Standing together against hate

A message from the Director of Zero Youth Detention:

Dear Friends,

All human lives matter. That is true. Nevertheless, it is equally true that historically not all lives have been understood to matter or have value. This is precisely why it is of great importance, in this moment, that we do not shy away from this truth or attempt to generalize it. The injustice has been specific and so we must be equally specific in the naming of their lives. Under discouraging and often painful conditions they are struggling to be heard and matter in the way they deserve.

We continue to witness events that don’t communicate a value for black life. The local and national outcry we are witnessing around the value of black life is an unbridled statement of outrage that demands equality, equitable justice, and the right to live free of constraints. These sentiments are felt deeply and we want everyone here in King County to know we see you and we hear you. We stand against racism, against hatred, and against the violent acts inflicted on your black and brown bodies.

In the middle of this pandemic and social distancing we are still here and advocating for you. We are working to dismantle the inequitable systems created by a history of slavery, of debt peonage, segregation, and a prison system geared toward the containment, neutralization, and degradation of black and brown lives. We also work within the system to call out and put an end to the support and protection of a police culture that too easily and too often takes away black and brown lives in a flash, because of a perceived threat and attribution of value to skin color.

Today, and in the days to come, we must access the part of our humanity that genuinely implores us to ask how are we showing up? What are we doing different today from what we were built to do centuries ago? Zero Youth Detention continues to honor the first objective of our strategic plan — to consciously lead with Racial Equity. We will call out inequity in our sector and commit to interrupting it. We are currently engaged in gun violence work that holds the tension of stopping our young people from dying tonight, while also doing the ongoing work to ultimately create an environment that allows for equitable quality and quantity of life to exist. We stand with you in pushing for and building the community we want to live in, free of hate, racism, injustice, inequity, and violence.

In Solidarity,

Derrick Wheeler-Smith

Director, Zero Youth Detention, Public Health – Seattle & King County