Hope Is Preferred, But Anger Will Do

I feel deep in my soul that civic engagement is important, and I want them to understand the world that they will inherit. And this new police bunker will affect them personally.

I took my children to their first protest this week. With the increasing brutality of police officers at recent BLM protests, I had been wary to put them at risk by taking them to larger protests over the killing of black men and women at the hands of police. A protest at Seattle City Hall, protesting against the new $160 million police bunker being built less than two miles from our house in a city currently under Federal Consent Decree for violating civil rights, seemed like a good first protest for my children to attend with me.

I’ve loved government and politics since I was 5 years old. It was then, watching reports of the Tiananmen Square protests on TV, that I knew that I needed to understand why one side was displaying so much might and power, and yet they seemed so very afraid of unarmed college students. I needed to know how this system worked.

That fascination took me through a degree in Political Science and into my career now as a writer. But, as is the case with most parents who love their vocation and hope to pass it on to their kids, my children could care less. Yes, I know that this means they are normal kids at age 14 and 8, but there is more to it — they are jaded. They already feel like caring about politics is pointless. But I feel deep in my soul that civic engagement is important, and I want them to understand the world that they will inherit. And this new police bunker will affect them personally. My oldest son is now at the age and physical stature where he is beginning to be followed by cops when he’s hanging out with friends, and I do not want my tax dollars to further entrench our brutal police system in our community.

I hoped that the days’ events would educate them on how government works. I hoped they’d get to see a glimpse of the nuts and bolts of city management.

But what I was really aiming for, was the chance that they’d get some hope. I wanted them to see citizens — young and brown and black citizens like them — stand up for what they believe in and be heard. I wanted them to see people like them make change.

I wanted them to see citizens — young and brown and black citizens like them — stand up for what they believe in and be heard. I wanted them to see people like them make change.

I explained to my kids what the new north precinct was, that it would be the most expensive precinct in the country, that the money could do so much for schools and the homeless and those addicted to drugs. They listened, asked some questions, and agreed to come along — my 8-year-old-grabbing his Black Lives Matter sign from the living room window on the way.

For a mid-day City Hall protest in mild-mannered Seattle, the place was packed. The City Hall was filled, the overflow room was filled, and people spilled over into the halls. We were shuttled into the overflow room with over 100 other people who hadn’t dared push past the security barriers to the main hall. Many young black and brown kids wore black shirts that said “Block The Bunker.” People of all colors held Black Lives Matter signs. One by one, people walked up to the mic to speak against the police bunker.

My 14-year-old was the most self-conscious of the two. He tried to look calm and cool, and winced with mild embarrassment whenever I whooped in support of a well-placed comment. My 8-year-old whispered questions to me about terms he didn’t understand. They were both shocked at the anger of the commenters. They were surprised that people could just walk up to people of authority and make demands.

Then, a young black woman got up to speak. She could not have been too many years older than my teenage son, and she had an afro that made my son pat his own in subconscious appreciation and affinity. She had a proud swagger as she walked to the podium. She was a kid, but she was a kid who knew that she had every right to be there. She was a kid with power talking to power. She leaned in to the microphone.

“If you want to pretend to give a single fuck about black lives, you will not vote for this bunker,” she began.

My teenage son watched, wide eyed, and mouthed “whoa.”

A man walked by our seat with extra Black Lives Matter signs and my son immediately grabbed one.

And he was transfixed. Both my sons were. They were no longer content to sit in the overflow room; they wanted to push past the barricade and go into the meeting room. They understood that they had a right to be there too. I walked with them as they pushed upstairs and they took their signs to the back of the room and held them at their chests.

They listened to every word, asking questions when they didn’t understand, and clapping and cheering along with salient points that were made by commenters. They were visibly struck by personal stories of abuse by police. My 8-year-old was regularly shaking his head and whispering to me, “It’s not right.”

They cheered with the crowd; they raised their fists in solidarity. They were inspired. They had hope.

After almost two hours of public commentary (in which not a single commenter spoke up in favor of the new precinct) and then another hour of tense back and forth between council members and constituents, it was time to vote.

I held my 8-year-old’s hand as the City Council voted to endorse the new precinct. Only one member of the council voted with the people. Only one. “No, it’s not right!” my 8-year-old cried, and then made the growling noise he’s known to make when he’s very frustrated.

“How could they do this? How could none of them listen?” My 14-year-old asked, bewildered, “Aren’t they supposed to represent us?”

I was crushed. I was crushed for my city but also for my sons. The hope that I had wanted for them only lasted a few short hours before the city showed unequivocally that they don’t care about people like them. This is what many don’t understand — how much we’d love to hope, how hard we fight for it.

“How could they do this? How could none of them listen?” My 14-year-old asked, bewildered, “Aren’t they supposed to represent us?”

The members of the City Council silently rushed out of the room as soon as they gave their vote. Everyone else in the room was lost and angry. But the young black woman who had so inspired my son stood with another young black woman and gave a mic check. The room gathered around to listen.

“This isn’t over,” the young woman reminded us, “This is just beginning. There is a lot we can still do. This bunker will not be built.”

The young woman led us in a chant of love, anger, and solidarity.

“I have nothing to lose but my chains,” she chanted, and the room chanted back.

“I have nothing to lose but my chains.”

“I have nothing to lose but my chains.”

I could hear my sons joining in.

As we left, my son tapped on the shoulder of a friend of mine wearing a “Block The Bunker” shirt.

“Where do I get one?” he asked.

He then turned to me and said, “I want to meet that kid with the afro next time.”

Yes, hope is preferred. But anger will do.

Like what you read? Give The Establishment a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.

Responses
The author has chosen not to show responses on this story. You can still respond by clicking the response bubble.