Faded Signs

Seattle and the Rise of the Sanctuary City

In coastal cities and outposts in the South and Midwest, we’ll be clinging to one another for support and affirmation these next four years.

As citizens of a nation born of Enlightenment ideals in the aftermath of the Scientific Revolution, Americans desperately want to believe that there are two sides to every story. The notion rests at the heart of journalism’s current tendency toward false equivalencies: the line of reasoning that entertains a bogus equation between #BlackLivesMatter and the Ku Klux Klan; that asks us to empathize with Trump supporters who excused avowed racism and sexual assault; that sees “Democrats vs. Republicans” as a kind of sporting event where the purported pain of one fan base is comparable to the other. But politics are not football.

Because when the Right loses an election, they do not lose their rights. Freedom of worship is retained. Brazenly pro-market logic still passes for conventional wisdom. And clemency is still afforded in the court of public opinion to those who deny evolution and climate change. American conservatives have gotten by these last few decades by framing themselves as a persecuted minority, on the run from P.C. police, feminazis and liberal intellectuals. Their greatest public relations coup came in convincing the country that their stance on issues such as abortion or police brutality or gay marriage are not active attempts to dehumanize others but a set of “defensive” measures born of “economic anxiety” designed to “protect a way of life” that we should “try to understand better.”

When the Left loses an election, the stakes are measured in blood and tears. The bodily autonomy of women is threatened. Voting rights are widely repealed. LGBTQ people go from state to state in search of a place to legitimate their love in the eyes of the law. Basic rights are not a Super Bowl that somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. There’s a way forward for mutual respect and shared prosperity—and half the electorate refuses to walk it.

The rest of us live in their world. Increasingly clustered in coastal cities and outposts in the South and Midwest, we’ll cling to one another for support and affirmation these next four years and beyond.

In Seattle, secessionist fantasies gripped citizens on the night of Nov. 8, 2016. Much work remains to be done to make the city a safeguard against the waves of denial and outright bigotry that’ve gripped the nation in the aftermath of Election Day. Mayor Edward B. Murray decried President-elect Trump’s “misogyny and racist and authoritarian tendencies,” but Seattle is the same city that complied with President Roosevelt’s executive order to intern its Japanese-American community in the 1940s and that allowed decades of discrimination in the housing market.

In other words, no city is safe.

Below are three Seattle-based organizations that are using digital design, storytelling and activism to create the kind of world where all of us can proser—even those who don’t want to see it happen. Because while Pollyanna pundits opine that the current political climate is simply a matter of two sides “misunderstanding” one another, true progressives need to realize that there is no time to play tiddlywinks with the competition. After so many years of being told to empathize with our opponents, the Left has to learn the language of self-love. We can start by figuring out where our mouths should be, then putting our money there.

Safety Pin Box
By now, you’ve seen the electoral maps: the blue-as-water ones that show what the election results would have looked like if only Millennials of color, women of color or people of color voted; and the red-as-rage ones that show Trump’s overwhelming support among American whites as a political bloc.

If you’re a white liberal, it has to sting knowing that the political group you belong to was responsible for ushering in the least qualified presidential candidate in American history. But your pain comes nowhere close to what people of color are going through right now—and it isn’t fair to ask them to set their feelings of fear and anger aside in order to tend to yours.

So writer Marissa Johnson and activist/podcaster Leslie Mac have launched Safety Pin Box, a monthly subscription for white people striving to be allies in the fight for Black liberation. According to the effervescent website—designed by Mac—“subscription boxes are intended for white people who want to consistently contribute to Black liberation financially while doing measurable support work. Safety Pin Box encourages white people to take initiative in contributing to the movement for Black lives, while getting guidance and educational resources from Black women.”

In a bold rejection of the tendency to ask Black people to contribute free emotional labor to help American whites feel better about racism, the money goes towards helping Johnson and Mac continue their work. The boxes offered include suggested anti-racist activities, calls to action when allies are needed to help individuals or institutions, and a monthly newsletter. Subscriptions are offered in increments of $25 per month, $50 per month, and $100 per month. Of particular interest may be “The Revenge Box”—a $50 package sent to a bigot of your choosing, which contains a letter explaining that a donation to Safety Pin Box itself has been made in their name to support “Black lives and stories of Black excellence.”

In her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, author Margaret Atwood forecasted a dystopian world where the religious leaders of a fictional post-America theocracy named Gilead keep women in reproductive farms and criminalize even the memory of abortion doctors. The world she forecasted is seeming more and more feasible by the day.

But #ShoutYourAbortion—a movement started by Seattle feminists Amelia Bonow, Kimberly Morrison and Lindy West—aren’t conceding an inch in the culture war for women’s lib. Since 2015, they’ve been amplifying women’s experiences with exercising their reproductive rights on Twitter and Tumblr, and have launched public art exhibitions that creatively remove the stigma from abortion.

With a donation to their recently launched crowd-sourcing campaign, you can support #ShoutYourAbortion’s 2017 plans to facilitate a nationwide action for inauguration weekend, launch a new interactive website that hosts personal stories about abortion, and fund the release of a whole new suite of signs, shirts, buttons and totes to show that women having control over their bodies shouldn’t be taboo.

El Centro de la Raza
In the last three weeks since the ascendancy of President-elect Donald Trump, the notion of the “sanctuary city” has seen a resurgence. The term dates back to 1982, when a Tucson, Ariz., pastor wanted it known that his parish would be a safe haven for Latin American refugees seeking legal assistance, healthcare and English language classes. Today, the term is used to designate cities whose local law enforcement officials refuse to comply with federal immigration agents that may deport or otherwise endanger undocumented citizens.

Last week, Crosscut ran a story about Graciela Nuñez—a 22-year-old undocumented student in Seattle who campaigned for Hillary Clinton and fears she may be deported in the aftermath of the election. One would think that a country composed mostly of immigrants would be dedicated to making the lives of people like Nunez easier.

That work often falls to nonprofit organizations like El Centro de la Raza. The cavernous Beacon Hill building houses youth programs and classes, as well as education and skill building for adults. The building’s Francis Martinez Community Service Center addresses hunger and homeless through the La Cocina Popular Hot Meal and Food Bank programs. You can establish a one-time or recurring donation to help keep the building’s staff and volunteers running.