on the stabbings in portland

[content note: white supremacy, etc.] 

I am feeling sad about what went down in Portland, my hometown, over the weekend. Briefly: a white supremacist was harassing two teenage girls, one of whom was in hijab and one of whom was black, and some white men intervened. This resulted in the white supremacist stabbing the three men who intervened, two of whom died and one of whom remains hospitalized. The teenagers fled to safety. The white supremacist was arrested without incurring any police violence.

Since this event occurred, photos and other evidence of the white supremacist’s racist and xenophobic words and actions quickly surfaced, including photos and quotes from Portland Police officers writing him off as a kook “with a head injury,” and protecting him as he made his way to a bus following an alt-right “free speech” protest last month.

I mourn for the people who lost their loved ones, for the girls whose sense of safety is surely gone and who have the rest of their lives to look back on this bloody event, for other Black, brown, and Muslim folks who now have more cause to worry about their kids, families, and own wellbeing as they go about their lives. I fear for the impact this attack will have on future bystanders of hateful harassment and violence. I recognize that there are ways in which the alt right is organized and trained and the left and progressives are not. I wonder when everyone who claims opposition to Tr*mp’s dangerous rhetoric and deadly policies will stop defending nazis’ right to free speech and public rallies and start taking this shit seriously.

Looking at photos of vigils and memorials in my hometown, I saw a lot of “love trumps hate” rhetoric and other heartfelt, but apolitical, calls for unity and care. No mention of Islamophobia, of anti-blackness, of the ways women of color are at the highest risk for white supremacist violence. Now we want to talk about mental health. Now we want to talk about toxic masculinity. We as white communities will do anything to avoid naming white supremacy, and addressing how we are all complicit.

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“love trumps hate” is an empty phrase without naming white supremacy and the role we all play in it. 

I hear a lot of generalized statements about how the Pacific Northwest was specifically founded on segregation and white supremacy. Some quick history from Oregonian and organizer Keegan Steven:

While many see Portland as a progressive Mecca, it is in fact the whitest city in America, largely by design. When Oregon joined the Union, it joined not as a free state or a slave state, but as a no-blacks-allowed state, the only state to do so. Being black in Portland, Oregon was a crime punishable by 40 whippings a day until leaving the state, on the books until 1974. This was possible because Oregon refused to ratify the 14th Amendment – the equal protection clause – until the 1970s. Oregon also refused to ratify the 15th Amendment, giving black people the right to vote – passed after the Civil War – until 1959. As a result, Portland is still the whitest city in America, with some of the worst inequities in housing, education, and criminal justice.

I know what occurred in Portland is liable to occur anywhere. It’s a fatal, heartbreaking, and infuriating example of what happens when progressive communities are more focused on protecting the right to free speech and store windows than protecting their neighbors. Still, this is all happening quite literally close to home, and I sit in grief, anger, and love for those of us in resistance together. What will we do to strengthen ourselves and our movements, and re-commit to shutting down white supremacist violence?

xo freddie

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healing in nature & relationships as resistance

between periods of nonstop rain, we’ve begun to have warm, sunny days of thawing out, and it feels like springtime is emerging. it feels good to be living in sonoma county, both for the healing properties of the redwoods and ocean, and for the proximity to my loved ones and community in the bay. oroville, the town eli and i just moved from, has been in the news lately due to a recent evacuation order and fears of flooding from the dilapidated spillway of the oroville dam. i have been thinking of our friends at the farm tons. they are safely positioned above the dam, but taking serious precautions to prepare for an emergency, just in case. it’s so intense to think about the thousands of mostly poor and working class residents dealing with the uncertain safety and stability of their homes, at the same time the newly appointed leaders of the executive branch are ferociously denying the impact of climate change.

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a panoramic photo from the sonoma coast

i have begun my work as an in home support person for a couple of different folks in the area. the duties include everything from housekeeping to running errands to more creative endeavors, and it feels like unique and important work. over the years i continue to find a lot of power and strength in relationship building across lines of identity, ability, and oppression. i don’t mean for that to sound lofty or self-important. it’s not glamorous work by any means and i don’t kid myself that the support i offer is some all-encompassing solution to these folks’ problems. but as i’ve written before… enacting structural change feels super daunting most of the time, while relationship building both helps me step into my own power and transform, and has the potential to do the same for others as well. so, it’s work i’m learning a lot from. i am grateful and humbled to be doing it.

while my process for finding my place in this moment and movement of resistance feels slow, it is in motion. i am trying to balance showing up for action with finding ways to contribute and support grassroots efforts in more sustained ways. i would like to share the inspiration, excitement, and even hope i felt while joining with many hundreds of others at SFO a little while ago to shut down the airport and demand that the people detained due to the xenophobic, islamophobic travel ban be released.

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brooke anderson photography

first of all, it was amazing to see the airport filled with resistance, as airports are places i associate closely with heavy security, policing, and being on one’s best behavior. not to mention the ways that protesting in an airport makes things so much more accessible for families with kids, disabled folks, and elders — there are ample bathrooms, water, food, electrical outlets, and physically accessible means of getting around. there is lots of good information and resources floating around about the necessity of making movement work accessible, please do yourself a favor and read some if that’s not already an integral part of your work! i’ve found sins invalid and the icarus project to be great resources on this front.

one amazing thing about being a part of the SFO shutdown and protest was seeing the wide swaths of people who seemed totally willing to participate in civil disobedience and direct action under the leadership of AROC (arab resource and organizing center) with support from APTP (anti-police terror project). like many others i have my critiques about culture/politics around the women’s marches, but was so pleased and excited to see folks in their “pussy hats” ready and willing to lock arms and stand their ground to prevent police and angry passengers alike from passing through. it made me feel hopeful — perhaps in spite of the very valid critiques around inclusivity (particularly in relationship to race and people who don’t identify as women), the mass mobilization the women’s march provided can really lead to a popular movement of inclusive, effective resistance in this era of a fascist regime. alicia garza wrote a great piece related to this called, “our cynicism will not build a movement. collaboration will.” here’s a short excerpt:

“Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement. If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement, you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent, we will not win…

I remember who I was before I gave my life to the movement. Someone was patient with me. Someone saw that I had something to contribute. Someone stuck with me. Someone did the work to increase my commitment. Someone taught me how to be accountable. Someone opened my eyes to the root causes of the problems we face. Someone pushed me to call forward my vision for the future. Someone trained me to bring other people who are looking for a movement into one.”

one moment i witnessed: a line of about 15 riot police approached a small group of folks banded together to block an airport escalator, and ask them to move. they refused, and someone from APTP told the riot cops to leave. after a few moments, the riot cops turned walked away. i have never seen that happen before. it was powerful. (view democracy now’s coverage of the SFO protests here.)

thanks to the folks at protests and online who have pointed out the fundamental error in the sentiment, “we are all immigrants.” we are not all immigrants. notably, native people and black folks whose ancestors were brought here forcibly as slaves are not immigrants. i am a white settler, the descendent of great grandparents who immigrated from ireland to turtle island (aka the U.S.), which was stolen from indigeneous people. there is power in unity, but it is equally important and powerful to highlight the difference in our histories and experiences — and how if anything, that should serve to strengthen the collectivity in our struggles.

btw — i’ve done some re-organizing of my small monthly donations to include AROC. please do the same if you can, even $5-10 a month makes a difference for grassroots organizations. even better, seek out a muslim/arab led organizing group in your community, if you are not in the bay area.

on a personal note, i celebrate two years in my loving partnership with eliana this month, and am so grateful for the exploration, support, laughter, transformation, and love our relationship continues to bring me! this might be a little embarrassing for them to read. but rad, queer love is resistance and i am proud and grateful to be in it!

“love is an action, never simply a feeling.” (bell hooks)

til next time,

xo freddie

ps – !!!!!!!!

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“i have three hearts”