We have work to do | Mayor Mike's Corner
Last updated 8/19/2020 at 9:41pm
While thinking about what I wanted to share with you this month, I considered talking about the challenges we still face in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But long after COVID-19 is cured and we have cautiously adapted to a post-pandemic world, we will still face a more daunting challenge. Something that has outlived pandemics, has never been cured, and successfully lives on from generation to generation.
There is no vaccine or pill to fix it; no community is immune from it.
Just mentioning its name will spark controversy and denial. Some will quickly call it divisive because any discussion about it makes people feel uncomfortable.
When I see anxiety over how divisive Black Lives Matter is, I am reminded of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in response to being regularly accused of fostering racial tension:
“We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has opened up a wound that has never healed. Unfortunately, there are some in our community who refuse to acknowledge it.
Recent incidents in our community in response to Black Lives Matter
– Distributing a hate flyer to select Edmonds businesses;
– Calling the police for writing “Black Lives Matter” with chalk on our streets;
– Scrubbing away chalk of written messages from children supporting racial equality with a mop and water;
– Getting into a physical confrontation at Westgate with demonstrators calling for an end to racism;
– Calling on elected officials to remove the “I Can’t Breathe” artwork because it is offensive to them;
– Attempting to destroy the “I Can’t Breathe” artwork and changing the message; and
– Going inside businesses screaming at shop owners to remove their Black Lives Matter signs.
Painting over, washing away, tearing down, shouting over, or under the color of law targeting those who they disagree with. Some in our community do not want us to address racism and will do whatever they can to stop it.
Being Black in Edmonds
But don’t take my word for it.
Listen to our residents’ own stories of having experienced racism. One place to start is to watch a recent online conversation about being Black in Edmonds among five local residents. One speaker spoke about his feelings of seeing two sides of Edmonds. On one side, he saw how people reacted to seeing him jogging in their neighborhoods, the clinching of the purse, and “the look.”
He described the other side of Edmonds, too. The side that sees him for who he is and engages with him as a person. Listen to their different lived experiences, how the trauma they have lived is multigenerational.
Equity and Justice Advisory Task Force
I recently pulled together an Equity and Justice Advisory Task Force to take a look at our City government. The Task Force has met multiple times, including a presentation from Acting Chief Lawless on the annual police use of force report, and an opportunity for members to share their personal stories about what compelled them to apply for the task force.
In order for the task force to succeed, the City retained a facilitator with experience leading groups doing equity and social justice work, which includes assessing City processes and procedures regarding equity and inclusion, and sharing national best practices to getting to a more equitable and racially just work environment.
The goals include making concrete policy recommendations to me on how to address systemic issues related to race and equity in City practices by looking at City policies, procedures, initiatives, and programs through an equity and inclusion lens.
This is our moment.
We cannot afford to cover this wound again, hoping it will just go away, or wait for another generation to carry this burden, because cures don’t just happen on their own.
Recently deceased U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a leader in the Civil Rights movement, left a letter to be published after his death.
One passage that impacted me states, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
When you see a wrong, will you right it or will you look the other way?
Too much of what we now see cannot be unseen. And there is still injustice occurring everywhere.
Sure, one conversation, one Zoom meeting, and one task force is not enough.
But they are each among the many steps anyone of us can take on the road toward racial progress and healing.
Many of our residents and local businesses are beginning the hard work to combat racism and racial injustice in our community, including showing up every day for several months at Westgate to demonstrate their support for Black Lives Matter.
Residents all over town who have displayed Black Lives Matter signs in their windows.
But even with some of this progress, racism and disparities continue to exist. They exist throughout our country, and they exist in Edmonds. The playing field is not level.
We want it to be.
We aspire to it.
But it is not a given.
We have to make it happen.