The Elephant in the Living Room exhibit.
The flier included some examples:.
I commit to disrupting the status quo in order to share power and privilege to all;
I commit to disrupting patterns of discrimination;
I commit to working on my own defensiveness about white privilege.
The installation also told some of the history of racism combining images on a large flip chart with a mic-check. The entire mic check read: (see below image)
Mic Check Racism Destroys
The traditional story won’t tell you what we are about to tell you.
Racial Profiling, Stop & Frisk, Zero Tolerance: Police Brutality
The history of policing in the United States stems from the catching of runaway slaves.
During World War II, while fighting the racist Nazis, the United States forced huge numbers of Japanese-Americans into internment camps.
So far in 2015, 736 people have been gunned down by cops nationwide.
Approximately zero police have gone to jail for gunning down People of Color.
Cops are trained to racially profile.
Stop & frisk policies and zero tolerance policies target People of Color.
Police target immigrants by skin color.
DO NOT think that the civil rights movement is OVER.
Environmental Injustice: “Poisoning People of Color”
White civilization’s relentless search for cheap energy has exploited People of Color & devastated our Planet.
The People of Color Global Majority suffers more from climate change than the white minority.
There is more drought & famine in the Global South than in white countries.
Most of the hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina belonged to People of Color.
In 2012, 78% of African-Americans lived within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant.
As African-American child is twice as likely to die from asthma attacks.
African-Americans are more likely to die from lung disease, but less likely to smoke than white people.
Industrial pollution & fossil fuel infrastructure destroys the health of People of Color communities.
Global South countries have had natural resources such as fossil fuels & old growth forests routinely stolen from them.
Wars & displacement are suffered by People of Color because western “civilization” feeds on their natural resources.
Injustice Center: “School to Prison Pipeline”
When slavery ended after the Civil War, vagrancy and drifter laws were created to re-enslave black people.
Historically, People of Color have been imprisoned to racially “cleanse” white communities.
The War on Drugs is a war on People of Color even though white people deal & consume more drugs in this country.
Today, children of color are the most vulnerable to the prison system.
Children of color are more likely to be suspended from school and criminalized than white children for minor relative infractions.
The Prison Industrial Complex relies on a steady supply of People of Color youth to boost their performance numbers.
Inmates work for next to nothing while CEO’s of the private industry consume the profits.
Many Children of Color grow up without parents because their parents were criminalized only to be pulled into prison themselves by the School to Prison Pipeline.
We ask you to tell the real story.
We ask you to take a concrete step towards racial justice.
More Photos and description: Alex Garland, “Elephant In The Room” art installation brings dialogue of racism to Westlake Center,” the Dignity Virus.