I write this as our country rocks with grief after the murder of nine African American worshippers in a church in South Carolina by a young white supremist. In our horror and grief, the American principles which claim that “all men are created equal” and that cry for “liberty and justice for all” seem like a faraway dream still for many. We wonder what we can do personally to come together as brothers and sisters, loving and respecting each other as equals regardless of the color of our skin in Whatcom County.
The Racial Justice Coalition is a local group of community members whose mission is to educate our community about racism through nonviolent action based in truth and love. Their vision is a community that is safe, compassionate and equitable for all people. The Racial Justice Coalition of Bellingham presents us with a healing opportunity to work together as people of all races to create a more just and welcoming place for all to live, where we are here and now.
In the 2010 United State Census, Bellingham’s percentage of white residents (84.9 percent) was 12.5 percent higher than the rest of the nation as a whole, and Bellingham’s percentage of black residents (1.3 percent) was 11.3 percent lower than the rest of the nation as a whole. The truth of the matter is that Bellingham and Whatcom County have not always been welcoming and safe for our black brothers and sisters, and other brothers and sisters of color, over the relatively brief history of this town and county.
The Racial Justice Coalition presents us with an opportunity to come together to address and amend Bellingham and Whatcom County’s history of racial exclusion and racial injustice and to work towards the creation of a community where all our brothers and sisters, and all the children of our community, regardless of the color of their skin, are equally safe, equally respected, equally honored, equally welcomed and equally encouraged.
Let us work together to create a Bellingham and Whatcom County where black lives and brown lives matter. There have been and still are racial disparities in how different Whatcom County institutions such as our legal and emergency response systems treat people of different races and different ethnicities. Let us have the courage to come together as a community to address these disparities.
The murderer of the nine worshippers in South Carolina wanted to separate us, brother from brother and sister from sister, because of the color of our skin. Let us honor those whose lives were cut short by taking whatever small daily actions we can that reflect brotherhood, sisterhood and community, and let us also have the courage to take the larger actions that we must take in order to create the needed systemic change to our legal institutions and other institutions where we find disparities in how people of color are treated. Let us do all this in the spirit of bringing ourselves closer to our brothers and sisters in whatever ways we can, so that the American principles that claim that “all men are created equal” and that claim that there should be “liberty and justice for all” are not just lofty goals we strive for in some distant future, but something that our black and brown brothers, sisters and children can feel and touch in their lifetimes in Bellingham and Whatcom County. That will take work by many people of all races, and again I believe that the Racial Justice Coalition presents us with an opportunity to work in brotherhood and sisterhood towards the systemic change that is needed to reflect these cherished principles of equality and “liberty and justice for all.”
To strive for justice of any kind today implies that there has been injustice in the past that must be addressed, healed and amended. Let us not allow the fear of acknowledging that in Bellingham and Whatcom County there, too, has been racial injustice stop us from forging forward in coalition towards racial justice. We invite all community members to join us in brotherhood and sisterhood in creating a Bellingham and Whatcom County that people of all races can safely call home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Buel of Bellingham is a member of the Racial Justice Coalition. For more information on the Racial Justice Coalition, attend a monthly meeting held at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, 1220 Bay St.; email the group at RacialJusticeCoalition@gmail.com; or visit its Facebook page at Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition.