by Maury Edwards
In August, 31 people were murdered in what is finally being called an act of domestic terrorism. It happened in America, again. This time the toll for the year spikes to over 250. It happened in places I’ve visited enough to put a “part of the seen world” feeling on it because I recently (three years ago) visited El Paso and it left lasting impressions on me.
How are they different from here on the Eastside of Seattle? It is warmer and more arid. It is a city on the border next to another, older city on the other side of that border. There are people of color trying to access El Paso from the south; but part of the problem is most don’t come through El Paso as much anymore and as they have since the 1800s. Many try to cross in the desert where some make it, and others perish. There are chilling reports that talk about all of the stuff left behind by the desert walkers (“The Border” podcast from NPR).
A group of friends and I have been on the corners of the Eastside for 5 years doing what we call a “Flash Stance.”
What is a Flash Stance? My general message is that it is a stand against the marginalization of people of color here and across America. Personally, it is an opportunity for me to use my First Amendment rights to protest the senseless killing of people of color in our streets in our name. I was motivated to do this before the 2016 election, but it made so much sense to continue after the 2016 election. Why “Flash Stance”? It is a stance we are taking and we are not consistently in one place. How do we do it? We put out three banners and hold signs. We wave at people and talk among ourselves. Occasionally we interact more than just smiling and waving. Someone will walk up, both pro and con, but most often any objectors we get are still in their cars and ready to drive away quickly once they “tell us off.”
Let me tell you about one recent Sunday in the part of Bellevue called Factoria where we had our “Flash Stance.” It is August and few people are in town, Rev. Furrer and the regulars showed up just like I do, every weekend but for one each month, to get out our message. These are the people that show up in rain, in cold, in blazing sun…because they care. Our regulars are a scholar-poet, former teacher…warrior for the rights for others trying to get people talking about race. Another, a former nurse, a musician who cares deeply about her fellow homo sapiens. I don’t deserve them, but I try to feed their spirits because they are the hopeful part of our future.
For quite a while on Sunday, we saw smiling faces. We stood for about 45 minutes getting smiles, waves, honks and “thumbs up” (enough time for someone seeing us to make a phone call and get a couple of yahoos out there to confront us). Then, a fellow in rolled up short-sleeve shirt in an older (60s) model pickup starting yelling at us from where he was waiting at the light. It seems he had been cut by “a jagged jar for three inches” in a fight and had lost. He claimed the guy was a cocaine dealer and a general scoundrel. I got the idea the “guy” was an African American. The driver wondered if we got our “powder” from that guy? There were lots of “F*** You’s.” He yelled, “Black lives don’t matter! All lives matter!” As he was yelling at us, another pickup, an older white one, drove by yelling, “White lives matter!” They both left in a flurry of profanity.
We talked for another 15 minutes or so. As we were folding our banners and neatly storing our signs, an older fellow came up to us on foot. He wanted to know if the guy in the blue truck was giving us a hard time. We said, “yes.” He sympathized and said he thought that it couldn’t happen here. I thought, “he’s thinking that racism doesn’t happen here.” None of us was seeing the El Paso nor Dayton situation as a parallel to ours, as I suspect he was.
The violence of these mass shootings and domestic terrorism is horrific and gives me great pause when I think of this happening so often and in a place I love to people just like me. I don’t want that for my part of America, and I feel that proactively talking about this will be a way to stop it from happening again and again here on the Eastside. What about those that would like us to go away so that they don’t have to think about this? Wouldn’t we be doing a disservice to all involved by being quiet as we have been for decades?
I want them to know that “We’re still here.” I love the Eastside and am thankful for the bounty I have received being here. I have grown up in Washington. I am thankful for the life I have lived in Washington. I have lived other places but I want to remain here and have my children feel that they can grow and thrive here, too. And I want that for all those seeking the same thing.
Please come out and add your voice to the chorus to combat this evil. Silence on any of our parts is tacit approval. Don’t miss this opportunity to give your support in our attempt to have civil discourse about race. Help us fight your fight.
Black Lives Matter Flash Stances continue to meet several times a month in different Eastside communities. Join fellow church members as they stand against the marginalization of people of color in an attempt to start conversations with people who pass by. For more information, contact Maury Edwards at [email protected].