Racism exists in all of our Northwest institutions. Our public schools are partly funded by levies that favor rich white schools over poor black, brown and native ones.
I FELT outrage and deep sorrow about the recent police shooting of Charleena Lyles in front of her children, but I was not surprised. This has happened all over the country, from Ferguson to Cleveland, where a black 12-year-old boy named Tamir Rice was killed for playing with a toy gun.
It is tempting, especially in so-called progressive Seattle, to blame the cops as the evildoers. To be sure, the facts so far don’t look so good for Seattle police. But the underlying racism that created this set of circumstances is on all of us.
I am a white woman living in northeast Seattle. My neighborhood and church are mostly white and so are my kids’ schools. Many white people live in bubbles where it is rare to even interact with people of color. We can claim that “we don’t see race, we just see people.” We can ignore the brutality and violence that people of color routinely experience.
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Racism exists in all of our Northwest institutions. Our public schools are partly funded by levies that favor rich white schools over poor black, brown and native ones. We were at the brink of a state shutdown as our legislators sparred over how to fund this obvious inequity, in a state with the best economy in the country. Mass incarceration has led to prisons disproportionately full of black and brown people.
We need a mass movement of people who care about human rights so that we can start to address these injustices and repair the grievous harm.
To get started:
• Listen to the voices of black, brown and native people. Read Michelle Alexander. Watch “13th” by Ava Duvernay. Follow local leaders of color like Nate Bowling and Ijeoma Oluo on social media.
• Attend a training. The People’s Institute Northwest offers Undoing Institutional Racism workshops, and so do many workplaces and community organizations.
• Talk about race with others. There is strength and power in numbers. We have hosted many racial-justice workshops at my church. But religion is not required — any community group or book club will do. Just don’t expect people of color to do this work for you.
• Act, but let people of color lead. A good start is supporting Initiative 940 led by De-Escalate WA, which revises statewide policing standards. Or advocate for equitable schools. Fight for prison reform. There are so many ways to contribute.
Justice and compassion demand that we do this work for Charleena Lyles, and especially for her children.