FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 18, 2021
The Senate Members of Color Caucus co-chairs – Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) and Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center) today issued a statement on behalf of the Members of Color Caucus in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy he has left the nation.
“Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a radical liberator. He was both defender and builder of American democracy. He was an enemy of white supremacy and a champion of justice. He fought against the immorality of inequity, he organized against generations of racism – and he dismantled so much systemic evil.
But his work did not end when his life was stolen from him. He left us a mandate: to make right what decades of racist policies and attitudes have made rotten.
It is an affront to Dr. King’s lifelong work to pretend like the work is done. It does no justice to his name to whitewash his memory and parrot his quotes without context. The truth was: Dr. King was a polarizing figure to his contemporaries – reviled at worst, dismissed at best – because he did not simply say, be nicer. He did not simply say, work together. He did not simply call for unity. He was relentless about identifying systemic problems and calling for those in power to upend the status quo as a means of addressing those problems. This demand has never been popular to those in power.
Dr. King organized for a radical undoing of a racist and inequitable system, one that squandered the talent and thwarted the flourishing of Black community members, of Indigenous community members, of community members of color – a system that harmed economic prosperity and health outcomes for generations of Americans.
We must seize the mantel to continue this work, an inheritance that has only become more urgent as recent events have revealed how far we truly are from Dr. King’s dream.
We continue to live and work in a country in which an unprecedented pandemic steals the lives and jobs of a disproportionate number of Black and brown Americans, while the richest and most powerful among us get richer and more powerful.
We continue to live and work in a country in which violent white supremacists, threatened by the healthy functioning of an increasingly multiracial democracy, feel empowered to descend upon the most prolific symbol of that democracy – our nation’s capitol building – to terrorize duly elected officials.
We continue to live and work in a country in which law enforcement responds to violent white supremacists with very little force and an assumption of innocence, while they respond to peaceful Black demonstrators or unarmed Black men with excessive aggression and an assumption of guilt.
We – as elected officials sent to our state’s capitol by our communities – owe it to our people, to our state, to our country, and to Dr. King’s legacy to work with moral clarity toward a more just and equitable Washington. And we can only do that when we continue the work with a real acknowledgment of how far we have to go – not just how far we think we’ve come.”
The Members of Color Caucus (MOCC) is made up of eight senators who identify as people of color: Senators Mona Das, Manka Dhingra, Bob Hasegawa, Steve Hobbs, T’wina Nobles, Nguyen, Emily Randall, and Saldaña. Recognizing that Washington state’s strength is rooted in its diversity, the MOCC works to answer issues of racial and economic inequality through collaborative, community-driven work built around creating opportunities for all. They work across chambers and across the aisle to advance policy that will expand access to the legislature and improve outcomes for all Washingtonians.