The past 2 months have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and many others across the district and the country. We just finished our presidential caucus and Senator Sanders won Washington State by a large margin. As we continued our process of selecting delegates, our city council had a vote on vacating a street to facilitate building a new privately owned sports venue. While some agreed with the decision to not grant the vacation, it was very disturbing and hurtful for the female council members, who all voted against it, to receive such hateful, vitriolic, and threatening emails. Most disturbing was the language about rape. This language, known as “rape culture” language, is used exclusively by men and directed at women as the worst kind of intimidation; it must stop. Women who dare voice an opinion or who are doing the jobs they were elected to do, now have the increased risk of rape or the threat of rape to contend with in the course of their lives.
This hit especially close to home for me. As a teenager who narrowly escaped an attempted sexual assault, I was reminded of the helplessness that happens at that moment. It is hard to believe that the men that used this language would want that directed at their mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, wives, nieces, or aunts. Once this language as threats enters someone’s life, it never goes away. The Seattle councilwomen wrote an Op-ed and talked about their resolve and shared that they were determined to continue to do their job. I know, first hand, that at the back of their minds, the threats remains real and their lives are forever changed. It is time for Democrats to call an end to this. It is time for male Democrats to call an end to this. This language has to be as unacceptable as the “N” word. We must learn what this language is and call out other men who use it. We are better than that. The health and safety of all humans should always be our priority.
We entered our process of endorsements and I was excited to see all the candidates come forward. I was especially eager to hear from the judicial candidates. Washington State incarcerates people of color at a rate higher than the national average. Racial disproportionalities remain significant in Washington State, yet every judge interviewed by King County Democrats’ endorsement committee was asked about conscious and unconscious bias. Each candidate reported that bias was not an issue for him or her on the bench. However, our incarceration rates, fees, and fines imposed remain disproportionate. Before we give another rubber stamp to judges, I ask that members take notice of the judicial forum hosted by KCDCC on the 6/22/16 at Seattle University. Asking about bias and the answers given will and should shock some members. It is not possible that all the judges presenting for office have no bias, but our rates of incarceration remain above the national average and disproportionately affect people of color. I have two questions for members: Are we rubber stamping endorsements to judges without understanding the issue of conscious and unconscious bias and the significant impact on people of color across the state of Washington. How do they contribute to the school to prison pipeline/machine?
Lastly, the shooting in Orlando shook me to the core. It brought back the emptiness of the tremendous loss of life I saw in the 1990s when millions of gay men died from HIV and the slowness of response in this the country to that crisis. The fear was that speeches would be given and promises stated, but no action taken. It felt like this would be another on a growing list of shooting that leaders would decry as a travesty, an outrage, and declare that it should not happen – we have all heard it before: Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Kalamazoo, Virginia Tech, Charleston, South Carolina – the list goes on. It now feels like what was considered a last place of retreat, a place where we could be free and hang out and celebrate with others like us, now feels too dangerous. Then something changed.
Democratic members of Congress, lead by Representative John Lewis (D-GA), began a sit-in. This stopped business as usual in the House, brought attention to the fact that no movement on gun laws has happened for many years, and this recent shooting was the last straw. They asked for a vote on three modest items/bills that have languished and been ignored by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI).
- If you are too dangerous to fly and are on the “No fly” list, you should not be able to buy a gun.
- A national approach to background check system that would allow this evaluation at all points -of –sale.
- Allowing the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) to study the causes of gun violence. This would reverse what is known as the “Dickey Amendment”; named after the author of the amendment Congressman Jay Dickey (R-Ark).
Seeing Democrats standing up for what is not only right, but is necessary, was great; seeing Democrats take charge and provide leadership on this issue was refreshing and inspiring; seeing Democrats take charge and remind us all that there is power in numbers and our voices do matter was more than I ever thought I could hope for; seeing Democrats sit-in on behalf of those shot and killed in Orlando, and all the victims of shootings across the nation, provided peace and comfort. It was also a reminder that there is still work to be done.
So as we rush to the polls to vote for our candidate(s) of choice, we should remember the work that remains down - ballot: addressing judicial bias, gun violence, transgender discrimination, under funding of schools, and putting an end to the language of rape culture. United, our voices are as powerful as ever.
34th District Democrats' State Committeeman