The News Tribune has Failed Us
We are the steering committee of the group Tacoma Against Nazis (TAN); a collective of everyday Tacomans who are committed to two key principles: first, that we will stand up publicly against fascism and white supremacy in our community. Second, that it is our burden as white people (not our neighbors of color whose very existence is threatened by white supremacy) to combat the threat of white supremacists in our community.
As many have expressed, it is by itself alarming that there is need for an organized response to Nazis in 2018. But the most sobering experiences around our work have been the call from some of our fellow white people to ignore the problem in the hopes that it will go away, and the suggestion that we protest more politely.
Unexpectedly, we find ourselves repeatedly called away from our work combatting documented neo-Nazis to push back against those who should be our allies - most recently, the anonymous editorial board of The News Tribune (TNT). TAN believes strongly in the power of an independent free press, and we find the news reporting on TAN and the neo-Nazis hiding in plain sight in our community to be clear eyed, factual and uncompromising. Which is why we are so perplexed by the editorial board’s two TAN-focused editorials.
With brevity in mind, our key concerns are listed in bullet points here.
Claim: The owner of Tac Town Tattoo is allegedly a member of the Northwest Hammerskins.
The owner of Tac Town Tattoo is undoubtedly a member of the Northwest Hammerskins-affiliated Crew 38. The ADL describes the Hammerskins as the most violent neo-Nazi skinhead group.
Claim: TAN’s well-meaning protests are giving oxygen to these hatemongers.
Our coordinated responses to the presence of Nazis in Tacoma hasn’t given oxygen to these hatemongers - it has exposed a fire that has been raging out of sight in our city and all over America for decades. Our white supremacy problem has been oxygenated by the silence of white people who would rather carry forward an agenda of appeasement hoping this wildfire will burn itself out. We refuse to perpetuate that agenda any longer.
Claim: TAN hasn’t partnered with community groups.
This is patently untrue. Community engagement has been a core pillar of our work since Day 1, and has included meeting/collaborating with anti-racist organizations already doing this work, neighborhood canvassing, presentations at local Rotary chapters and tabling at street fairs. Stay tuned this fall for a series of educational events. We are disappointed that the editorial board chose to lead with assumption rather than quickly fact-checking their claims with any member of the steering committee.
Implied claim: Meetings with two of Tacoma’s Rotary Clubs were recently put on the agenda.
Again, this is untrue. The meetings with Tacoma’s Sunrise and Sunset Rotary clubs have been on the books for nearly a month.
Claim: TAN needs to move beyond chants, pithy posters, and a closed Facebook Group.
This is a strawman. Conversations about this work were born out of Adult Civics Happy Hour (ACHH). Our response has been civically minded from the start. No one from the editorial board has ever contacted TAN to verify what our action plan has been. Since mid-June, TAN has had a multi-pronged response involving partnering with community groups, neighborhood canvassing, letter writing to a variety of stakeholders who have the power to impact the presence of this white supremacist owned business … and yes, a pithy billboard and chants. Again, we are disappointed at the assumptions made here.
When working against a group like Northwest Hammerskins and groups like it, the need for secrecy should be clear and obvious. We have not posted our strategic plan (yes, there’s a strategic plan!) on the closed Facebook Group. If that opacity requires further explanation, we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to help the editorial board understand the basics of this type of action.
Claim: By protesting Tac Town Tattoo directly, we are equivocating ourselves with white supremacists.
How can this even be? In setting up this argument, the TNT is discrediting the ability for TAN to participate in any direct action. Protesting in a removed location doesn’t add or subtract from the credibility of white supremacists. What is most perplexing is that the editorial board goes on to suggest that the best forum for resistance is at universities, church groups, and other civic organizations. Does the editorial board understand how confusing this assertion is? How are we to resist white supremacists without resisting them?
Implied claim: In its Facebook response, the TNT included the unverified claim that Tac Town Tattoo’s profits are up since we began raising awareness of this business
We have seen no reporting to date in the TNT or otherwise that Tac Town Tattoo’s profits are up. Has the editorial board verified several months of independently audited financial statements to verify this claim? It is incredibly confusing to us that verified white supremacists are given the benefit of the “alleged” moniker but their as yet unverified claims of increased profits are restated with no equivalent disclaimer.
Claim: TAN isn’t following best practices laid out by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
We have lived and breathed the excellent work of the SPLC and Anti-Defamation League in executing our work. We are bemused by the fact that the editorial board has taken advice from SPLC about not appearing in forums with white supremacists out of context to suggest that direct action is not advised. A key part of our work has been education. See disconnectwhitepower.com.
The organizing committee of TAN has undertaken this work at great risk to ourselves and our families. Our members have been named in online forums inhabited by Nazis, we have been threatened on social media, and have taken our protests face-to-face with white supremacists who have threatened us with physical violence. Our names and identities have been exposed to a violent and dangerous part of our society as a result of this work. We say this not to engender your pity but to put the urgency of our work into the starkest of terms. The threat is real and our local newspaper’s editorial board has reduced itself to a misinformed bystander.
TNT editorial board, we needed you in this moment. We needed you to be at your best so that you might hold us accountable for being at our best. Through your ineffectiveness, you’ve let us - and our community - down.
The TAN Editorial Board