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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Guest Column: What side are you on?

Editor’s note: This guest column is a response to an opinion piece by Stephanie Villiers.

Desmond Tutu said, “To remain silent in the face of oppression is to take the side of the oppressor.” This quote loudly resonated with me while I was proudly lobbying in Olympia as our Associated Students legislative liaison to ensure our student voice was being heard at our capital.

During my time in Olympia, Sen. Jim Honeyford, from the 15th legislative district, made blatantly racist and classist remarks saying “colored people are more likely to be poor,” “poor people commit more crimes,” and using the outdate and oppressive term “the negro.”

After Honeyford’s remarks, there was outcry from his constituents, students and people of color throughout the state. I knew that I could not remain silent in light of his racist and oppressive remarks, but that I had to take action and use my position, privilege and access to the legislature to speak out against racism.

On March 6, in an act of civil disobedience, myself and another one of Western’s students and a constituent of Honeyford’s, Mayra Guizar, interrupted the senate meeting by dropping a banner calling on Honeyford to resign while chanting a similar message. This is one of my proudest actions while in Olympia, and although I did not take it in my official role as the legislative liaison, I trust that I represented a large majority of Western students in this act. Evidenced by the over 100 students and alumni who added their names in support of the action to my original response found here.

Recently, instead of choosing to criticize Sen. Honeyford for his racist and hurtful remarks, The Western Front chose to criticize me for my part in the action. I am extremely disappointed that instead of standing in solidarity with those whose Sen. Honeyford’s remarks affected, the Front used their platform to condemn me for using my position to speak out against racism. The Front’s article made it clear that they prioritize funding of a building over speaking out against racism.

While I appreciate the Front giving me the opportunity to publish a portion of my response, I have been very hurt by the paper, as they have added unnecessary stress and anxiety onto me during finals week (an already stressful time).

To end, I will say that I will never remain silent in the face of oppression regardless of what my job title is. Whenever the choice is between political effectiveness or justice, I will take the side of justice! Whenever the choice is between funding for a building or standing against racism, I will stand against racism!

What side are you on, Western Front?

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