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.