Community members respond to Heritage Museum ad

Why are we surprised by stories about racism on Vashon?

Did you gasp in disbelief saying, “Oh, not on Vashon!” when reading “Vashon Racism” in “It’s Your History,” [an advertisement from the Vashon Heritage Museum] that appeared Jan. 9 edition of The Beachcomber? Some found it hard to believe the white residents protested the settlement of African Americans at Lisabeula in the 1930s.

“Oh, not on Vashon!” came to mind in recent years when we heard of a young black man who was walking home from his evening shift at a Vashon store. He was violently bullied and threatened by white people from a passing car. Denial, fear, empathy and disbelief is sensed in the pit of the stomach.

Why are we surprised by these stories? Perhaps you are not so surprised because you have experienced racism or know second hand about racism on Vashon. Is it possible to be skeptical that racism exists? Perhaps this 1930’s history is a clue as to why Vashon is populated in a great majority by white people.

How does the past connect to the present? We are all connected to these past times by varying lengths of the memory thread — we are not that far removed.

For example, a mural appeared just a couple of years ago on the west-facing outside wall of Vashon Center for the Arts. It tells a Vashon history that is clearly selective. Those curious could ask, whose story is missing? Black? Muslim? Latinx? Indigenous? Asian-American? Folks with a disability? Whose body image is invisible in the mural’s story, and how can we end this erasure?

— Bailey deIongh, Jessica Lisovsky, Karen Nelson, Wendy Noble and Kristina Turner

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