by Block The Bunker
On Earth Day this year, over 20,000 people showed up to the ‘March for Science’ in Seattle. Just before Mayor Murray was to speak, community members took the mic to deliver a statement. March organizers had police physically carry a Block the Bunker activist off the stage; she and a fellow activist were arrested. Block The Bunker was far from the only group with fundamental objections to how this March was planned. Another group, Women of Color Speak Out, published their experience here.
This is the statement the March for Science organizers chose to repress with state violence:
The land that we’re standing on is that of the Duwamish people, a nation our federal government refuses to recognize.
Many of you are here because you are outraged and afraid of how the president’s cuts to science funding will shape the future. This anger and fear is real, and there are also many people who have been dealing with attacks like this for much longer than these past 3 months. Undocumented communities, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated folks, unhoused communities, disabled people, queer and trans and gender nonconforming folks, Native Americans, and Black and Brown people have been challenging state-sponsored abuse for hundreds and hundreds of years. They have a lot of wisdom and experience.
But the March for Science opted to ignore these groups. Many grassroots organizers of color tried to work with the March for Science from the beginning and were told they weren’t welcome. Here in Seattle, a white man with no background in social justice whatsoever took charge of this March simply by being the first to volunteer, and he (and the white woman he selected to help him) consistently refused to allow grassroots social justice organizers into the room, let alone into the leadership.
This statement was written by a multiracial group of organizers and scientists to start a conversation; however, the people you see here are white because we face far less risk than people of color taking an action like this, and because you all are more likely to listen to us.
This March is an example of white supremacist cis-hetero-patriarchy and colonialism. White supremacy says that white people should direct something like this March and ignore expert people of color. A colonial mentality assumes that white folks with no experience challenging systemic oppression have more right to control the resources than the very people who have been fighting oppressive social structures forever. Resources like the $40,000 donated to this march, and your attention.
The thousands of people here want to do something that will make a difference for science, and this could have been an entry point to deconstructing why our science feels threatened in the first place and a powerful action to challenge the root causes of those threats, but instead, it is a parade, with a few people of color in positions where they can’t challenge the racist structure of the march; an event where you will be patted on the head just for showing up.
Indigenous peoples, poor and working class folks, Black and Brown communities, incarcerated people, women, queer folks, and disabled people have been creating and practicing resistance for at least the past 500 years. The frontlines of struggles against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the front lines of a Black Lives Matter protest; these are the frontlines of human achievement for resistance.
But here in Seattle, we’re losing the fight against gentrification. Black elders are being thrown out of the homes where they raised children and grandchildren. Community centers are being destroyed and replaced with expensive condos. For every $100 increase in rent, there is a 15 to 30% increase in homelessness. The science and tech community is deeply complicit in this gentrification.
It doesn’t matter if we don’t intend to force out black families: if anyone refuses to leave when the rent spikes, the sheriffs show up with guns and do the dirty work for us, as we’ve seen with the recent eviction of Black Dot and the Umoja Peace Center in the Central District. Push back by advocating for affordable housing! Speak out against the wasteful and abusive practice of sweeping homeless encampments from one side of the city to the other. Get to know your neighbors and learn the history of your neighborhood. And if you have money to invest, work with the long-term residents of gentrifying areas, or groups like Africatown, to form community land trusts.
You see, what we have done up to this point is not enough. Science today too often reflects the ugly biases of our society. Scientific integrity requires us to have a heart and soul; without those, the unimaginably cruel abuses of history will be repeated. I’m talking about things like the forced sterilizations of women of color in the US, the experiments on enslaved Black people and Native children in boarding schools, and of course, the science used to justify the Holocaust.
When we awaken to the horrors of the world we live in, it is really easy to respond with guilt, defensiveness, or shame. Let’s channel these feelings into collective action, action that supports the leadership of communities that are hit first and hit worst. Radical wealth redistribution is part of this — techies, I’m looking at you!
The Duwamish tribe has a beautiful longhouse where you can educate yourself about the original people of the interior. One of the most effective ways to fight climate change is to support Native people’s struggles for their treaty rights: so if your bank is invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, switch to a credit union! Keep an eye out for Native-led resistance around the ports: various oil and coal terminals are in the works, and indigenous advocacy has been and continues to be crucial for environmental justice.
In Tacoma for the past two weeks, the Northwest Detention Center Resistance has been camped out in front of the private prison in solidarity with undocumented immigrants on a hunger strike. They have demands like, “we want to be able to hug our children before we are deported.” They need support: money, tents, phone calls to various officials — go to their Facebook page, Northwest Detention Center Resistance, to find out where to plug in.
Construction has begun on King County’s new youth jail. This $210 million dollar investment in our children’s failures is going forward despite the fact that all evidence says that putting kids in cages is counterproductive. Ignoring the data on youth incarceration and continuing spend hundreds of millions to harm these children violates everything that science should be about. Dow Constantine could cancel this jail if he wanted to, and he’s running for re-election this year. Tell Dow Constantine that you will not vote for him if he continues to spend $210 million dollars to traumatize children! Follow Block The Bunker or No New Youth Jail — Seattle or Ending the Prison Industrial Complex on facebook for updates, and don’t contribute to the problem by calling the cops on people, because we know that police and prisons traumatize and kill people of all ages, especially Black and Brown youth and disabled folks.
The threat that science is facing is deeply connected to the threats that this society has made against everyone who is not a straight, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical, wealthy male citizen. Together, by digging down to the common root of our problems, we can fight back. ‘Diversity’ is not enough. We need our own humanity, and we need to protect the humanity of our comrades-in-arms. We need decolonization. Thank you.
Featured image: Alex Garland