Seattle’s mayor told a Spokane crowd Saturday that the destiny of blacks in Washington rests with the four R’s - race, respect, religion and regionalism.
Norm Rice, who this year finishes his eighth and final year as mayor of the state’s largest city, rallied an audience of 210 to unite before the new millennium. To vote down initiatives, he said, will divide society, not bind it fast. And Rice called upon the crowd to stop searching for leaders and to take stands themselves.
“We’re always looking for some program or charismatic leader to show the way,” he said. “But you are the leaders.”
He held up former Mayor Jim Chase and the late attorney Carl Maxey as Spokane “heroes that loom large” here and across the state.
Rice was the keynote speaker for the Spokane NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund Banquet downtown. Rice said the year 2,000 could usher in a time of equality and unprecedented opportunity for minorities - or, a broken age of broken dreams.
Even though blacks have made tremendous strides, Rice said the struggle’s not over. It’s more of the same.
Violence, poverty and the gap between rich and poor, he said, are the demons that haunted years past and that still shriek today. He told the crowd to cast them out for good, even though government fragments people instead - “pitting Asians against African Americans, pitting gays and lesbians against people of color.”
He said the first of the four R’s, race, is a subject society treats politely, but only superficially.
“We have to be brave,” he said, “brave enough to put our biases on the table - and our prejudices.”
Rice took the opportunity to lambaste Initiative 200, which would curb race- and gender-based affirmative action. “Anyway you slice it, it’s an effort to turn civil rights back 200 years.”
People still aren’t treated fairly, Rice said. “I think we all wish that were true.”
And he supports Initiative 677, which would make it illegal to fire gays and lesbians for no other reason than their sexual orientation.
Rice called for respect in civil discourse, and he chastised the media for pummeling public figures without cause. Anyone can lob allegations, he said, and the media runs with it.
“Now, it’s happened to me more times than I can say,” he said, alluding in part to unsubstantiated accusations about sexual misconduct.
“Somebody has to accept responsibility to be the filter.”
Rice also said progressives have ceded religion to the right and should reclaim it as their own.
“Preach!” said someone in the crowd.
And finally, he called for people not just to flee the suburbs to escape the ills of cities, but to face urban problems head-on. Themselves.
“The charismatic leaders rest in your soul, in your heart, and in your mind.”