I was at Uncle Ike’s last Wednesday, April 20. As protestors surrounded the building, hands clasped and voices loud, I wasn’t among them. I was behind metal fences and security guards and layers of privilege so thick that they almost muffled the defiant cries for justice —almost. This was my first time being on the receiving end of a protest and it changed me.
Despite the grumbles and scoffs from inside the barred off parking lot the demonstration was valid in its claims and ultimately I knew that. There is no reinvestment of Ike’s funds into the neighborhood and any tax gains are spread thin in an already thin city budget. The dispensary itself is of questionable legality, sitting well within the no-construction range of a local church that didn’t have the money to follow through with a lawsuit. We all know too well the cruel irony of a white man legally selling weed on the same corner that black men were arrested for dealing.
I always considered myself an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the push against the silent gentrification of Seattle. In reality, I hid behind signs and black bodies to ignore my own privilege and blood stained hands. That ally-identity is in of itself the problem. As I stood, with that little brown bag clenched in my fist, I knew that I was part of the problem. Just because I posted the right articles and knew the right chants didn’t make me any less of an instrument of discrimination and degradation that has haunted this nation for centuries. My Irish grandparents may have fled persecution from Britain but they plunged themselves right into a mirrored system of persecution. My father may have drove away from his rail-road-divided town in rural Texas in a Volkswagen in the ‘70s, but he unwillingly played into a game with weighted die in white hands. A system is a collection of interactions, and interaction without reflection sustains injustice.
Identity-activism is the death of activism. No justice no peace means no peace for anyone, including me. Black lives matter doesn’t mean that they matter when I choose, they matter all of the time, especially when it is inconvenient to me. Some of you reading this already know this. But for those of you who don’t, take a second and re-center yourself. It’s not about guilt, or self-hate, it’s about recognizing your role in the system, and using that knowledge to deconstruct your own participation.
—Jason Bono, News & Managing Editor