Senator Manka Dhingra speaks at DeYoung Park
Senator Manka Dhingra (D-45th District: Redmond, Kirkland, Sammamish, Woodinville) addresses the Woodinville Peace March for Black Lives Matter at DeYoung Park on June 7th, 2020 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Edi­tor’s Note: Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra serves as the Deputy Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader, as Vice Chair of the Sen­ate’s Law & Jus­tice Com­mit­tee, as Chair of the Sen­ate’s Behav­ioral Health Sub­com­mit­tee, and is a found­ing board­mem­ber of NPI’s sib­ling, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion. On Sun­day, June 7th, she addressed atten­dees of the Wood­inville Peace March for Black Lives Mat­ter at DeY­oung Park. The fol­low­ing are her pre­pared remarks. 

In a just world, George Floyd, Bre­on­na Tay­lor, and Ahmaud Arbery would be alive today. The unfor­tu­nate truth in Amer­i­ca is that the dark­er your skin col­or, the hard­er life is for you. It is also true that the dark­er your skin col­or, the more like­ly you are to suf­fer vio­lence at the hands of the police.

That is not justice.

I had hoped that Wash­ing­ton had made progress over the last sev­er­al years to make this kind of injus­tice less like­ly here.

In 2018, Wash­ing­to­ni­ans over­whelm­ing­ly passed Ini­tia­tive 940 to hold police offi­cers account­able for exces­sive use of force.

In 2019, the Leg­is­la­ture unan­i­mous­ly passed leg­is­la­tion to affirm the initiative’s intent and make it legal­ly workable.

Just this year, the Leg­is­la­ture cre­at­ed the very first statewide Office of Equi­ty in the nation, to focus our state gov­ern­ment on address­ing the his­tor­i­cal lega­cy of racism that impacts our cur­rent institutions.

And for 2021 and beyond, we have a strong new agen­da from the Pover­ty Reduc­tion Work Group to undo struc­tur­al racism in state pol­i­cy by tack­ling income inequal­i­ty; decrim­i­nal­iz­ing pover­ty; and reduc­ing reliance on the crim­i­nal and juve­nile jus­tice systems.

But today, I am hor­ri­fied at the aggres­sive, para­mil­i­tary response by the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment to peace­ful pro­test­ers. That exces­sive response is not justice.

Espe­cial­ly when there are law enforce­ment agen­cies in com­mu­ni­ties across our state and our coun­try that are respond­ing so much better.

This is espe­cial­ly heart­break­ing to me because I have worked so hard to change the cul­ture of law enforce­ment. We don’t need war­riors polic­ing our soci­ety, we need guardians for our com­mu­ni­ty. I have been a part of cri­sis inter­ven­tion train­ing for law enforce­ment for over a decade and have seen first­hand how well these train­ings can and do work. And I have worked in the Leg­is­la­ture to reform our law enforce­ment and crim­i­nal jus­tice systems.

But the injus­tices we are see­ing now are a stark reminder that we have a lot more work ahead of us. So how does change come about?

Change will come when each and every one of us acknowl­edges this injus­tice; when each and every one of us grieves for this injus­tice; and when each and every one of us works to dis­man­tle the sys­tems of oppres­sion and racism.

The peace­ful protests right here and around our coun­try are a great upwelling of this right­eous grief.

Right now, we are tak­ing the first, nec­es­sary step toward real change.

But it will take us many more steps to get to the just world that we all want.

I want to first acknowl­edge and ful­ly rec­og­nize that our own state Sen­ate lacks the voice of even a sin­gle Black leg­is­la­tor, a voice that needs to cen­ter us today and always. Not one! There is one per­son run­ning, but not yet elect­ed.

It is imper­a­tive that our leg­isla­tive agen­da be shaped by the com­mu­ni­ty. Suc­cess­ful efforts toward change have always had their ori­gins at the local level.

Thank you for start­ing us on our jour­ney for real, mean­ing­ful change, by acknowl­edg­ing this injus­tice and griev­ing this injustice.

I look for­ward to work­ing with you to cor­rect this injustice.

About the author

Manka Dhingra is a Northwest Progressive Foundation boardmember, the State Senator for the 45th Legislative District in Washington, and Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate. She is Chair of the Law & Justice committee, and a member of the Health & Long Term Care committee and Ways & Means committee. She has been a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with King County since January 2000, and is the former Chair of the Therapeutic Alternative Unit. As Chair, she supervised the Regional Mental Health court, Veterans Court and the Community Assessment and Referral for Diversion program. She helped create the 40-hour crisis intervention training for law enforcement and was a trainer at the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

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One reply on “Senator Manka Dhingra: Our communities need guardians on our streets, not warriors”

  1. I wish you rep­re­sent­ed me, we need more wise lead­ers like you in office. Too many peo­ple have been inter­est­ed only in rep­re­sent­ing their base instead of every­one for too long!

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