March 2022 > Inbox


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Empty Virtue Signaling

WSBA Executive Director Terra Nevitt’s column [“Black History Month: What is Our Pathway Forward?” February 2022 Bar News] was a virtue signaling, sloganeering exhortation against something Ms. Nevitt calls “systemic racism.” The executive director neglects to define “systemic racism” or prove that it exists. And she offers no solutions for it even if it does exist.

Without evidence, Ms. Nevitt implies that disparity of incarceration regarding people of color is caused by systemic racism. If people of color are overrepresented in the prison system, we need to ask what laws they were convicted of violating. If people of color are incarcerated for the crimes of drugs or prostitution, then there is a straightforward solution: The WSBA could promote the abolition of these victimless crimes and the freeing of people, including whites, convicted of these crimes. The disparity of power and resources in any legal contest between the state and almost any defendant citizen, regardless of race, is vastly weighted in favor of the state. When the police kill a citizen of any race, there is often no accountability on the part of the police. Note the Redmond police killing of the unarmed white woman, Andrea Churna, in 2020. (The Seattle Times, 12-27-2021, page A-1.) Instead of having a systemic racism problem, it is more likely that we are having a systemic police-state problem that harms all races.

Rather than dealing with any of the above considerations, Ms. Nevitt approvingly cites the Washington Supreme Court’s 2020 call to action:

As we lean in to do this hard and necessary work, may we also remember to support our [B]lack colleagues by lifting their voices. Listening to and acknowledging their experiences will enrich and inform our shared cause of dismantling systemic racism.

Instead of the legal profession “lifting their voices,” wouldn’t people of color rather be freed from prison and have the killings perpetrated by the police brought to an end?

I have read the books by Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility, and Ibram Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, on the topic of systemic racism. These books offer the same vague sloganeering and finger wagging as the executive director’s column without proof or solutions. How can we “all own the work of dismantling systemic racism” when present day systemic racism has not been defined or shown to exist?

In contrast, the police state exists all around us and grows bigger every day with mandates, surveillance, and endless enforcement agencies with little or no accountability. Instead of pursuing the mirage of systemic racism, we should consider dismantling the systemic police state.

Tom Stahl, Ellensburg

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