Exactly what are we doing in Seattle? Why are we all here?
Exactly what are we doing in Seattle? Why are we all here? Charles Mudede

I want to begin right here, with the word "woke," which white writers and commentators on the right love to mock at any opportunity. An example of this kind of mockery can be found in Jon Talton's pro-business piece, "A new focus at Seattle’s chamber faces an old roadblock at the City Council." After claiming the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce was somehow doing the Council a favor by not endorsing candidates this year, he wrote: "Whether the 'woke' City Council will accept that branch is a big question."

So, what is the meaning of this dismissal? Why is a white man like Talton so keen to trash a word that actually describes a major and very painful part of the black experience over the past 400 years? Because Talton is precisely in the group that constructed many of the ideological structures that de-valued black life, black culture, and black appearance, all for the purpose of justifying the extraction of free labor from black Africans (the foundation of the USA's economy).

"Woke" first meant, and so at its core continues to mean, the struggle to liberate a black mind from the systematic negation of blackness: White Jesus, white-fleshed band-aids, white dolls, white Hollywood heroes, and so on. The word also transports us to "the days of slavery." Woke was then the desire to learn how to read. (If your were caught being awake in this way, the whip began to fly.)

In the 1960s, the meaning of the word became a conceptual tool for learning how to love blackness, a feature that white society consistently coded as something that should be hated. We still live in a world that's coded in this way, and yet our very own Talton, a white man with a comfortable life, is under the impression that it's just fine to mock a word that in essence describes the black struggle to wake up from the long nightmare of white supremacy.

As for the rest of article, it is in part a rehashing of Talton's equally bad piece, "Across the lake, a city looks to profit from Seattle’s mistakes," in which he dishes out the old story about progressives in Seattle going too far and ruining everything.

He also amplifies the argument that the business community—particularly the ones represented by organizations such as the Chamber—now knows it needs to make if it hopes not to repeat the 2019 election bust. That argument boils down to: "We are not the same as Republicans." With Joe Biden in power, and with a number of his major leftist projects in motion at a national level, this argument, it seems, has some carrying weight. The Chamber of Commerce is down with moderate Dems, and therefore is still solidly on the left.

But Talton can't stop there. He has to go on and create an alternate history of the city that has the good life stemming only from the tonic business of buying and selling. Anything that opposes this activity is nothing but a corruption, or a path that leads straight to hell. He writes: "Seattle was historically a business city. The famed Seattle General Strike of 1919 was a failure. This city hosted two world’s fairs, not least to showcase its commerce."

Talton wants us to believe that we live in large numbers just to make money from each other. In the country, you make less money; in the city, you can make more of it. This is why we should be grateful for Amazon, the state's biggest employer. The e-commerce giant provides us the opportunity to enjoy what Talton registers as meaning from the beginning to the end of our lives.

He also must reminds us that Amazon is "an asset we got for free," a galaxy-brain notion he arrived at by pointing to the fact that "240 localities were willing to spend heavily on incentives for Amazon’s HQ2." Amazon took nothing from the city. Amazon just gives to this city, and if these "woke" people on the council remain in power, then Amazon will give its gift—the opportunity to make money from ourselves—to another place.

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Let's end with these words by the poet T.S. Eliot:


When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?
Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.