August 26, 2017… Day 219
Black Lives Matter rally and march in Seattle.
A lot of people came out. The BLM events I’ve been to since the election have been really diverse. A lot of different communities were represented — LGBT of all races, Asians, Latinx, black people, people of all races with mobility devices and service dogs, rafts of preppily dressed 13 year old girls of all races, walking arm in arm with their hair in long plaits and ponytails down their backs, old mom & pop white people (not just of the hippie variety), black-clad young scrappers of all races with kerchiefs over their faces.
Waiting for the event to start, I sat next to a middle-aged Japanese man who was making an origami x-wing fighter out of tracing paper, and an older white trans woman in a motorized wheelchair. They seemed to be friends who came there together. I thought they might be a couple at first, but she had a wedding ring and he didn’t. We talked about past BLM events we’d been to, and who we follow on Twitter who is trustworthy and not too “out there.”
As we sat there, a Native man walked into the middle of the crowd and stood near us. He started yelling at no one in particular about how Black Lives Matter was stupid because it was a black man, Barack Obama, who tried to put a pipeline across tribal lands. The man seemed emotional and possibly mentally unstable. I thought he might have been one of the people who hang out near Westlake Center all day whether there is an event there or not.
He made eye contact with an ethnically ambiguous man with long black hair and started talking to him specifically about historical and present-day crimes against Native people, all the while disparaging black people and their concerns as secondary. The second man listened. When asked, he said he was Chinese and Scandinavian. The angry man said he wasn’t about to blame anything on the Chinese. The Chinese-Scandinavian man kept listening to his rant while keeping his body language firmly neutral.
Then the Chinese-Scandinavian man shook the Native man’s hand and introduced himself. Without talking down to the guy, he gently explained his own point of view, that marginalized groups need to stick together and that the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t contrary to Native rights.
The angry guy listened a lot more quietly and respectfully than I expected him to.
When the rally started, the sound system wasn’t sufficient and the crowd struggled to hear what the speakers were saying. What filtered through made it seem like the organizers did not have their most-experienced orators on hand. (This has felt true at almost every rally of every kind I’ve been to since the election, not just BLM — maybe it’s a lost art.) Still, the whole crowd sat quietly and strained to hear all of what was being said. The allyship (if you want to call it that) on display wasn’t “I’ll do this thing for you even though I’m not black, because I’m against racism.” It was far more like, “We all need each other and need to stick together, so thank you for organizing this worthwhile thing and for standing with me against Trumpism.”
As we started to march out of Westlake Center, two black men with loudspeakers seemed to be counter-protesting the rally. They seemed to be talking about black-on-black crime. A young black woman and I looked at each other quizzically. We were on the move and I didn’t get a picture but I saw that their t-shirts read “It Starts With One.” A block later, a scrawny red-faced white man ran alongside the marchers shrieking “ALL LIVES MATTER!!” And then in a crosswalk, two young men of unknown ethnicity and gelled-back hair scoffed at the marchers. “Get out of the street!” one yelled. Mostly people stood and watched. The white people had especially hard-to-read facial expressions. One black man grinned and threw a fist in the air as we went by. When we moved into a more residential area, a houseful of young Asians in cocktail attire whooped and hollered off the front porch of a sedate old wood-framed house.
I was talking to a trans woman as we passed that house and she said, “Most people are for this stuff, they just don’t come out and participate.” She showed me pictures on her phone that someone had sent her — photographs of herself at another BLM march. Someone sent her the photos to say “We know who you are.” A little later, we both noticed a tattoo running the length of a bicycle cop’s forearm. We tried to make out what it was, but could only conclude that it was Latin.
Later, on Facebook, someone posted a photo and the translation: