Segregation In The Northwest

Alex Stonehill
Photo by Alex Stonehill (, April 16, 2009)

March 11, 2014

Folk often wonder how the Christian Doctrine of Discovery (CDOD) is active in our world today.  In our era, recognizing the CDOD and the racist results are not always easily observable.  Since the civil rights era of the 1960’s, racist policies have moved below the surface.  Segregated lunch counters—separating white folk from folk of color—are of a bygone era.  Boarding schools—separating parents from their children—are of a bygone era.  However, the segregation of people is alive and well in the United States.

Society too often misses evil in its presence when that evil does not directly affect people of power.  When folk of power do not feel the repercussions of isolation, they too often allow the evil of separation to become normalized; as occurred with segregation for over a half-century and boarding schools for over a century in the United States.

The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma (NDC), Washington is a modern example of the normalization of the racist structure of the CDOD in our community.  A private for-profit prison, supported by the government (contracted by US Department of Homeland Security/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the NDC’s interest lies in making a profit on the backs of people of color.  The CDOD is complex and hard to recognize today, yet the NDC is a real example of how government and business have created a symbiotic relationship where both grow, benefit, and profit through the separation of parents and children of color.

Clara Flores-Aguilar
Clara Flores-Aguilar (, Feb. 18, 2013 -The Associated Press)

During my visits with Mission congregants at the NDC, I have not talked to anyone who thinks care and treatment is well done.  Now, perhaps one would hear that from anyone who detained at any facility.  But I also realize many (if not most) of the folk in facilities like NDC are grandparents, parents, and children whose only crime is trying to earn enough money to care for family.  And that is the kicker: folk who are trying to better the life of their family are being separated from their family.  I’ll say it again; this action is in the name of profit.

Today, folk incarcerated at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma are on hunger strike and work stoppage.  They are asking for simple human rights (*Improved food quality, *Improved treatment (including medical treatment), *Increased pay for work in the facility (the current pay is $1.00/day), *An end to exorbitant commissary prices, *Fundamental fairness and justice) in addition to unending deportations that separate family from family.

NDC MothersDay
Video from Peter Parks (May 11, 2013, found at

As director of the Yakama Christian Mission, an organization that once reasoned the virtues of familial separation, and as one who has struggled with my own complicity, I urge you to consider the plight of our detained sisters and brothers, the intrinsic loss of harmony due to separation, and what it might mean for you and your family to support the 1,200 detainees on hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

You can file your support by signing a petition found at #NOT1MORE.

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