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Racism Is Still With Us In Whatcom County

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Timothy Ballew, II, is one of three leading applicants for the vacant Whatcom County Council seat, along with Natalie McClendon and Seth Fleetwood. He is a leader of the Lummi Nation, a past chair of their business council, and a fisherman. He was one of 29 applicants for appointment to the 10 month term on the council, which is expected to be decided tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan 16 by the existing six council members. A 3-3 tie vote would move the decision to the county executive.

On Friday, Jan 13, the Fourth Corner website run by Charlie Crabtree, posted an article by Bruce Ayers. The article is a racist statement. Oh, it is carefully worded so as to deflect any such criticism of racism, such as this article. But it is racism in the finest Jim Crow tradition by implying it is not racism but just common sense and a concern for the community.

The article focuses on Timothy’s potential conflicts of interest as he is a Lummi and thus would have a conflict with issues that touch the Lummi Indians. The article trys to provide cover for its naked racism by cautioning that the council might be prudent and ask all the remaining applicants about their potential conflicts of interest. Yes, yes. Not targeted at Timothy at all - no no.

An attempt at further cover from being labeled racist is the use of the old gee whiz statement “Just asking the question,...”. Yes, just saying. Nothing more. Just asking… Racism never shows itself as overtly against a people. It always appeals to our common sense or emotional feelings to suggest that another folk - another people - are undeserving of being our equals. That they are not as fully human as we are, and do not have the same intelligence, abilities, morals, feelings, and qualifications as we have for full participation in our society.

The premise of the article is Lummi Indians are not really full citizens of our country and of our Whatcom County. They are outsiders and we should find reasons to keep them from being fully involved. We have seen this before by our local Republicans. A few years ago they attempted to smear our county treasurer, Steven Oliver, who is a Lummi. I certainly know that smear attempt as they contacted me with fabricated information, urging me to post it. I did some research and learned the info was false and also learned which local political operatives were behind it all.

The racist article is not about conflict of interest. That is simply a hook to hang a racist smear on. Conflicts of interest are common to every elected official and every government agency manager or director. This is America where we all are free to be involved without being excluded. Our planning commissions are packed with developers, realtors, commercial property owners, and development consultants. All our part time elected city and council representatives have favored interests - and they very often do not recuse themselves when these issues are discussed, debated and voted on.

Lummi Indians in our local governments can be normal. We are not a racist county as a whole. Teresa Taylor is a Lummi Indian and a Ferndale city council member who serves with the respect of all in Ferndale. She has recused herself on one or more issues that directly involved the Lummi Nation interests. Not an problem.

I do not link to the Fourth Corner website as I do to many news sites at the bottom of all pages on NWCitizen. It is not news, but rather an uber right Republican propaganda site. But to allow you, gentle reader, to read the article for yourself, click here. Judge for yourself. But be aware of how racism works.

About John Servais

Columnist • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Tip Johnson

Jan 15, 2018

I agree the article is racist.  Concerns for “Potential water policy, law enforcement, county jail, taxation, Cherry Point and other land use policy to name a few” are false flag baloney.  County policies should be comprehensive and fair.  Adding perspective rarely decreases public outcomes in regional policy.

The writing suggests tribal folks like Ballew should stick to tribal governance and keep their noses out of white man’s business.  There are always conflicts in policy matters - and well established guidelines to inform each policymaker’s performance.

Ballew would necessarily need to recuse himself from any action taken from which he might potentially derive a personal benefit, but that doesn’t mean he can’t work for measures that improve the lot of tribal members or that tribal members don’t deserve better representation in Whatcom County.  Representing tribal members and working for better services, etc., would be  exactly what other constituents expect from representatives in their districts.  If one district has interests that “compete” with another district, that’s not a conflict of interest, it is a policy debate and representatives are expected to argue their points, vote on them as a body, come to conclusions and see the outcomes implemented.

There are plenty of legislative representatives from tribes officed in jurisdictions of other US political subdivisions. The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators has 81 members from 22 states that “work to promote a better understanding of state-tribal issues among policymakers and the public at large”.  If it is good enough for almost half of our state legislatures, it just might work in Whatcom County, too.

I found Ballew’s work on the Lummi Indian Business Council impressive.  He may not be my first choice for an appointment, but the mere appearance of this article suggests better tribal representation on the council is still badly needed.

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John Lesow

Jan 15, 2018

Why don’t you send both articles,  yours and Charlie’s,  to each candidate, including Timothy Ballew, and ask their opinion if the article is “racist”.     Should make for some interesting and revealing responses.  And see who is willing to step up and respond to their prospective constituents and who prefers to hide.

My opinion on Charlie Crabtree’s article?

Advocacy  ?  Yes.   Racist ?  No.   

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Constantine "el Griego" Papadakis

Jan 15, 2018

John and Tim you guys have got to be kidding.  I am suprised you have made such a slanderous remark against Bruce Ayers.  I know Bruce personally, have worked with him in various capacities over a number of years, much in the same manner as I had worked with you (John)  over a number of years.  Bruce is most certianly not a racist or anything of the sort. I can say that you (and Tim) are off-base with your accusastions of racism, which is why you should both man up and take your accusations back. 

Sure, Bruces’ political opinions may diverge here and there from yours, but pulling the race card is ridiculous and pure cannon fodder and a cheap diversion to avoid addressing  Bruce’s actual point…the appropriateness of supporting candidates or electing individuals for local U.S. government who may have conflicting political alliances with soverign foreign entities.  I can imagine that is the nexus of Bruce’s actual piece, at least that is how I read into it.  Does that make me a racist also if I don’t see it the way you saw it , or just wrong if I didn’t see it your way?

  I am sure  Mr. Ballew is a quality individual, but really, if his loyalties lie with a soverign politico-coroporate entity than why not get that clarified up front…  How in this complex world is that not a prudent question to be asking?  Why drag the conversation into the muddy waters of race and equality when that is not what is going on here. 

Regards, 

Gus

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Tip Johnson

Jan 15, 2018

Didn’t see anyone call Ayers a racist, rather that the article contained some basic racist precepts. Bruce knows better than he wrote. He served on the city council and voted on land use affairs that indirectly could have benefited his surveying business, maybe, in the future. I’m sure he never voted on anything of direct personal benefit. He’s no dummy. That’s why I was surprised he would forward such a vacuous argument concerning Ballew’s possible integrity in similar matters. 

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John Servais

Jan 15, 2018

Constantine, Tip has it right.  No where does my article call Bruce a racist.  Please.  Indeed, he may not have even written the article, as often  a political operative will write and then they find someone to put their name to it.  The article stands on its own words and is a racist article.  

You suggest the Lummi Nation is a ‘sovereign foreign entity’?  Sorry.  That is actualy very false.  And what follows in your argument is thus false.  You need to do a recheck.  You are really trying to marginalize a people who are a core part of our nation and of our county.  To call the Lummi ‘foreign’ is without legal or moral or factual basis. 

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Ellen Baker-Glacier

Jan 16, 2018

I struggled with the wisdom of weighing in here, but I trust that nobody will misinterpret this.

Let me pose a socratic question, a hypothetical:  “If one of the local refinery managers resigned and promptly threw their hat into the ring, would people question the possiblity that conflicts of interest would arise in respect to county policies?”

Working together, council must make policy that doesn’t favor anyone.  That’s the specific argument for having at-large representative positions.  I think everyone wants council to operate as objectively as possible, in a fair handed way.  While I expect representatives to bring different experience and perspective individually to the body, the public and council itself must be on guard against anyone bringing pre-judged positions and committed affiliation(s) to the table.

What matters is, with this appointee deliberate policy, make appropriations, and otherwise represent the county at-large without bringing commitments to prior positions to the table?  Will deliberations and decisions be made without respect to business or lineage-related affiliation(s)?    If that’s the question that was raised, it would be a fair one.  I have no idea how today’s seating will play out, who does?

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David Donohue

Jan 16, 2018

John, you don’t call Ayers a racist.  You are quite civil.  Let me take it a little further.

Ayers asserts that any Lummi tribal member has an inherent conflict with the management of the county government.    This view is divorced from truth.  Is not the Lummi nation one of the signatories to the treaty of 1855, one of the foundational constituencies that established the basis for civil government that led to the formation of the state of Washington, and subsequent inclusion in the United States of America?  Do not Lummi tribal members provide proud and persistent service to the United States of America?  Constitutionally, the Lummi nation is the eldest constituent of our region.  To suggest their interests are anything but integral to the state and country is fiercely and defiantly racist. 

The ugly elephant in the room is that this exclusion of native American communities is the norm in the U.S..   The treaties that established the constitutional right to form civil governments have been violated over and over.  Indian reservations are militarily managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, as charges of the federal government.  It is way past time to ask native Americans to forgive us for this habitual racism, and to honor their leadership in the communities to which we belong.   We should be grateful that tribal members are willing to participate in local government.  It should give us hope, not inspire fear.

P.S.  Racism against American Indians is another manifestation of the oppression and exploitation that is called out by the #metoo movement.   It’s way past time to stop appeasing it in civil discourse, much less in the halls of power.

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Satpal Sidhu

Jan 16, 2018

In some ways, all elected people have conflict of interest. When one chooses a party to be affiliated with, it becomes a conflict of interest. Some at highest levels of our government don’t think they have to recuse  from their business endeavors as in their mind there is no conflict of interest.  A lot of congressional members and public support that view.

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Ellen Baker-Glacier

Jan 16, 2018

Some years ago, someone on council told me in very frank terms that one of the perks to serving on council was helping his friends, “supporting a constituency.”

While politics is supposed to be the mechanics of government, in far too many cases (then and now) “supporting a constituency” really means putting fingers on the scale when possible, and cronyism.  I have come to recognize both proclivities.

As an independent, I’m more on the watch for “intelligent,” “honest,” and “objective” in representation.  Here’s to principles and higher ideals, when and if you can find anyone who actually possesses such virtues.

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