“This film is dedicated to the future memory of white supremacy, the new world’s original gangster,” a deep voice declares. That’s how Manifest Destiny Jesus begins. Orchestral music blares, white text fades onto a black background, the words of English writer William Gilpin come into view: “The untransacted destiny of the American people is to subdue the continent — to rush over this vast field to the Pacific Ocean.”
Seattle’s crane-filled skyline comes into view. Logos of the richest and most powerful corporations in the nation glide down towering skyscrapers. Weathered tent cities cling to a dusty underpass. Seattle: a paragon of westward expansion and capitalist conquest. Fast forward: Displaced Seattleites lament the relentless hammer of gentrification. “I can’t even afford to live here,” a man says.
A woman sits in Columbia City Church of Hope, a stained glass Jesus hovers above, his ivory hand points westward.
Manifest Destiny Jesus, which screens at this month’s “Local Sightings” film festival, is a documentary that explores how the widespread portrayal of Jesus as white influences everything from gentrification to police brutality. And how one small church in a gentrifying South Seattle found the courage to ask, “What does it mean to worship a white Jesus?”
Imagine something meaningful to you and a person related to that thing who’s done something despicable. Then imagine naming some aspect of your meaningful something after that despicable person. Like naming an investment club after Bernie Madoff, film festival after Harvey Weinstein, or block-watch after Derek Chauvin.
The Pete Rose Fantasy Baseball League, anyone?
How would that make you feel about your significant something? I mean, what’s in a name anyway?
(This essay is in response to a prompt asking young people about their feelings living through the COVID-19 pandemic and reckoning with white supremacy after the January 6, 2021 insurrection.)
As I look around at the faces of people who have come into my life recently or a long time ago, I feel at peace. When I think of people who have been there for me at different times in my life — times when I felt like the world was caving in and times I felt on top of the world — I feel supported. My grandma who calls me Sunshine, my godmother Ruth who is the embodiment of tough love, my parents who make sure that I know they are proud of me, my zeiza (grandpa) who always believed in me, and many others. As I look at the room full of people here with me as I write, I love and I am loved. In a world full of hate, I choose love.
What was supposed to be part of a nationwide “White Lives Matter” protest at Westlake Center on April 11 turned out to be a “Picket against white supremacy!” Organized by local community groups, the event was attended by close to 100 people who were there to “stand up to racists and fascists.” The Seattle “White Lives Matter” non-event mirrored other planned rallies across the country — NBC News reported that the rallies, which were hyped up by organizers as events that would make “the whole world tremble,” ended up being busts when the turn-out on Sunday was much lower than organizers had anticipated.
On March 5 the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) opened its new Jacob Lawrence exhibit, “The American Struggle,” to the public.
“The American Struggle” takes us on a journey through American history, reframing the narratives we have heard for centuries.
During the creation of this series in 1954, Lawrence was spending countless days at what was then called the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library. He spent his time learning about not only the American history taught in schools but history told through other perspectives, which inspired this series.
In June 2020, Hugo House, a Seattle nonprofit writing center, posted a brief message via email and on their website in an attempt to condemn racism and show solidarity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Below the statement, Hugo House promoted a short list of poems and essays by Black writers. But by July, over 200 writers of Color and allies had signed an open letter addressing the performative nature of the statement and the organization’s lack of real investment, advocacy, and endorsement of local Black writers and communities.
“Hugo House’s recent email professing solidarity with the Black community rings hollow,” the letter reads. “The new civil rights movement makes clear that breaking down systemic and structural racism is all of our work, and we demand that Hugo House move concretely and transparently to invest its resources and make that change happen.”
(This article is co-published with The Seattle Times.)
Listen to this column:
Americans are trauma-ridden people. The sooner we admit this, the sooner we can heal.
Our inherited legacy is threaded together from slaughter, slavery and brutalization, the humanity of millions of Black, brown, Indigenous, poor, trans and other people sacrificed for this country’s prosperity.
Over the span of a month we have seen white supremacists raid our nation’s Capitol trying to rip out the throat of our democracy.
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 28, two dozen doctors, nurses, and support staff walked out of Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center in protest of the announcement that the clinic’s white male executive director, Raleigh Watts, would be reinstated on February 1 after being on paid administrative leave since October 2020. Dating back to October 2020, Watts was under an ongoing internal investigation into allegations of microaggressions, workplace abuse, and preferential treatment based on race.
Since the death of George Floyd last spring, the term “Defund the Police” has jumped into the public conscientious, but not by some twist in fate or happenstance. The fight for police accountability and reform has been a generations-long battle, which has coalesced into what we see today with the Defund the Police movement.
In over 100 years of policing there has been repeated violence directed at Black and Brown communities at the hands of police, and little meaningful reform to stop or reduce it. White America may be just fine with doing the absolute bare minimum and maintaining the status quo, but marginalized communities may not be so willing to endure another century of violence directed at them.
The uncomfortable truth is that police forces were originally created in our nation for the purpose of upholding white supremacy. They were slave catchers, created for the explicit purpose of capturing runaway slaves.
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
On Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Police Department confirmed that at least five of its officers were present at the rally held by former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. on January 6 that preceded the hours-long attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters. More than a week after an SPD officer reported two of his colleagues to his superiors for a Facebook photo of the pair at the rally, three more officers notified the department that they, too, had attended the event.