The Olympia City Council Says Your 1st Amendment Rights Stop Where Their Comfort Zone Begins

“First Amendment… more of a guideline…right?”

Tomorrow night (7/18/17) the Olympia City Council will have First Reading of a new section of the “Offenses Against Government” Ordinance (Chapter 9.08 of the Olympia Municipal Code) that will make it a misdemeanor to disturb, disrupt, or interfere with a city council meeting. It doesn’t define any of those terms leaving it wide open to charges being pressed anytime a council member squirms in their seat a bit because somebody is expressing dissent.

Where to begin?

  1. OPD – you think Chief Roberts wants his officers to make it a habit of arresting people on TV at City Council meetings? Seems like a national news story all wrapped up with a bow on it.
  2. Anything they’re going to cite as a reason why they need this is either already against the law, or something they signed on for when they ran for office. Making physical threats, intimidation, etc – those are all already against the law.
  3. Disrupting a public meeting as an expression of dissent should never be against the law – I know it’s a bummer sometimes, and it can get uncomfortable, but it’s your job.
  4. If we had a mayor who was more popular we wouldn’t even be talking about this. If our mayor didn’t publicly insult people, talk down to them, or look down on them, people wouldn’t be so angry and ready to lash out.

City Council – meet me at camera three… Hi there… Listen…This is your JOB. It’s what you signed up for when you threw your hat in the ring. If you don’t want to do it anymore, then resign or don’t run again. But you can’t suppress the voices of people who disagree with you or communicate in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Period. The Constitution says so. Also, there’s no faster way to escalate this than an ordinance like this one. Once again… you don’t want to talk to people, you don’t want to listen, you just want all those “others” to go away and leave you to your nice little town-building-happy-fun-time. Shutting people out never fixed anything and it’s not the kind of attitude about people that I want from my city council.

It’s not too late for you though. You can just take this terrible law and put it in the shredder and maybe next council meeting you come out from behind the dais and walk right up to one of those people who freak you out so much and extend a hand to them. Introduce yourself. Smile. Try to MEAN IT but fake it if you have to. That little act will get you way closer to what you want than a million ordinances ever will.

LINK TO PDF: Ordinance Relating to Interference with a Public Meeting

A Little Bit about Privilege

Things We as White People Take for Granted Expose People of Color to Terror
I can’t get it out of my head so of course, I’ll put it down here for you…
Yesterday I was talking to a black woman I know. Her son is getting his driver’s license. He’s older than most kids who get theirs for the first time because he’s been afraid to drive. Because he knows he’ll get pulled over. Because he sees what happens to people who look like him.
Close your eyes and think back to when you got your driver’s license for the first time. What do you feel? Freedom? Excitement? Accomplishment? Is that a warm, fuzzy memory?
Now imagine you’re scared to drive. You’re not scared because your parents bought you a stick shift and you’re nervous about it, or because you get freaked out on the freeway. You’re scared because driving opens up another avenue to your death. Nearly every day you see people who look like you killed for driving. Not driving leaves that avenue closed, exposes you to less risk.  This is, in the definitive sense, terror. You can’t, if you’re white like me, really even begin to imagine the feeling, so don’t try too hard here today.
Just ask yourself where you are right now after reading this. Have you ever thought about the difference in how you approach something versus how a person of color does, or why?
Tell this story to a white friend and talk about ways we can start to dismantle this. Don’t stay in the abstract, only talking about systems of oppression. Don’t point the finger at anyone but yourself, YOU (and ME) perpetuate this if we’re not constantly working against it. What are some things you can do, today or this week or month, or every day, in the community or among your peers to start to chip away at the blinders we wear, and the complicity we share?
We live in a society where a young man who is well down the road to becoming a doctor is scared to get a driver’s license because he knows it exposes him to violence. 

Independence Day

“Today is a national holiday commemorating July 4, when American colonies declared their independence from England in 1776. While many in the U.S. hang flags, attend parades and watch fireworks, Independence Day is not a cause of celebration for everyone.

For Native Americans, it is a bitter reminder of colonialism, which brought disease, genocide and the destruction of their culture and way of life.

For African Americans, Independence Day did not extend to them. While white colonists were declaring their freedom from the crown, that liberation was not shared with millions of Africans who were captured, beaten, separated from their families and forced into slavery thousands of miles from home.” – Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

Draining The Swamp, Thurston County Style

Thurston County commissioners oust director of public defense

Thurston County to hire public defense director this summer

If you’re not following this story you should be, and here’s a quick-quick recap:

Daryl Rodrigues was the Director of Public Defense for Thurston County. Then we had an election last year and a couple Trump acolytes got elected. They immediately started “draining the swamp” and that meant firing people as if our county government was The Apprentice. Daryl is a spectacular individual who worked for tribes and as a mental health professional BEFORE he attended law school. He took that spirit of service into his work and championed alternative courts such as those for drugs, mental health, and veterans in order to prevent the cycle of people through the system and ultimately onto our streets with no way to get a leg up. This obviously wasn’t the approach our Cowboy Commissioners wanted to take to criminal justice in Thurston County… being of the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” ilk.

What’s the point?

The point is we should be paying close attention to who they hire. Be ready to head to the meetings, give testimony, and break out the torches and pitchforks if they hire someone with any less commitment to restorative justice. We don’t need privatization and more cells, we need jail diversion programs. We don’t need tougher laws, we need programs that break the cycle of incarceration.

I hope you’ll join me in urging our County Commissioners to do the right thing.

Philando Castile: What Part Do You Play and What Are You Doing about It?

First, watch this video. Warning: he says some swear words.

Now, take a minute to think about the following questions, keeping yourself, your experiences, and your actions in the center. Don’t think about how “they” are, think about how YOU are.

  • Where do you see yourself in his words?
  • What work will you do to change it?

The part of it that resonated with me the most when I watched it the first time was about how we’re taught to fear black people. Now, my experience was of growing up in a mostly black neighborhood, and for most of my life, if you told me I was afraid of black people, or prejudiced, I’d laugh it off at best, if not get defensive and pissy. I can see now, and think back to times in my youth (or even today still) where that manifests itself and I perpetuate that fear of the black male. It’s not a conscious thing and when I feel it rise I check myself and think it through, trying to harness it so I can wash it out.

What work will I do? I think the internal work, calling myself out anytime I feel blink reaction swelling up, is a big part of it. I think if more people did that internal work we could make some progress. Externally I try to be there to hold space for POC when I’m asked – and stay away when I’m not invited. I try to increase awareness in my fellow whites by creating or sharing provocative content that hopefully gets people thinking, and, more importantly, try to have these kinds of conversations in person with my friends and loved ones.

I never feel like I do enough – because I don’t. There’s an intersection here with my white male ego. It thinks I should be able to fix it. It doesn’t like feeling powerless. It wants to be a hero and swoop in and save the day. It doesn’t want to admit that this is bigger than me.

It is though. It’s systemic, pervasive, ingrained. I cringe when I hear people say, “Nobody’s born racist.,” because while that’s a nice sentiment if from the moment you’re born you’re told that a jolly fat man comes down the chimney once a year you believe it’s true until you don’t anymore. You stop believing it when your intellectualism starts to set in – that is, when you develop the ability to separate emotion from rationality. You think, “It’s not physically possible for one person to do all that, and then what about the flying reindeer…”

But for some reason as a culture white people are not able to exercise intellect around race. The idea that all, or most, black men are dangerous criminals is just as ridiculous as the Santa story, yet we allow ourselves to continue believing or accepting the excuses we’re given. Tamir Rice was a little boy playing with a toy in a park. Philando Castile was a beloved public school employee riding in a car with his family. Charleena Lyles was a pregnant single mom who called the police because she needed their help. All of three of them were killed for being black. There’s no other explanation. Not when we see white people resisting arrest, punching cops, brandishing knives at them, or murdering multiple people of color in a church and then get arrested peacefully and taken out for burgers.

White people, we have to say the words out loud in public: They were killed because they were black. That’s a known-known. Say it over and over to everyone whenever it comes up. We have to accept that that’s the way our society is. We can’t live in denial anymore. We have to get to work on it. No more excuses. No more “I’m not racist because I blah blah blah…” If you don’t talk about it in rational terms and accept your own complicity, then yes you VERY are racist.

I hope that you’ll answer the above questions for yourself. Journal about it. Talk about it with your partner or a friend. Start to deconstruct this for yourselves and then turn the corner and start doing the work of dismantling it on a larger scale. That can take many forms and I’m sure there are people right here in this community who will join you in the work.

A Conscious Choice

I wanted to share an exchange I had on a racial dialog group I am active in. I referred to the societal programming of white people to believe they’re white and that it makes them better than others. An astute moderator called me out and said basically that I shouldn’t give a pass to people by using language that removes the conscious choices people make. Saying people are “programmed” absolves them of complicity by making their decision not to resist the status quo a passive one as opposed to something they’re actively doing. I love this group because of the direct way moderators call people out on things like this. We need more of that, or we need more white people willing to hear call outs and not get defensive.

My framework for the “awakening” process for white people has been rooted in the Man Box concept, as I learned it from Tony Porter via his anti-sexism work. To apply it here… all white people are born in the White Box. For generations, nobody even knew there was a box there. Over time, some folks started being aware of the box, then opening the lid, poking their heads out, now some folks are finally starting to try to climb out (I don’t think anybody is out, and I’m not sure it’s even possible right now given the way our society is structured).

So I guess this means to me that there are some (most?) white people who are still oblivious that the box is even there. And then various stages of denial, guilt, shame, ignorance, awareness, acceptance, resistance, etc. So ignorance isn’t an excuse but it is a real condition and, like in AA you have to admit there’s a problem. I’ve always called it programming because that assumes that one can be reprogrammed. You admit that society has taught you a way of being and start working to unlearn and relearn a better way.

What does this bring up for you? What has your racial awakening process looked like? Where are you now versus how you were taught as a kid? Did the things you were taught perpetuate racism? Were you taught that everyone is equal and now feel like that did as much damage as being taught to be actively racist?

Your “Moral Victory” Is an Extension of Your Privilege

Jon Ossoff was supposed to be the savior of us all. His campaign was the first major shot across the bow in the Trump Resistance and a first strike toward steering Congress back to the left and away from the forces of evil. He was hand-picked (from out of district), well groomed, and well-funded (a $30million loss). They turned him into the best moderate Republican candidate money can buy. And they lost, not by much but an L is an L.

Then I started to see columns and talking heads claiming a moral victory in the race. They had gained ground in a district where Rs usually win by 20%… They gained ground…etc.

Whatever. That’s a lot of excuses.

Ultimately, when we’re talking about elections where things like human rights, women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies, and black lives are on the line, there’s no carving out a victory. It’s a loss for the people who will suffer under leaders who think they’re less than.

People of color can’t entertain a fantasy where this was somehow a progress for them. They’ve been told a lie about progress and change since slavery ended, and Philando Castile’s murderer was set free a couple days ago.Justice doesn’t exist on a spectrum

Justice is one of the few things in this universe that doesn’t exist on a spectrum. We are just society or we aren’t. We win or we lose. We live or we die. There’s no moral victory to be had when our society lacks morality. When moderate whites are arguing amongst themselves on the internet about a legislative race in Louisiana instead of lighting the torches and storming the castle for Philando and Charleena

When moderate whites are arguing amongst themselves on the internet about a legislative race in Georgia instead of lighting the torches and storming the castle for Philando and Charleena there can be no claim of morality. You’ve got work to do.