Comment: Confronting racism here will take real effort

As dangerous as racism is in Snohomish County, denying its presence here is even more damaging.

By Michael Adams / For The Herald

We’re aware now, and were previously silenced by our fear.

The fear we hear from those with equally painful experiences inspires us to speak up before it is too late.

We may be your friends or neighbors of color. We are acquaintances, colleagues and even the strangers you see when you run errands and visit the grocery store.

We represent those who have become accustomed to the micro-aggression-fueled comments about loving tequila, eating fried chicken, loving to gamble, driving poorly or being complimented for not fitting a racial stereotype. Having to experience this our whole lives has made it habitual. They are small amounts of pain we are forced to live with because there is no other option unless you choose to understand our perspective.

We represent those who have encountered more than just microaggressions, that have faced threats, bullying and blatant racism from our neighbors, from our children’s classmates. From Zoom classes and meetings being interrupted by intruders using racial slurs, to online threats with an image of a firearm stating “killing minorities soon,” or white supremacy propaganda banners being hung from a highway overpass in our county seat. These are stories shared The Herald. For every article written there are many more victims suffering in silence. Too many are afraid to speak up.

Author and activist Glennon Doyle says there are three kinds of people: those poisoned by racism and choosing to spread it; those poisoned by racism and actively trying to detox; and those poisoned by racism who deny its very existence inside of them.

There are a handful of people poisoned by racism and who are choosing to spread it here in Snohomish County. Yet, those poisoned by racism yet denying its existence are fueling dangerous behaviors leading to harmful results. Loud voices are telling our community leaders, candidates, and families that equity work is not needed; that detox from the poison of racism is unnecessary.

Families of color across Snohomish County are concerned we may be moving backward. They are afraid that manufactured anger over a term like critical race theory — a higher education academic term that means analyzing systems that have oppressed and repressed people over time — has instead become a convenient way to uphold racism.

Efforts to fight diversity, equity and inclusion in our region are a slippery slope toward authoritarianism. It leads us to continue to make the same mistakes of the past. Teaching true history will foster diverse and inclusive social constructs that will improve our community relationships for all. No one should oppose education on the truth about how power, opportunity and success go around for some but not for all.

We know that racism exists and that it doesn’t go away with a march, kind words or a government resolution. We know that it is a learned behavior that is taught, but it can be unlearned from teaching as well. Policies create systems, and systems are hard to undo. That’s why we need deliberately antiracist elected officials who will work to tear down systems that hurt people of color and work tirelessly to create new ones. We need school board members and city and county council leaders who recognize that equity and inclusion are important and that every community member’s safety is a priority.

Be cautious of those attempting to make promises about disrupting a system in which they are unfamiliar; those who purport to oppose racism and hate. People with friendly smiles and good talking points but cruel hearts are attempting to infiltrate local systems of government across our country with support from the same brand of folks who participated in an insurrection on our nation’s capitol.

Hiding behind the argument of freedom of choice and informed consent, these people choose to uphold systemic racism and resist inclusion for other underrepresented communities. Those attitudes only lead to disingenuous and misleading solutions that will further degrade an already very fragile community that needs our help.

The next round of elections are less than a year away. Please don’t sit them out. Continue to ask questions and think hard about whether or not you want our community and this world to rise out of the chaos of a pandemic.

We cannot afford the risk. We cannot go backward. We have a responsibility to children and families across Snohomish County.

Michael Adams, a Granite Falls resident, is executive director of Change the Narrative Granite Falls, wrote this on behalf of Change the Narrative, Black SnoCo, the Monroe Equity Council and Second Chance Outreach.

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