Taking on Organized Racism in the Pacific Northwest
The Challenge of Leadership
By Jay Taber
Like twenty years ago–when organized racism tore Pacific Northwest communities apart–what is required today is an organized community response, one that uses research as an organizing tool. For three years, Sandra Robson has documented the people and methods behind industrial-sponsored terrorism; now it’s time to put that information to good use. The only thing missing is leadership capable of organizing concerned citizens in mounting an effective opposition to racism sponsored by SSA marine, BNSF Railway, KGMI Radio, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), Northwest Jobs Alliance, and the Whatcom Tea Party.
Organized racism by organized labor — in cahoots with the Tea Party and major corporations — is something that ought to concern local and regional human rights organizations. Indeed, this concern compelled me and others to publish articles, commentary and special reports over the last three years. As an associate scholar of the Olympia-based Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS)— the publisher of IC Magazine — I have alerted the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) regarding the ongoing industrial-sponsored racism, targeting them and Lummi Nation for opposing fossil fuel export on the Salish Sea.
As a think tank established by leaders of the National Congress of American Indians in the US and the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, CWIS in 1996 hosted a conference along with ATNI and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission titled The Politics of Land and Bigotry, to “join public policy activists and representatives of Indian nations in a dialogue about the portentous movements in America intent on promoting interracial discord.” Twenty years later, this topic is once again apropos.
The Whatcom Human Rights award–presented in the past to people such as Bellingham Herald crime reporter Cathy Logg, Public Good Project research director Paul de Armond, and Pacific Northwest human rights organizer Bill Wassmuth (all now deceased)—is a form of acknowledgment missing today. Citizen Journalist Sandra Robson stands in that company, as do others involved in the Salish Sea fossil fuel export war.
At the initial 1997 awards banquet held by the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force–now defunct–I sat alongside the editor of the Every Other Weekly (now Cascadia Weekly), Tim Johnson, whom I introduced to Cathy. Cathy, although working for the infamous Herald, courageously covered the Christian Patriot militias running wild in Western Washington. Paul de Armond put his life on the line helping to apprehend Christian Patriots in Seattle and Whatcom County, who were making explosives to kill human rights activists. Bill Wassmuth—a former Catholic priest–took on Aryan Nations, which attempted to murder him by blowing the back of his home off with dynamite.
As I look around today, civic leaders and moral authorities mostly decline to accept the challenge of leadership in social conflict involving organized racism. Mainstream and alternative media alike avoid it like the plague.
What this does is allow it to grow, until, like viruses, it becomes a public health crisis. As in epidemiology, ignorance, laziness, and cowardice do not produce beneficial results.
[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]