The Whitewashing of Northwest Activism

The erasure of Black labor from conversations about protests leads to a misunderstanding of the history in the making

BLM graffiti on a Seattle street, June 2020.

There has been a concerted effort to replace Black activists in the white imagination with a stereotype of a white “antifa” protester who has co-opted the movement for his own selfish ends. This sleight of hand enables Status Quo Warriors to dismiss the demands of protesters while pretending that they themselves are on the side of racial justice.

Those shared goals include defunding the Seattle Police Department’s annual budget—which costs taxpayers a whopping $400 million per year, including six-figure police salaries that rival those of senior software engineers—by at least 50%, investing instead in restorative justice and the health and safety of Black and brown communities. Yesterday, the City Council (comprised of a majority of non-white women) voted to trim the police budget by a modest $3 million. It’s one small step in a process that began many years before the current wave of protests started making national headlines.

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. Bylines at The Wire Magazine, Art in America + more.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store