Published as an Opinion Column on June 4, 2015
Two young black men were shot by a white police officer on May 21. We know
events like this happen. But here? In Olympia? Yes, here at home.
event brought forth a myriad of emotions and reactions from all of us. On
Saturday night, people took to the streets of Olympia for a variety of reasons,
including protesting racial inequality and police brutality, showing support for
the police, and for reasons that are less clear. The result was an emotional
melee of people with chaos, property destruction and personal injuries.
While our viewpoints vary greatly, the vast majority of us agree that we do not
want our city to devolve into violence, hate and bigotry. We need to take
ownership of our community. We must look directly at the issues of race and
address their impacts head-on in constructive, inclusive ways, because race
It is not about choosing sides in the controversy over the
shooting. We must engage together because that controversy has created a heated
environment ripe with opportunity for hate and hate-supportive groups to tear us
We, as a community, can do better than we did last Saturday night.
We must face hard questions and our own deeply held beliefs, and be open to
exploring in realms that feel scary and foreign to us. Our community must
openly, inclusively and effectively address the systems, structures and cultures
that drive disparate treatment and disproportionate outcomes for people of color
— not just African-Americans — in our community.
Unity in the Community
is an Olympia-based coalition dedicated to organizing positive and pro-diversity
educational events and appropriate community responses to the presence of hate
groups in the Olympia area. Unity seeks to build working relationships with a
broad range of ethnic and cultural organizations, faith groups, progressive
organizations, government entities and individuals who support diversity as an
essential basis for a strong community.
Today, we call upon our civic and
business leaders, our students and educational institutions, members of our
communities of color and other marginalized communities, allies and neighbors,
to begin a true, authentic and difficult set of conversations.
needs to be able to speak his/her heart and mind in a safe environment; everyone
needs to be heard.
To this end, Unity proposes facilitating and
supporting community conversations in diverse environments — faith communities,
schools, civic clubs, public facilities and more. We call on diverse members of
the community to talk with — not at — each other, to listen and to change for
For Unity in the Community, we are Jim Bamberger, Reiko
Callner, Alec and Gabi Clayton, Nancy Eastham, Kathy Baros Friedt, Barb Gross,
and Hisami Yoshida.
Olympia Unity in the Community