June 18, 2015 — We are still processing with shock and horror the police shooting of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, two unarmed young Black men, on Thursday, May 21 on the West side of Olympia.
Shoplifting beer is not a felony. The effect of White privilege can be difficult for privileged people to perceive, but when White young men on skateboards are suspected of shoplifting beer at a grocery store at 1 a.m., police are unlikely to shoot them.
We believe it is not acceptable to say, “We don’t think race was a factor.” Race is always a factor in our race-conscious society. If we pretend that race does not influence us and others, those of us who are White not only lose the opportunity to recognize and counteract the effects of racism and oppression, we offend and lose credibility with our Black neighbors and friends who live knowing this truth because they live Black lives in Black skin.
While we are grateful for those who endeavor to serve and protect our community, who risk their own safety in order to increase the safety of others, the shooting of these young Black men ‘armed’ with skateboards by those acting in our name is intolerable and inexcusable.
Race colors everyone’s perceptions, both during and after such an event. Regardless of who is right about the facts being disputed at this time, we need to admit this was a failure, find out all the reasons it failed, and fix everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Anger, frustration, fear, and hostility are symptoms of the ongoing racial inequalities that continue to be a part of what forms our community and our society.
We have all been affected by this event, but Black residents of Olympia have been affected most of all. Accountability by our police department is critical.
Regardless of the outcome produced by the legal system in this case, we ask for a steadfast commitment to working for an end to race bias in our police department.
In the coming months we ask for full transparency about planned changes in police selection, training, technology, and tactics. We ask that Black citizens of Olympia be involved at every step so that, when faced with situations we cannot confidently handle alone, all of us — regardless of our skin color — can be confident that our police will serve and protect us with integrity.
We call upon the Olympia Police Department to stand up and stand for what is right and good and against bias and hate within their ranks — as we call upon ourselves to do so. This is in keeping with our faith and our Quaker testimonies regarding peace, equality, integrity, and community.
Finally, we are proud to live in a community that at the best of times seeks to uphold the highest human values. We pray and hope and work toward that.
As members of the Peace and Social Justice Committee of the Olympia Monthly Meeting (Quakers) with other concerned members of our faith community, we are: Gabi Clayton, Steven Aldrich, David Albert, Polly Boyajian, Dennis Mills, with Renee Binns, Judith Bouffiou, Susan Campbell, Kathy Cox, Dave Cundiff, Ward C. Miles, Anne M. Mills, Alan Mountjoy-Venning, Jane Mountjoy-Venning, Kathleen O’Shaunessy, Ellen Sawislak, Vince Schueler, Donna Schumann, Jane Sherman, Naki Stevens, Suzanne Simons, Evan Welkin, and Jack Zeiger.