By Ernesto Saavedra
Being the editor has been quite an experience. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. I made mistakes along the way, but I was up for the challenge. Inheriting nearly 20 years of history coupled with egos and politics is not easy to change in a year. Given the circumstances, I believe I did the best I could. Thanks to the support of many of you in the community, I continued to provide you with the best content I could find, generously given to me by people who never even knew they had it in them. All this while trying to bring it back to the community by amplifying the voices of youth, people of color, immigrants, Natives, women and LGBTQ+ folks. Again, I could not have done this without you, and thank you for giving me a chance. As I transition, I cannot help but reflect on my experience.
To be transparent, many out there, some of which read the paper and subscribe to it, did not like what I was doing. I would hear that the articles were becoming too “opinionated,” “militant” and “youthful” and hoped that the paper would continue to be financially viable with these changes. People were trying to mold me into something that I simply was not. I felt the pressure to appeal to our readers and subscribers, most of which are White liberals/progressives (I use them interchangeably). I kept feeling down about myself and what I was doing, and it is for this reason that I am leaving. This September issue will be my last.
What I experienced was subtle but built up slowly like boiling water: micro-aggression, micromanaging, offensive comments and behavior, sense of entitlement and feeling tokenized. I cannot forget the retaliation that often happens when one brings up their concerns; you are either fired or do not get invited to events and radio shows anymore because most of these spaces are run by White progressives. I came to find out this was no isolated incident.
While sharing my experience, others, many of whom are people of color, women and identify as queer, empathized because they too experienced the same things working with many White progressives. Then the whole thing with Bernie and #BlackLivesMatter happened on Aug. 8 at a rally for Social Security and Medicare in Seattle, Wash.
I will not go into details about what happened. I want to dig deeper into the reactions, primarily of the White liberals, the Bernie Sanders supporters (and Hillary’s too) who reaffirmed what many historically marginalized communities already knew, White Supremacy permeates even within the most progressive of circles whether we realize it or not. It is so ingrained in our psyche it is normalized and justifies one’s thoughts and actions no matter how it may make the other person feel or think.
For example, instead of understanding why it happened, many White liberals came to Bernie’s defense by bringing out everything that he’s done for Black people, as if he was their savior. Then the discrediting came, calling one of the women a Palin tea partier, Christian fundamentalist. Bernie seems to be responding positively as a direct result of these actions. However, I wonder if he would, even if they didn’t happen? Is it just to put out the flames? The point is missed, overshadowed by respectability politics, criticizing tactics because it upset and or made someone feel uncomfortable.
In his 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King, Jr., had this to say about the White moderate, “the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
If we want to continue working together in the community, we need to address these deep-rooted and uncomfortable truths individually and systemically.
For example, if you’re part of a progressive organization and your board of directors is not reflective of the community you’re working in or profess to advocate for, there’s something wrong. If you keep asking why people of color and youth don’t go to your spaces and events, there’s something wrong. If you don’t go to something because you don’t feel it’s “your” problem, there’s something wrong. If you feel you know everything about a community because you have friends or a partner that’s from that community, there’s something wrong. If you’ve done things in the past and or present and feel entitled to treat people like shit, there’s something wrong.
We have to go beyond tokenizing our community members and using them for our own political gain. Many of us will not put up with it anymore.
In conclusion, I do not mean to “air out dirty laundry,” as they say, but this is a community paper and I feel obligated to share this with you in hopes that you understand. Even if you don’t, it is not my responsibility to make sure that you do. This is all out of love and with that, thank you once again for giving me this opportunity…I’m signing out.