Commentary: ‘Nothing about us without us’ — an open letter to Edmonds leadership

Alicia Crank

“Nothing about us without us“ is a mantra that has been adopted by marginalized groups (race, gender, disability, age, socio-economic), used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members the group(s) affected by that policy.

Lately, with the protests centered around the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Abrey (just to name a few), I’ve seen stories, interviews and official statements either creating policy or expressing support around Black Lives Matter, unbiased policing as well as creating a task force around equity and justice.

At first glance, this is great. However, there is something missing: “us”. Us being the segment of the community most triggered by what is happening: Black people.

To our local news editors: I am curious to know if you have interviewed or reached out to any of Edmonds Black residents for the stories (and opinion pieces) you have published. In reading through various stories on both My Edmonds News and the Edmonds Beacon, I did not see or recognize any persons that were. While I know that residents are free to submit something to your outlets as an opinion piece, an invitation would also go a long way. If you are going to talk about us, talk to us as well.

To our Police Chief: I am curious to know if you invited input from the Black officers on staff. The department has prided itself over the years in the uptick of its diversity hiring, something I’ve personally been a fan of. My hope is that you did indeed do this. However, if you did, not acknowledging this into your announcement(s) was a missed opportunity. If you did not, then I hope that in the future you would use them as resources. The reposting the diversity hiring story days later felt like an afterthought.

To our Mayor: I am curious to know if you sought advice with anyone recently in the Black community, prior to your announcement institute an Equity and Justice Task Force. While I appreciated receiving a phone call from you about it post-announcement, I’m hoping there was individual outreach beforehand, beyond the Diversity Commission’s work on this two years ago.

Now, more than ever, it is important to include representation from the groups you are addressing and/or seeking to assist. Do this work with us. Talk with us, and not at us. While we make up only 1% of the population in the city, we are here, and we contribute to this community. Finally, do this for whomever the “us” may be in the future.

— By Alicia Crank

  1. I’ve always thought Alicia Crank was a smart, savvy woman. The Mayor and Police Chief would be wise to heed her suggestions.

  2. Thank you Alicia, I hope to see a follow up article with answers to the questions you posed to the Edmonds leadership.

  3. Thanks Alicia for speaking up, as usual. The Kone family stands with you. Our household includes some of the 1% Black people living in Edmonds and we look forward to participating in a conversation with City leadership about how we can address implicit bias in our City.

  4. Good job. Accountability is a must right now. Let’s hope this starts an honest conversation.

  5. Thank you, Alicia. I agree that it is essential that we ask for and listen to our Black community members; otherwise we will only have new systems representing the same voices we’ve heard in the past—and that is no way to break down systemic racism throughout our country. It seems that we have a mayor and police chief who are embracing the opportunity to help usher in change, so let’s make sure we invite to the conversation those who have had first-hand experience of what needs to change.

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful letter.
      I also think it’s strange we haven’t heard much from Edmonds City Council members on BLM.

  6. Alicia,

    You have a true gift of the written word.

    In this horrific time of exposed murderous injustice for Blacks, you rise above, finding a way to bring all peoples together: Nothing About Us Without Us.

    The Mayor is new and may be timid to answer uncomfortable questions in a public forum and to open himself up to an interactive town hall . It is okay to not know the answer in the moment. It takes courage to be vulnerable to two way communication.

    Perhaps as a starting point, Ms. Crank could arrange a meeting with the Mayor and Blacks from the community. If Mayor Nelson feels uncomfortable, imagine how Blacks and fellow marginalized citizens, oppressed people, and people who either feel they don’t have power, or have extremely limited power feel.

    If it is not already part of Snohomish County please present the mantra to the county and state as well.

    Alicia, thank you for sharing nothing about us without us. I hope this is carried through to all Edmonds Commissions, Boards, Committees, Task Forces, etc. It could be made official when policies are going to be made.

    As an aside, for at least Edmonds, I would expand beyond marginalized populations to parties, groups, citizens, individuals who will be effected by an outcome. “Us” shall be included from beginning throughout process. I imagine there are many In Edmonds, if they do chose, could provide examples of being left out.

  7. What a mindful and simple request, and thoughtful editorial. Thank you, Alicia! May we all do more and do better.

  8. I’m new to this forum. How do we, as readers, who care about this issue, find out if any of Ms. Crank’s questions have been answered and what those answers are?

      1. Darrol, would you elaborate on “make up answers”? I’m not sure how to interpret your meaning or tone.

        1. Alicia, great question and I will try to amplify a bit to make the point I was trying to make. I was not making any comment about the issue in this thread and should have been more clear. The person seems to be new to the whole idea of this blog and my point was that on most questions that come to this blog their are folks who trot out answers all over the spectrum of thought that makes on think no one is looking at the same data or the same idea but simply using the “question” at hand as a “trigger” to make the same points they make over and over. Gun control, 2nd amendment, CV19 data, herd immunity, mask no masks and all that. Some just will use a topic to make a point about the mayor and governor, both sides, the sheriff, and so on. My point was a bit more in jest that it should have been for this thread and its very important message of inclusion. My apology for sounding trite or uncaring or uninformed.

          We have seen in other threads about protests and elsewise folks making statements about “what color police officer kills what color person,” and “whats the numbers of color x kill more of color x “and all that statistics generators folks bring to the table all the time. We have seen it over and over again on CV19 and we are already seeing it on this topic.

          Good Government works best when we clearly sort out what is the question we are trying to solve, gets All the right players at the table to work on solutions, and then creates measurable and meaningful answers, and is willing to adjust those approaches when we do not get the results we were trying to achieve in the first place.

          Alicia, I again apology for making any statements that take away from what your point was. I should have kept my gloves on so I could not use the keyboard. Let’s all put on our thinking caps and use the Good Government model discussed above.

          I do not want to take away from your thread but if you want to discuss further ask Teresa for my email and she will provide it.

    1. Alicia has been and is always most willing to talk with people in our community. Just reach out to her.

  9. Mo,

    Following the various news stories online and in print, watching and reading the city meetings, and you could reach out to Alicia and ask her to keep you in the loop. You could pull her name up on a search engine as a way to contact her.

  10. Ms. Crank,

    Thank you for your comments and your question. Prior to releasing my first statement last week, I not only invited input, I actively sought it out and included it within the statement. As to the re-posting of the diversity data, that was in direct response to questions posed to us by members of the public. I look forward to further discussions.

    Jim Lawless
    Acting Chief of Police

    1. I appreciate the response, Chief Lawless. Thanks so much. I and others look forward to continued engagement as well.

  11. Thank you for bringing up this important point. We must make sure that input from the Black community is sought out and listened to in Edmonds as we move forward.

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