Institutional and workplace violence must end | Guest View

Nov 20, 2017
Krishna Richardson-Daniels

On Thursday, Oct. 26, two African-Americans in Edmonds were painfully reminded of the challenges we continue to face. The “noose incident” symbolizes a deplorable act of depravity and trepidation, a symbol of extreme violence towards African-Americans.

African-Americans and other people of color are increasingly alarmed when notions of racial superiority are masked within the construction industry and used to inspire and organize hatred, sexism and bigotry. We do not condone and will not tolerate this kind of discrimination and harassment. The institutional racism and other forms of workplace harassment must cease.

After learning about this incident, a number of graduates from YouthBuild, Seattle Vocational Institute and other pre-apprenticeship programs reached out and expressed similar acts of hatred and discrimination at their workplace. This type of behavior is present in the construction industry, union and nonunion alike.

This institutional racism has been present for decades, and continues to prevail today. My hope is that with the new “priority hire” legislation, which creates pathways to construction-related careers for women and people of color in Seattle and King County, city officials and construction industry partners will make clear, public statements that any and all acts of hatred, discrimination, sexism, bullying, hazing and bigotry will not be tolerated.

We should be equally committed to and responsible for preventing hatred at any workplace.

Action to date

As a next step in response to the incident, a meeting was called on Nov. 9. Seattle Vocational Institute PACT staff, the executive dean, the victims involved in the hate crime, Urban League and James Bible Law Group met with the owner of Triad Development, and the president and vice president of Goldman Real Estate and Investment.

The purpose of this meeting was to hear, first-hand, the hearts of the victims and their truths; inquire about steps the owner and developers have taken since hearing about the incident; identify recommendations Triad and Goldman Real Estate and Investment are taking to ensure justice is served; and determine next steps on how to move forward.

At current, no decisions were made. This is a sensitive matter and this topic of discussion will take time to unravel. A follow-up meeting has been scheduled. We will continue to keep you informed as the investigation emerges.

Request for solidarity and respect

As the SVI-PACT program and training director, my goal will always be to protect our students and have their best interest at all times. I have kept quiet as stories evolved, as the media misquotes information and as individuals begin to develop their own ideas and plan of action.

I have learned a lot from this incident – about partnerships, about statements being made that don’t represent the victims, their lives and livelihood, as well as how to better mobilize as a united front. I am frustrated and uncomfortable knowing that information was spread about this incident without all of the facts and firsthand knowledge.

Information that is transmitted can impact the victim(s) greatly, in a negative manner and we must always take into consideration the sensitivity of the subject. In addition, the messages that were sent by others regarding who should lead the charge and who should be responsible for connecting all parties involved was very patronizing and demoralizing.

It undermines SVI’s leadership and ability to communicate information effectively, and put the victims at risk. I ask that in the future, we refrain from being reactive, and instead focus on how we can best support the parties involved side by side. I also ask that we respect leaders most directly connected to incidents like these and communicate with them first before taking action.

Thank you to all who have reached out to me, the recruitment, outreach and retention specialist, Pastor Lawrence Willis and the executive dean Maureen Shadair, on how to best support us through this adversity. Your patience and timely presence has been most beneficial.

To all of our partners in the industry, thank you for taking a stance with us – we appreciate your continued support, provisions and guidance.

In the interim, I hope we can begin to have uncomfortable conversations about how to best support women and people of color in the construction trades industry; to create diversity and inclusion plans that aren’t just related to taking a training and checking a box, but to hold one another accountable, and empowering people to voice wrongful acts of hatred and intolerance.

I hope we can strengthen the industry, at its core, to ensure we are a unified group who stand together, protect one another and fight against this repulsive, hateful behavior. We may and must speak with one voice in this matter today and moving forward.

Krishna Richardson-Daniels is with the Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training (PACT) Program, Seattle Vocational Institute.

 

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