Spokane NAACP president: Acknowledging history necessary to racial healing

Jan. 19—Following the National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday, Spokane NAACP President Kiantha Duncan gave a talk on racial healing and politics in the Foley Speaker room on the Washington State University Campus in Pullman.

Duncan emphasized that the discussion was a place for everyone to have a conversation about what racial healing meant and how it could differ person to person. For some people, like Duncan's grandmother, it could mean living in a white neighborhood without fear.

"Thinking about racism being of determinant of health — I think of it like cancer," Duncan said.

She started with a story about two friends who both have cancer, one who found a bulge and went to get tested and the other who found it during a check up. Racism, Duncan said, is like cancer and can be out in the open or hidden. Jim Crow laws, for example, would be cancer you can see, Duncan said.

The country is currently in treatment, Duncan said. To continue the metaphor, Duncan said some places might not go into "remission," but others will. Duncan said this fact does not stop her from being hopeful in healing and equity.

"I personally — and you can write down that I said it because I say it everywhere I go — I don't believe that we can get to a world where racism doesn't exist," Duncan said. "And here's the reason why: Can you imagine of a world where cancer doesn't exist?"

Duncan said it is important to be realistic about what can be achieved and to work with people where they are now. She told the audience a story about working with businesses in Spokane that want to diversify their workforce, pointing out that the area isn't diverse but working on the structure of society and educating the people already here would be just as beneficial.

"There has never been a time in the community sans racism, so I'm not sure what we'd be healing back to. We really should be looking at this like, how do create this world that has never existed?" Duncan said.

The path to racial healing for white people starts with acknowledging what their ancestors have done and accepting it is part of history. Duncan said she wanted them not to hide the shameful parts of history but instead think of how it could be addressed moving forward.

The role of education and what universities could do to address these issues is to become and create learners, Duncan said. She said that institutions should take the time to learn from the communities to help address racial issues.

"I don't have the answer because there is no one right answer," Duncan said.

The whole discussion can be viewed online on the Foley Institute YouTube channel at bit.ly/3GR4bZw.

Kali Nelson can be reached at knelson@dnews.com.