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“There’s never been a time in American history that Black lives have been safe from state violence and white vigilante violence. I cannot point you to a decade time span. It just does not exist.”

— Megan Ming Francis, associate professor of Political Science, University of Washington

That statement goes to the heart of the anger and frustration expressed during protests in Ellensburg, across this country, and around the world. If you are not black, take a moment to think about those words. “There has never been a time in American history”.... reflect on that — never.

If you are black, every ancestor from your great, great, great grandpa up to your grandpa could leave in the morning and not come home, another victim of state or vigilante violence. Your mother, sister, or daughter might step out the door and become another victim of the same violence. Each time you step outside, you wonder if you are the next victim. Ponder the knot inside you that never goes away.

As you take the time to think of the power of the statement, you understand why we, as a community, must do better. It is not OK to congratulate ourselves on being a small town without the problems of larger cities. It is not OK to believe that bigotry and racism do not exist here. As your city government, we condemn white supremacy, acknowledge that racism and oppression are systemic, and that we all have a responsibility to be engaged and informed on these issues.

We must do better in recognizing that systemic racism shapes our actions in ways that we have yet to acknowledge. We must do better in recognizing those actions and the beliefs which drive them. We must do better by turning this moment into one of fundamental change — a moment which builds a community that recognizes and values diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must do better.

Our legacy shall be that this current conversation does not occur over and over and over as it has in the past without leading to fundamental change. Our legacy shall be that we end this conversation by taking the actions needed to truly effect change in our community. The core question: Do our actions reduce the fear of a black person losing their life?

Our communities of color should feel safe and know their lives matter. But it is more than that – people should feel included, empowered and embraced. I have much to learn and work to do. The city of Ellensburg has much to learn and much work to do. The past weeks remind us all of the significant effort needed to bring our community together and create true change.

The first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619. Four hundred years of state-sanctioned violence cannot be erased in 40 days. This journey will build a stronger and more just community — a community which moves into the next 400 years supporting all voices to be heard and valued. All of us in the City of Ellensburg — City Council, staff, and I, as Mayor, are committed to a process of deep self-reflection and active listening. We will make the necessary changes and take the necessary actions to truly make Ellensburg an inclusive and welcoming city for all — a community which recognizes that strength lies in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Join us in building that community.

Bruce Tabb is the mayor of Ellensburg.

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