A speaker at a Black Lives Matter rally said the owner of Uncle Ike's is a former soldier of the Israel Defense Forces. Even if it was true, what has that got to do with anything?
A speaker at a Black Lives Matter rally said the owner of Uncle Ike's is a former soldier of the Israel Defense Forces. Even if it was true, what has that got to do with anything? Charles Mudede

On August 26, Josh Feit of Publicola posted about anti-Semitic remarks that were made at a Black Lives Matter rally on August 9, the one-year anniverary of Michael Brown's death. According to Feit, the BLM march, which began at Seattle Central College, reached 23rd and Union—the center of the Central District, Seattle's former black American neighborhood. That's where a speaker, who has not yet been identified, made the pot shop Uncle Ike's the target of his grievances.

However, the speaker, who may or not identify himself with the Black Lives Matter movement, did not say anything substantive about Uncle Ike's or the controversies surrounding its opening, but instead made bizarre claims about its owner, Ian Eisenberg: "You don't come into black neighborhoods trying to throw your weight around, especially when you're coming from Israel and former IDF [Israel Defense Forces]." These remarks were captured in a YouTube video. As Feit points out, Eisenberg, who is Jewish, was born and raised in Seattle and never served in the IDF.

But the problem in all of this is not so much the speaker's apparent anti-Semitism, but that the crowd listening to his offensive speech—a crowd that's demanding racial justice from society—doesn't make it clear that such statements are unacceptable. (There are some rumblings but nothing definitive.) The fact that it was allowed to happen with apparently little challenge, no direct confrontation, and no outright denouncement is deeply troubling. It gives the impression that BLM activists or those who are sympathetic to the cause are cool with the zero-sum game of fighting racism with racism.

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This impression is strengthened by the fact that the person who follows the first speaker and continues the attack on Uncle Ike's does not express her disagreement with the first speaker's anti-Semitic statements. In the way Marissa Johnson blamed police brutality on widespread white supremacy, the unidentified speaker (who, again, may or may not identify herself with BLM) places white supremacy at the root of the gentrification that Uncle Ike's represents. Nevertheless, the plainly racist statements made by the previous speaker are permitted to remain as is.

If BLM is opposed to racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression, then it must be consistent and require those who speak at its events to assert those values. Allowing anyone to just say any old thing will just not do. Such incoherence can only discredit the movement and cloud the otherwise very clear and important issues.

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