Last Monday evening, I was headed to the city council meeting to watch the Sister Cities Commission presentation, a commission I sat on when I first moved to Edmonds. As I shared that I was heading to the meeting, a couple of concerned citizens asked if I was going to talk about “the noose.” I had no idea what they were talking about and was quickly updated on the few details they knew of. Once I arrived to the meeting, several city employees on hand that were “in the know” briefed me on the incident. As I shared my thoughts during Public Comments, I noticed a crack in my voice and a slight shaking of my hands. As I left the meeting and headed to my car, I stopped in the darkness. It was in that moment that I identified what I was feeling: a little less safe and a little less secure.
Sadly, this is not the first time in recent history that racism has reared its head in Edmonds. From the (at least) two graffiti incidents at our elementary schools to the two high school students who threatened to “lynch” an African American student at Edmonds-Woodway, there are times where residents who are people of color do not feel safe. I have had the “N-word” screamed at me on more than one occasion when campaigning for office. The noose is an escalation of this racist behavior.
There are (and will be) well-meaning people who will downplay the incident as a tasteless joke or prank. It is neither of those things. Do not water down or otherwise dismiss these actions, especially if you do not have a connection or shared experience, culturally or otherwise, to what this means. There must be accountability and there must be consequences, despite whatever the initial intent may have been.
In working for an organization (YWCA) whose mission is to empower women and eliminate racism, I can’t help but wonder what needs to happen to keep us from moving backwards. After decades of sexual assault and violence going unreported or unacknowledged, who knew that a hashtag would empower women (and men) to speak up and speak out against those in power. We have seen the power of #metoo, and I wonder could something so simple work as fiercely again in the name of calling out racism and intolerance. My point is that it doesn’t take a lot to make change, and it is dangerous to dismiss and do absolutely nothing.
To the African American employees at the construction site: I encourage you to come forward and press charges because you will be supported. To the construction company: I encourage you to take action and dismiss the employee(s) that orchestrated this. To the City of Edmonds: I implore you to take the necessary actions to show that racism and intolerance has no place here.
Racist language and actions happens it Edmonds. #Ithappens in our schools. #Ithappens in our workplaces. #Ithappens in restaurants. We can do something about this, individually and collectively. #Ithappens by having real conversations about it. #Ithappens by acknowledging it in the first place. #Ithappens by taking a vocal and united front against it.
It can happen.