I want to tell you about a Black Lives Matter protest that happened yesterday that will never make national news. But the young organizers showed the kind of bravery that deserves to be shouted from the rooftops. (thread)
It was the kind of bravery that comes at great personal risk, risks that will continue to ripple out into their personal lives, at school, in their neighborhoods, in their families, in their churches. They knew this. They did it anyway.
You see, the organizers were kids. High school kids. Black and Latinx high school kids and they live in the small, very white, deep red, staunchly evangelical Christian, t rump supporting town of Lynden, Washington, population 15,650. https://kgmi.com/news/007700-lynden-teens-organize-weekend-march/
On the surface, Lynden is "a very nice place to live” -- it’s very, very clean; full of flowers in spring & summer; tidy streets; a mandate on how tall the grass in your yard can be; a neighborhood watch on how many weeds are in your flower beds.
It’s a town that loves big trucks, too, the louder, the better, the darker the exhaust, the cooler. Coal-rolling is illegal, but the city cops don’t mind. It’s very anti-PC, a fun way to stick it to the liberal city of Bellingham, just to south.
Even the keepers of Lynden history hold guns sacred: the Lynden museum had the gun owners’ backs when the scary new background check law went into effect. Thank god, though, they figured out a way for the gun owners not to have to endure such an outrage. https://komonews.com/news/local/lynden-pioneer-museum-wont-give-up-guns-after-all
They love religion as much as they love manicured lawns and guns: there’s a church on every corner -- one church for every 375 people or so.
If you move to Lynden, your new neighbors won’t ask you if you’re religious: they’ll ask you what church you go to.

And they won’t ask you who you vote for either: they’ll ask you how much you love what t rump has done for our country.
In 2016, when the city of Seattle refused to host a t rump rally, Lynden welcomed the candidate with open arms. Excitement was palpable in the streets & on social media the minute people heard the good news.
There’s the Lynden mayor and his wife (both prominent church members, of course) grinning and clapping at the rally, on the right:
And in November 2016, 75% of Lynden voters voted for the current President (Whatcom county, all told, voted 60% for HRC).
In Lynden, to be human is love guns, love trucks, vote GOP, and go to church.

It’s also to be white.
Lynden is nearly 90% white. There’s a small but significant Latinx community, without which the county wouldn’t survive. Many in this community initially came for agricultural work in the famous berry fields in Whatcom county or to work on Lynden dairy farms.
But these folks are never considered truly “from Lynden.” The racist slurs I heard at Lynden Christian High School as a teenager made that very clear. I can still hear even the tone of one girl, as she spat out the word “Mexicans.”
There is a significant South Asian community, too. White Lyndenites eye these folks, some dressed in Sikh turbans, suspiciously. And mostly ignore them. Why engage? They’re not “from here.” And after all, as the favorite saying goes, "If you're not Dutch, not you're not much."
There is also a small number of Black people in Lynden. Some of these, now in high school, were adopted from various African countries after an African children’s choir came to town. Many white families were so taken with these Black children, they adopted some of their own.
So, it is in this context, this town, some of the Black and Latinx high school students decided to hold a Black Lives Matter protest march.
There had been a rally in Bellingham the month before -- a large, peaceful affair, of 5,000-7,000 people & the biggest worry for anyone was COVID-19. No one expected counterprotesters, and if there were any, I neither heard nor saw them.
Lynden would be different. And the protesters knew full well it would be. The week leading up the march, they received any number of racist, violent threats. Like this one:
And in a town like Lynden, with FoxNews watching, Limbaugh-listening, gun-toting folks, who believe Black Lives Matter is a “terrorist” “scary Marxist” organization, intent on destroying property, the threats did not seem empty.
But the organizers did it anyway. In the face of threats, in the face of a small, tight-knit town--where their neighbors know them, pastors know them, the mayor or city council members know them, their teachers know them,
where they’ll be recognized on the street, in the store, in the library, at the dentist, at Dairy Queen, or where they are known as the “only Black kid” or “only Latinx kid” in class.
It was truly beautiful to see -- no adult did any of the leading. It was all these kids. Some were clearly nervous, never having done anything like it before, but they swallowed their nerves, and
spoke the truth about their experiences of racism, of feeling and being told they'd never fit in, in a white white town, of the fear they feel, of their desire for their hearers to understand what it is like to live in their world, of their desire for people to educate themselves
They led the 3 mile march across Lynden, stopping once for speeches at City Hall, and finally for more speeches at the Lynden Police Dept (whom they’d reached out to), directing protesters not to engage with the counter protesters.
For there were counterprotesters there. Lots. They carried American flags, “don’t tread on me” flags, "Blue Lives" flags, and at least one Confederate flag.
And they carried guns. There were lots of guns.

When the students tried to speak, the counterprotesters shouted “USA! USA!” and “All lives matter!”
And all along the march, the counterprotesters, in their amped up, flag-flying, coal-rolling trucks, drove in circles around the protesters, doubling back around a block, to drive by again, revving their engines, screaming out the windows.
But the overwhelming feeling of the protesters through town was one of joyous celebration: these kids had found their voice, to say what they’d clearly wanted to say for a very long time, and some of the town was there to listen.
There was a sense of previously hidden folks, not brave enough to speak up before, who took courage from these kids. Those who couldn’t march, waved from their houses or apartments or front porches or cars. They gave thumbs up signs; some raised fists.
The Lynden for BLM Facebook page overflowed with comments, people who’d long been wanting to share their experiences, share what grief they’d experienced in Lynden, but didn’t have a platform before.
For a protest, it wasn’t, maybe, much to speak of, a few hundred people. But for Lynden? It was a very big deal.

I don’t know where this ends. Lynden is a town that will not change anytime soon. And I do fear repercussions these kids might face.
But today, I have hope:

For, in 2016, a racist President to-be was welcomed in Lynden with open arms.
And in 2020? The Lynden kids who were the brunt of that racism and of the town’s racism said, “Enough.”

(Photos in this thread courtesy of Young Activists of Whatcom County: https://www.facebook.com/Young-Activists-of-Whatcom-County-YAWC-100805721701393 )
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