Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Hello Talauna and Alesha,
I do not know either one of you, but the public conflict surrounding Talauna's appointment to the Olympia School District Board is hurting our community and diverting focus from our children. As a parent with two children at the district, I felt compelled to engage you both publicly and appeal to your senses.
Talauna, thank you for your commitment to continually serve our community even though your life story is being put under a microscope. I can only imagine how painful it is to be defined by your past actions when very little to no consideration is being given to the circumstances that influenced such actions. Many in our community understand that we are all fallible and capable of making bad decisions when it comes to survival; It is just a matter of how hot the pressure cooker is. That’s why I commend you for your resilience and applaud your strength.
Talauna, no matter the hurt caused by the Police as an institution to you personally and the Black community at large historically, it is wrong to call “pigs”, the men and women made in the image of God who are serving our community the best they know how. Would you consider apologizing for your past rhetoric? It would help with the healing of our community. When facing those we regard as our oppressors, pain tempts us all towards dehumanizing language, but we must refuse to drink its poison.
Alesha, thank you for your passion and commitment to uphold the highest standard of honor as a criterion for public service in our community. Your dedication and activism are remarkable. From what I gathered from your public comments, you believe Talauna’s criminal record, past associations and rhetoric are disqualifying. And because the other board members stood by their decisions to appoint her, they too should step down now.
Alesha, when I first heard of your objections to Ms Reed's appointment, your concerns caused me to wrestle with your questions: given her past, what influence will she have on the board? What will other communities think of us? How can members of our community who support law enforcement trust her or feel represented by her? And what picture of a role model would we be painting for our children? These are pertinent questions and I understand these fears.
Then, I remembered my college years when as a starving international student, I repeatedly faced the ethical decision whether to shoplift or abuse my bank overdraft policy for one more meal before my debit card would be blocked. I also remembered the anger I felt when I was racially profiled by law enforcement in California while driving in my brother’s
neighborhood in a desperate attempt to rock my newborn to sleep and my son’s and my life were unfairly put at risk. These memories helped me draw some parallels with Talauna’s life circumstances. They helped me start imagining the potential impact of her insight on the board differently. They also helped me consider the swath of community members with “less perfect life stories'' who have not felt represented on the board thus far. And it made it easier for me to pivot from fear to hope.
My question to you and all who share these fears is this: Have you tried to understand Ms. Reed ?
If not, would you try? And in doing so, would you consider the famous words of Atticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”?
Lastly Alesha, I would invite you like I did, to pivot from fear to hope. Hope for what can be. Hope that we can be the type of community where redemption stories like Ms. Reed’s are possible. Hope that we can build a community where what makes a person’s voice matter is their humanity. Hope that in this moment, we can model for our children how to seek to understand first before casting a stone.
Because I know you both care about our community, I plead that you each take the next right step towards understanding and healing. Our community needs imaginative and collaborative ways to tackle the challenges we face.