[NOTE: this article is an adaptation of an email I originally sent to the CHID program at the University of Washington, Seattle of which I am (sorta) an alumni. I am sharing it now in hopes of provoking wider discussion and appropriate actions on these themes]
Dear whoever is reading this,
I was just watching this video “Kill a Hipster” by Watsky featuring Chinaka Hodge and I was inspired to send it to you for your viewing and listening pleasure, which ended up necessitating some further details to explain my urge to share. The hashtags in my subject line note some but not all of the content here. This communique is primarily concerned with highlighting the relationship between the Academy and gentrification, and calling for collective strategizing against the academy’s conventional reinforcement of colonization and gentrificationi, generally and specifically in Seattle/occupied Duwamish and Suquamish territory.
I have noticed a very strong trend of people who have attended the University of Washington, whom I have met through that institution, moving into Seattle neighbourhoods during (duh) and also after they complete their degrees at the UW. Particularly I have noticed graduates moving into the Central Districtii and Beacon Hill. I don’t know how common this is but it seemed frequent enough in my own direct experience to warrant notice and further analysis, considering I believe myself to be a person opposed to forced migration, genocide, and comfort built on the unnecessary misery of others.
For disclosure’s sake, I lived in Beacon Hill for some number of months with my grandmother when I was very young (around 3 years old) and again for about 6 months during my final year at UW and my more recent housing situation there failed thanks to a wonderful slum lordiii. My current residence is in my long time home in Edmonds, WA , that of my great grandmother, where I am a settler on stolen Snohomish territory.
I began writing this piece from a place I was visiting in East Oakland (the other side of Oakland from that featured in the above “Kill a Hipster” video). Spending even a bit of time in East and West Oakland and learning from folks who are being directly effected by gentrification thereiv only reminded me more and more of the same phenomena in Seattlev and thus I felt urged by the pervasiveness of gentrification to write this piece. Seeing this video “Google Google Apps Apps” by Per Sia featuring DADDIE$ PLA$TIK makes me ponder on the relationship between White Supremacy, Microsoft Corporation, University of Washington, drones, video gamesvi, Boeing Corporation, war, genocides, and especially the significance of the policing and tech industries in Occupied Palestine/Israel for the processes of colonization and gentrification in the americas.
Some points of connection regarding varying items on the above list: Jon Huntsman Jr., who makes much of his money sitting on the board of Caterpillar, the company that provides the bulldozers to tear down Palestinian homes as well as construct border walls and new gentrifying Israeli settlements, just spoke at UW’s June 2013 graduationvii; Huntsman secured the gig thanks to his fellow Utah Mormon friend and current UW president Michael K. Young, who is playing a major role in the next wave of gentrification of Seattle’s University Districtviii and who also resides over UW’s Center for Commercialization (C4C) which specializes in making private companies out of publicly funded researchix; Huntsman spoke to the graduating UW class of 2013 about how human beings manage the world (colonizer perspective much?) and ended his advice portion with the following:
Give back! Work to keep Amerika Great! Serve her, if asked…. never forget…in the end, we may not all be of one party, but we are all of part of one nation. A nation that is in desperate need of your generational gift of energy and confidence. Never forget how lucky you are to be sitting here in Amerika today, even with student loans and maybe little uncertainty about your future.. because we live in the greatest freedom loving place on earth. Embrace it.
Israeli Defense Forces teach racism in the name of “counter terrorism” to police in the USA via the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ (JINSA) “Law Enforcement Exchange Program”x; Israeli border companies are assisting Boeing Corporation and others with securing (i.e. surveiling, kidnapping and murdering people on both sides of) the US/Mexico Borderxi; CHASE Bank—the same one that financed the Nazisxii and called for the elimination of the Zapatistas for their resistance to genocide and therefor its foreign investmentsxiii—CEO Jaime Dimon was sponsored on November 2nd of 2011 by the UW Foster School of Business to give a speech on leadership to UW business students, although he had to leave out the fire escape after being surrounded by (Decolonize/)Occupy Seattlexiv; an international police (or terrorist, depending on how you look at it) conference/weapons exchange and training program called Urban Shield was recently held in Oakland, CAxv the same place that is experiencing new waves of gentrification both thanks to anarcho-hipsterismxvi and Twitterxvii.
On that last note, I am reminded of this piece I read awhile back titled “Who Is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation” (by CROATOAN, April 2012), which at some point details ways that academic-activists channelled into the non-profit industrial complexxviii are used to manage, control and tame grassroots struggle as a form of counter insurgencyxix. So, keep that in mind all you (/me) college-trained activists, revolutionaries or whatever it is you go by.
UW is based in the development of science as a tool of colonizationxx. This is probably true of most or all academies, but we will stick the UW for the purposes of specificity. UW as a conglomerate dictates opportunity through the control it has both on the shape of the market and as a distribution center of the education required for access to anywhere from baseline to prestigious positions within said market/economy of tomorrow. The University of Washington, while not officially one of the Land-Grant Institutions [thanks, person who emailed me and corrected me on my initial statement that it was] (it was founded the year before the Morill Act of 1862), nonetheless contains the same “spirit”. According to this document, The Spirit of the Land Grant Institutions, has the following properties [italics mine]:
1. The spirit of initiative-pioneering; [exploration]
2. The spirit of growth-progress; [capitalization]
3. The spirit of equal opportunity for all-democracy;[bureaucracy of the colonizers]
4. The spirit of helpfulness-service [colonization and imperialism, e.g. Missionary mentality].
UW has clearly served all of these functions historically since its founding days most obviously through existing on stolen native land and the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909, the main purpose of which was to market the rich “natural resources” of the Pacific Northwest for exploitation to investors/pillagers and to justify a US invasion of the Philippines to a domestic audience. It has carried that legacy from then through to the present, most obviously with things such as the presence of ROTC on campus, dating from the scalping days to present (unlike some other places), the CIA on campus, and corporate domination of the Board of Regents and UW’s capital investments in fossil fuels globallyxxii; UW is a perpetrator of colonization and genocide within and outside the US through its founding on stolen land, continued harbouring of a statue of George Washington facing West with a Bible and Sword to represent Manifest Destinyxxiii; its capital investments in plans to build a coal and oil export terminal on sacred ancestral Lummi Nation landxxiv; even with its “green investing“, in the national context of Obama’s “Bioeconomy Blueprint” it is quite dubious that as long as UW’s infrastructure requires “capital investments” that it is even capable of moving beyond the colonial paradigm and ceasing to murder the future; investment in and support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinexxv; the imprisonment and torture of non-human animals in the name of developing “life saving” pharmaceuticals that are actually created based on profit calculations (see diagram from Biofutures DVD) not life-based calculations, and therefore could be just as likely to kill you as save your life (assuming you could overcome the financial barriers to access ones that are lifesaving), for example their cancer research dollars come from the same industry that is suppressing the cure for cancer (and yes they are still torturing animals); gentrification in Seattle’s Central Districtxxvi; gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the mission district and Oakland through through a complex array of corporate tentacles with various relationships to tech and (forced) migrationsxxvii.
Bottom line: people are being economically (and thus militarily) displaced from their communities in Seattle (and elsewhere) by those who are granted economic (and thus military) privileges through their careers at UW and people who don’t believe in genocide should find ways to sabotage these colonial processesxxviii, whether one is part of UW or not. Make sure to see that last footnote (XXVIII ) for a good start on solutions, especially when it comes to Jubilee and Debt Abolition. Sorry if it is too much information, I know, lot’s of end notes and hyperlinks. That damned global research university colonized the shit outta me. I am still writing this at 4:47am. It can’t be this complicated. No really though you should read all the endnotes and follow up with wherever the research takes you. Anywho, a few really important battles I know of in Seattle:
1) #More4Mann campaign to save Africatown Center from the Seattle School District’s development plans. Africatown Center was evicted from its home in the Horace Mann building in November after several months of offering free and extremely valuable learning experiences to Black youth by Black elders in that building in the Central District (while remaining open to broader community participation and usage of the space as well). Check out the Public Hearing ”More4Mann Four” vs Seattle Public Schools Thursday, December 12th, 3 PM John Stanford Center (School District Headquarters) 2445 3rd Avenue South, Seattle, WA 2) The fight against SSA Marine‘s proposed coal terminal on Lummi Nation land at Xwe’chi’eXen/Cherry Point (~Bellingham) (see Draw the Line and Idle No More Washington) 3) SodaSTREAM Boycott Campaign (see here, here, and here) ; 4) the existence of colonial borders generally and the continued existence of the Detention Center in Tacoma and constant threat and occurrence of indefinite detention and/or deportation and separation of families by colonial authorities (check out Who You Callin Illegal and La Colectiva Legal del Pueblo) 5) the existence of jails and prisons generally, but in particular the new juvenile detention center in Seattle that tries to give a smiley face to youth incarceration (see http://nonewyouthjail.wordpress.com/) and checkout Critical Resistance – Abolition Now! Ten Years of Strategy and Struggle against the Prison Industrial Complex and The Stockade Stood Burning: Rebellion and the Convict Lease in Tennessee’s Coalfields, 1891-1895 and other writings by the NC Piece Corps 6) and, I just learned thanks to that NoNewYouthJail website of the plight of Nestora Salgado, looks like there is a rally in Seattle today:
Free Nestora Salgado, indigenous leader & political prisoner! Rally Tuesday 12/10!
Protest at the Mexican Consulate
2132 3rd Ave in Downtown Seattle
(Corner of 3rd & Lenora St)
Okay folks, I was gonna try to be a little less exhaustive with that last part initially, only intending to put one thing up, and then that didn’t make any sense. Then, I was gonna try to be more exhaustive, and that didn’t work out either, because I’m exhausted and want to try to sleep now since someone is gonna help me get my kidney stones removed today and it is 5:49 AM in Mexico City right now. So if I missed something important to you please respond, preferably not angrily, whatever details it is you want folks to know about. I will leave you with these final words quoted from the end of the Video: “Decolonization is not a tendency!” 2013 Seattle Anarchist Book Fair Panel:
“1. How many people actually live in the place they were born? Look around…the reason this is is because of colonization, it is forced migration. 2. How many people are living in exhile? That’s real, they can’t go back home. 3. How many people are not living where they are from because of economic displacement? 4. How many people chose their current residence? Look at the demographics. Thank you.”
“I have lived here the whole time in Seattle. The CD and the South End in particular are COMPLETELY GONE. All the people who have moved in are gentrifiers. All of us got pushed…I can’t even afford the South End anymore, I still live in Seattle but barely…this idea of exceptionalism, I’m special, I’m special, i’m special. No YOU’RE NOT. I’m not goddamn special and I can’t even get back to my community because during gentrification everybody went to prison with me and either got out or didn’t and now I can’t find them.”
[PS- after the first draft of this went out, a friend emailed me and said I used the word decolonization a lot and wanted to know what I mean. This is my (adapted) response:
Pretty good definitions provided on page 3 of the following:
and also this has a pretty good breadown of a lot of stuffs:
- Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor by Eve Tuck and K Wayne Yang
And, I recognize white identity as some that is fundamentally colonized as well, which also gives “white people” a stake in decolonization, and I mean they should look at it as a desirable process for their own liberations and betterment as well. Take a clue from Watsky in the video, upon the realization of being a Hipster/White/Gentrifier recognize it as an undesirable condition similar to being a zombie (i.e. something based on unlife) and seek to remedy it, and just maybe if you can demonstrate with actions that you are working on it and becoming less of a force of unlife and more of a force of life, and Chinaka Hodge won’t have to do you in like she did to Watsky with the drumstick through the back of the skull. On much of the processes of the initial colonization of the people who were to become called “White” in the USA and where to go from there see:
- The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Rediker and Linebaugh, 2000)
- Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation
(Silvia Federici, 2004)
- The Real History of St. Patrick’s Day
- “How the Irish Became White” by Noel Ignatiev
- White People Suck (song) by Desert Rat
- The Point Is Not To Interpret Whiteness But To To Abolish It Noel Ignatiev
- The Divorce of Thought from Deed: Social Conflict, White Supremacy, and Free Speech at UNC-Chapel Hill
i Perhaps the most helpful definition I have heard of gentrification, in terms of my own understanding, is the process of making an area comfortable for the gentry. If we already understand that the University (and education generally) operates as a tool of colonization (see Jeruviel Stardust Earthen-Hornbroth “Abolishing Education and Liberating Creation” and Layla Abdel Rahim Wild Children, Domesticated Dreams: Civilization and the Birth of Education) then it should come as no surprise that a university contributes to the gentrification of neighborhoods in the commute range of its campus(es). To learn more details of how specifically the University of Washington has contributed to the colonization of the Salish Sea region and gentrification in the area, see: here for a list of resources on the Alaska Yukon Pacific World’s Fair which launched the UW and Seattle (and Bill Gates) into their current positions of colonial/capitalist dominance, and also read Bill Speidel‘s Sons of the Profits: There’s no business like grow business. The Seattle Story from 1851-1901about the founding figures (or Profits) of the City of Seattle. Also see “Colonizing the Inner City- Gentrification and the Geographies of Colonialism.”
ii Note: the hyperlinked wiki article offers a broad historical overview of the CD, but completely misses the fact that the gentrification of black community in the Central District was through passive mechanisms of economic displacement as it indicicates, but rather through a federal government sponsored program called “Weed and Seed” where black residents were weeded out by the racist criminal justice system (this should be no surprise to those who know that police started in the USA as slave catchers and to those who recognize that slavery still exists, the police are still slave catchers) and housing code changes were used so the City of Seattle could evict black residents who could not have otherwise been displaced by rent raises, because they actually owned their homes. It also fails to mention the City of Seattle’s practice of redlining. In the previously linked “Weed and Seed” document, you can find that the process of gentrification of the Central District had directly to do with the federal government’s foresight regarding the need for housing for Microsoft Corporation and Boeing Corporation Employees. That offers some insightful background on conflict between newer generations of transplants from African countries in the CD more recently displaced from their homelands by exploitation by those companies and the Black community that has longer standing roots in the CD. Also see Gentrification, Integration or Displacement?: The Seattle Story by McGee, Jr., Henry
iii Unfortunately, I didn’t go through the trouble of contacting Seattle Solidarity Network (seasol.net) about it at the time, even though I am sure it would have been a successful campaign and myself and other roommates would not have lost out on housing and hundreds of dollars.
iv For an in depth explanation of gentrification in Oakland, among other things including the more recent phenomena of anarcho-hipster gentrification and why you shouldn’t move to Oakland, see Video: “Decolonization is not a tendency!” 2013 Seattle Anarchist Book Fair Panel . The panel also ends with a solid set of questions I really recommend folks contemplate:
v On one particular current struggle for and against gentrification in Seattle see: “The Griot’s First Tale” from Shades of Silence; The HIDMO (documentary); Hari Kondabolu – Gentrification in Seattle; “National Evaluation of Weed and Seed” US Department of Justice June 1999; we should also consider extractive industry/mining projects as part of the process of gentrification, as they formulate economies responsible for displacing people, especially the original peoples whose ancestral lands are being defiled. Keep an eye toward the fight against SSA Marine‘s proposed coal terminal at Xwe’chi’eXen/Cherry Point (~Bellingham) on Lummi Nation land at http://totempolejourney.com/
vi On Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates and UW see: “METROPOLIS  – microsoft empire part 1” and “METROPOLIS  – microsoft empire part 2“; “Bill Gates, Monsanto, and eugenics: How one of the world’s wealthiest men is actively promoting a corporate takeover of global agriculture” ; “Call to Acton – GMO Foods and the Suppression of Academic Freedom at the University of Washington”; and of course, FOOD FIGHT: Bullies Poisoning The ‘Hood Get Splattered! — Earth Amplified, feat. Stic of Dead Prez
Also see accompanying curriculum to the video at http://sosjuice.com/foodfight
and check out earthamplified.com and newmessagemedia.com
and I highly recommend reading The Modern/Colonial Food System in a Paradigm of War by Haleh Zandi and Marcelo Felipe Garzo Montalvo (.pdf of zine-version); (more)
Also, on addiction and Empire: see Ways of Healing: Week 8 and the following video:
On drones see: the PBS documentary “Rise of Drones”; the June 11, 2013 Seattle Weekly piece titled “Washington’s $10B Unmanned Industry” by Rick Anderson; “Drones are taking to the skies in the U.S.” Feb 15, 2013 from Brian Bennett and Joel Rubin at the Los Angeles Times; “Game of Drones” June 28, 2013 from Eugene Weekly by Camila Mortensen; “In the virtual cockpit: What it takes to fly a drone” by Nidhi Subbaraman NBC News April 13, 2013
Also on the subject of drones, see Raytheon’s Global Domain:
vii See A Letter to Jon Huntsman and the UW Class of 2013 and Jon Huntsman’s 2013 University of Washington Commencement address ; if you don’t know why the Israeli occupation of Palestine is bad, see: http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/ ; also see The Top 10 Documentaries about the Israel-Palestine Conflict and The Palestine Teaching Trunk
viii See Visions for the U District: taller, vital and still funky by Lynn Thomson Seattle Times
ix See C4C New Ventures Facility recognized among world’s top business incubators by Clare LaFond
x See Homeland Security Made in Israel by Philip Giraldi August 22, 2013; Department of Justice COPS Office Features Article on JINSA’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program August 27, 2013; Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs: Brainwashing the U.S. Military, U.S. police departments and stealing elections on January 25, 2008; and see JINSA’s presentation at http://www.scribd.com/doc/33605773/JINSA-Law-Enforcement-Exchange-Program-LEEP ; Israeli technology to keep US borders safe ; Israelis Win Contract To Secure US Borders ;
xi See ‘New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership’ oppose Technion’s role in U.S. militarization and domestic spying by New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership; New Yorkers Resist the Apartheid Walls from Palestine to Mexico Ad-Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East – New York 13 November 2006
xii See American Banks Funded the Nazis ; 10 Global Businesses that Worked With the Nazis ; How the Allied multinationals supplied Nazi Germany throughout World War II ; and Bush Family Funded Adolf Hitler
xiii See Major U.S. Bank Urges Zapatista Wipe-Out: ‘A litmus test for Mexico’s stability’ By KEN SILVERSTEIN AND ALEXANDER COCKBURN and CHASE MANHATTAN’S EMERGING MARKETS GROUP MEMO [By] Riordan Roett—text from the memo: “While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.”
xiv This was for me, as a friend put it, my “baptism by fire,” where I first experienced police violence against myself. I was maced by some yet unknown Seattle Police Department officer for filming their fellow officers beat my friends with their bicycles. You can see me filming and then getting maced starting at 1:20 of the following youtube video courtesy of CNN Occupy Seattle seeks to ‘arrest’ bank CEO ; I felt the spray aimed directly at my left eye, in a very strong way, it burst up into my upper left eyelid and I could only focus on the burning for awhile. Luckily I was immediately treated by Seattle Street Medics and a Seattle Times reporter that I never got the name of. I was almost ready to call it a night, until I opened my eyes and saw the police were still using violence against my friends and the pain lowered. This was when I first learned first hand that police are willing to use violence against not only their primary targets, but also against those who record and share evidence of their violence with the aim to suppress it. From then on, I regularly witness camera people and medics being targeted by Seattle Police Department’s chemical weapons.
xvi For a detailed breakdown of how anarcho-hipsterism works, an analysis of the mind of the “white revolutionary” see the first section of the second video at Video: “Decolonization is not a tendency!” 2013 Seattle Anarchist Book Fair Panel
xx For the general idea of how this is true of universities in general see “Science as a Tool of Colonization” on p48 of “A “Tricky Business” – Knowledge Production in Children’s Environmental Health”; Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici; and Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English; Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era by Melissa Cooper; and [This] University is a Racket
xxi See here for some basic information about the fair, and also I have heard there is a load of information on the Alaska Yukon Pacific Fair at the Filipino American National Historic Society in Seattle
xxiv Research UW’s financial ties to SSA Marine (e.g. here and here for starts) which is the company investing in the coal terminal on Lummi Nation land (see INM Global Day of Action: SSA Marine Coal Train Terminal Seattle and follow the Lummi Nation’s fight at http://totempolejourney.com/); also see http://divestuw.wordpress.com/
xxv See “A People’s History of the University of Washington” (RE: Michael K. Young and Jon Huntsman) and SUPERUW
xxvi See callout of famous Seattle “power brokers” from Mimi to Bill gates and their contribution to sabotaging black self-determination in Seattle’s Central District at “Mayor’s “Juneteenth” Town Hall” by Wyking
xxvii See An Antagonist’s Guide to Destroying the Surveillance State ; Against Gentrification and Neighbors Outing Blatant Exploitation ; Last stand at the Bulb ; Share the Bulb ; This last point of connecting UW to gentrification in the Bay Area may sound like a stretch to some. However, as long as UW continues to exist as a colonial and capitalist entity, functioning as a major engine for systemic processes of genocide, ecocide, and forced displacement, it remains culpable. The fact that it reaches far beyond Seattle in its culpability in these processes should be of no surprise though, given that it is a “Tier 1 Global Research Institution” (i.e. It is trying to solve all of the problems it continues to create for the whole world with its colonial approach to life, i.e. Domination).
xxviii See “No we can’t all just get along: hip hop, gang unity, and the LA rebellion” by Jeff Chang; “Decolonization is not a metaphor” by Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang and 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance by Gord Hill ; We Belong to Each Other: Resurgent Indigenous Nations by Jeff Corntassel; also, on Whiteness, see: How the Irish Became White and “The Point Is Not To Interpret Whiteness But To To Abolish It” by Noel Ignatiev ; and Undocumented vs. Illegal: A Distinction without a Difference by Yasmin Nair ; Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber; Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual by #StrikeDebt Jubiliating; Or, How the Atlantic Working Class Used the Biblical Jubilee Against Capitalism, With Some Success by Peter Linebaugh; Jubilee: A Game of Debt Abolition and Total Freedom; The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of MAY DAY by Peter Linebaugh; and A Learning Commons