Inaction no longer an option

We need to talk around the collective kitchen table of our island about structural racism.

  • Saturday, June 13, 2020 5:51pm
  • Opinion

What to say about the past week?

What to say about next week, and the next, and the next?

Where do we go from here?

For some of us who haven’t been off the island for three long months — living inside a pandemic quarantine bubble inside the regular bubble of Vashon — to open a newspaper, to turn on the news, or to even take a peek at social media has been a dizzying experience.

In the past weeks, throughout our nation, people have suddenly thronged into the streets, sometimes marching silently and sometimes shouting to demand an end to the structures of our society that have long reinforced the oppression and marginalization of Black and other people of color.

In Seattle, just across the water, the fight has at times turned brutal, with our own state Sen. Joe Nguyen standing with protesters behind barricades on Capitol Hill, joining other elected officials calling for an end to police tactics of using chemical agents and explosives to disperse crowds.

Here at The Beachcomber, we applaud all the community conversations and actions that are taking place, sometimes painfully, around these issues. It has never been more important, for an island that is 91% white and with a median age of 53 years of age, to listen, to learn, to grow and change.

This week, our newspaper’s opinion pages are expanded to include more commentaries from islanders who have valuable reflections on this hugely important issue of our time. In the coming weeks, we will continue to use these pages to expand this conversation in our community.

Our commentators in this issue are educators, activists and faith leaders who have generously agreed, in a tumultuous and exhausting time, to share their insights with other islanders. We will continue, in the coming weeks, to seek thoughtful commentaries on the issues of justice and equality in America and on Vashon — and what that looks like, and the work that many of us need to do to make it happen.

We are fortunate to already have a cadre of islanders who are engaged in promoting social justice and championing ways to make our community more equitable. Grassroots groups like Vashon-Maury Island Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Indivisible Vashon’s Immigrant/Refugee Rights Team, Comunidad Latina, VIGA’s Food Access Partnership, the Backbone Campaign, the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness and the newly formed Vashon in Solidarity Alliance (ViSA) are doing essential work in our community, and they deserve our support.

But now more than ever, we also need to talk around the collective kitchen table of our island, with youth, our friends, our family members and even those with whom we might disagree. In a time when many are still sheltering at home, that can be difficult to do, but there are countless resources and new tools to communicate in the age of coronavirus. We can use them.

There is also the quiet intensity of reading, of walking in solitude and prayer. Last week, hundreds of islanders chose the simple, quiet act of standing on the street, holding a candle, with their island friends and neighbors. Nothing even needed to be said to make a powerful statement.

Choose one path forward or all. But inaction, of turning away and pretending this moment isn’t happening, doesn’t really seem to be an option anymore. It’s time for many of us to burst our bubble to find our way forward.

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