One of the whitest areas in the country is where I grew up. The racial makeup of the city where I lived in 1980, as well as changes in the population since 1970, is seen below.
So, you see; I was not exaggerating when I described this area as one of the whitest in the United States. Then, after graduating from college, I moved to northwest Los Angeles County. (See post “Owning My Bias” from June of 2020, a couple weeks after the death of George Floyd.) My favorite place to spend a day was Venice Beach. The tapestry of diversity felt right.
In the Mojave desert, I taught in the middle of nowhere; yes, if you’re in the Mojave desert, most likely you’re in the middle of nowhere. The population of the community was diverse but less so than L.A. The overall racial demographics of Los Angeles County back in the day (1990) were as follows:
Living in Southern California for seven years in my 20’s was so much fun! I married in 1992 (2/29/92 at 2:29 in the afternoon. See “We’re Going to the Chapel” and “We’re Gonna Get Married” posted April 18 and 23, 2020 respectively.) and then we relocated to Spokane where we could afford to buy a house. The four seasons, trees, mountains, and lakes persuaded us this would be the right move for us, before we had children, because we went with no jobs. I tell you, the pasty whiteness with such a lack of diversity was shocking! It made me sad to see. The racial make-up by 2010 Spokane County as compared to the U.S. as a whole was as follows:
You can see the difference in Spokane County vs the U.S. as a whole. I’d been back to visit a couple times a year but spent my “vacation” time with friends and family. Not a very diverse group, but it’s my group. Seems I didn’t go to large gatherings during those years. Back full-time, I was keenly aware of the whiteness.
Over the past 28 years in our current home, I have seen the population in the area diversify in a meaningful way, at least visually. There are people of color living in every part of the county, attending school and living life in this community. Housing growth exploded here and the influx of Californians increased all shades of skin. (Just kidding, the new folks aren’t all from California. 😉)
Here’s an example of how this played out: For years after we moved into our current home, it was rare to see people of color at the local supermarket. By 2019, there was usually a diverse crowd shopping.
So, why am I writing this post? Because of this:
The only people I’ve seen display this flag, t-shirt, or decal are white males. Now, I’m just relating my personal experience. I’m sure there’s a white person in my county who would dispute my perspective, but I can honestly say that 100% of snakes pledging allegiance to this flag, seen by me, are white males. A guy moved into our neighborhood and had his flag hung over his garage right away. Someone else in the home moved his to one side and added another – Peace, Love and Happiness with flowers. Inside I seethe every time I pass the yellow stain, even if it’s a micro moment. I hate that he can put that out there but a couple houses down across the road, there’s a family proudly flying a Black Lives Matter flag. We’re all allowed to express ourselves and this is the trade off.
This is how I process this sick, poisonous, yellow allegiance to ‘fuck you all day, every day, and twice as much on Sundays.’ One can demonstrably prove the percentage of white people here is still over 80% white. We’ve gone from 97% white in 1970 to 82% in 2019. That’s what these guys see, the 17% drop in white population over nearly 50 years. This gradual decrease occurred in spite of a less than welcoming atmosphere in general.
Richard Butler’s aryan nation camp was in Hayden, Idaho, 38 miles from Spokane. They held marches in Coeur d’Alene, a resort town close to them in northern Idaho. There were always protesters and it was contentious, but even negative attention is better than no attention. They probably wouldn’t even consider it negative. Mark Furman moved here, after the O.J. trial debacle, even a little more north in Sandpoint, Idaho and had a daytime talk radio show for a Spokane news station for a few years. We also have many folks living off the grid and not paying taxes, the sovereign contingent, between here and Canada. Sometimes the circles of racism and anti-government sentiment overlap in the Venn diagram, often in my opinion. We had a backpack bomb placed on a downtown sidewalk, intended to explode nails and other debris at people participating in the annual march for Martin Luther King, Jr. day, ten years ago. Fortunately, someone saw it and said something. They called 911. The parade route was changed and the bomb squad defused it.
Can someone tell me who, exactly, is treading on these snakes? Is it in anyway similar to the focus of men in the colonies rebelling against King George III of England? Are there parallels between white supremacists/ survivalists and men struggling to replace a monarchist system for a democracy? Am I missing something? How insecure and fearful they are to imagine they’re subject to tyranny. Do they think their plight is on par with slavery, people kidnapped and imprisoned in work camps called plantations?
It’s so obvious that white males are not in dire straits. Are they scared to compete in a diverse workforce? This guy around the corner from me may be focusing solely on hating the government and not paying taxes, which is stupid for a whole lot of reasons on its own. It always strikes me as a symbol of racism, every time I see it. He’s gotta know that’s one of the responses he elicits. What is so hard in his life that he feels as though he’s at risk of being trod upon and by whom? I applaud the family member who made an effort to balance the energy.
I have no conclusions, no tidy wrap-up to offer. Thank you so much for allowing me to vent, to unload all of this. I am more thankful than I can express for the years I had in the Los Angeles area. My now 23-year-old told me, when he was in high school, that as his generation came into adulthood there wouldn’t be racism anymore. He was convinced of this and I thought that was so sweet, which I did not share with my teenager. For me, I knew it was a dream worth believing but unlikely. As Trump emerged as the GOP candidate and his followers came out of the woodwork, it was clear my son was a dreamer. And that’s a good thing.