Where was the Color in Seattle?

Looking for reasons why the Great Battle was so white

Linked with Elizabeth Betita Martinez – USA.

Published on Colours of Resistance, by Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez, not dated (maybe 2000).  (This article was originally published in ColorLines, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2000).

In the vast acreage of published analysis about the splendid victory over the World Trade Organization last November 29-December 3, it is almost impossible to find anyone wondering why the 40-50,000 demonstrators were overwhelmingly Anglo. How can that be, when the WTO’s main victims around the world are people of color? Understanding the reasons for the low level of color, and what can be learned from it, is absolutely crucial if we are to make Seattle’s promise of a new, international movement against imperialist globalization come true …

… With mass protests planned for April 16-17 in Washington, D.C. at the meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the opportunity to build on the WTO victory shines brightly. More than ever, we need to work on our ignorance about global issues with study groups, youth workshops, conferences. We need to draw specific links between WTO and our close-to-home struggles in communities of color, as has been emphasized by Raj Jayadev and Lisa Juachon in The Silicon Valley Reader: Localizing the Effects of the Global Economy, 1999, which they edited.


Many examples of how WTO has hurt poor people in third world countries were given during the protest. For example, a Pakistani told one panel how, for years, South Africans grew medicinal herbs to treat AIDS at very little cost. The WTO ruled that this was “unfair” competition with pharmaceutical companies seeking to sell their expensive AIDS medications. “People are dying because they cannot afford those products ,” he said. A Filipino reported on indigenous farmers being compelled to use fertilizers containing poisonous chemicals in order to compete with cheap, imported potatoes. Ruined, they often left the land seeking survival elsewhere.

But there are many powerful examples right here in the U.S. For starters, consider:

  • WTO policies encourage sub-livable wages for youth of color everywhere including right here.
  • WTO policies encourage privatization of health care, education, welfare, and other crucial public services, as well as cutbacks in those services, so private industry can take them over and run them at a profit. This, along with sub-livable wages, leads to jeopardizing the lives of working-class people and criminalizing youth in particular.
  • Workers in Silicon Valley are being chemically poisoned by the chips they work on that make such wealth for others. WTO doesn’t want to limit those profits with protection for workers.
  • WTO has said it is “unfair trade” to ban the import of gasoline in which certain cancer-causing chemicals have been used. This could have a devastating effect on people in the U.S., including those of color, who buy that gas.
  • Overall, WTO is controlled by U.S. corporations. It is secretly run by a few advanced industrialized countries for the benefit of the rich and aspiring rich. WTO serves to further impoverish the poor of all countries.

Armed with such knowledge, we can educate and organize people of color. As Jinee Kim said at a San Francisco report-back by youth of color, “We have to work with people who may not know the word ‘globalization’ but they live globalization” … (full text).

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