Recent comments by Kennewick City Council candidate Loren Nichols – and the lack of any public condemnation so far by elected officials in Washington State – serve as a stark reminder that immigrant communities and communities of color need leaders willing to stand up for them.
Mr. Nichols took a volatile political environment around immigration issues to new lows by proposing that undocumented immigrants “be shot at the border” and that “If they value their lives, they would leave.” Meanwhile, the disparity in education, health, and wealth between populations in North and South Seattle continues to widen. And in just the first half of 2011, state legislators across the country have introduced over 1,500 immigration-related bills, many of them inviting racial profiling.
This year’s redistricting process provides an opportunity for communities of color to help create majority-minority electoral districts that will elect leaders who prioritize issues first and foremost on their agendas. Today, the United for Fair Representation (http://fairrepresentationwa.org/) coalition submitted our Unity Maps (http://fairrepresentationwa.org/unity-map/) to the Washington State Redistricting Commission (http://www.redistricting.wa.gov/).The Unity Maps include a new 10th Congressional District in South King County and five legislative districts across the state that are each majority people of color.
“The Member of Congress representing a majority people of color district would have condemned these hateful remarks,” said George Cheung, Director of the Win/Win Network (http://www.winwinnetwork.org/). “The deafening silence from our elected leaders is even more proof that communities of color in Washington need a champion from the 10th Congressional District.”
“While we hope Mr. Nichols is a fringe candidate, the truth of the matter is that racism continues to run deep and strong in Washington State,” said Fé Lopez, President of the Latino Bar Association of Washington (http://www.lbaw.org/), a member of the United for Fair Representation coalition. “Until we can have the opportunity to elect officials that truly represent our ever growing communities of color, we run the real risk that people like Mr. Nichols will get elected.”
“Washington’s gain of a tenth Congressional District is a significant result of the minority population’s growth over the last ten years,” added Cherry Cayabyab of United for Fair Representation. “The creation of districts based on these Unity Maps is a step towards achieving fair and proportional representation for communities of color in our state.”
Advocates for majority-minority districts have testified at nearly every one of the 18 public hearings held by the Commission this summer, including a packed hearing last Tuesday in South Seattle.
“People living in South Seattle have more in common with those living in Kent or Federal Way than Lake Washington or North Seattle, making it a viable community of interest,” said OneAmerica (http://weareoneamerica.org/) Policy Director Ada Williams Prince. “This new 10th Congressional District would provide these communities with the power to influence elected officials to take action in reducing health disparity and support educational equity.”
“People of color majority in political jurisdictions, is an essential evolutionary step in our journey from a segregated and biased society to one which rises up to the vision articulated by Martin Luther King where in the content of ones character is the measure by which one is judged, ” remarks Tom Hilyard, Tacoma Black Collective.