If Yakima state senator Jim Honeyford thought his mealy-mouthed apology for saying poor, "colored" people commit more crimes would make the issue go away—well, he's got another thing coming. Olympia-based journalist John Stang is reporting that two women were removed from the balcony of the state senate earlier today after they chanted about Senator Honeyford failing his duties as a representative and demanded he step down.
Keep in mind that when Honeyford apologized, he said, "It was certainly not my intent to offend anyone." But in the agitated comments that sparked the outrage, Honeyford said poor, "colored" people committing more crimes was an "accepted fact of our society." He told anyone who doubted that to check "sociology books." He hasn't offered any further illumination or nuance—hasn't said, for example, that crime statistics can be a function of larger injustices and are not some sort of referendum on the inherent propensity of "colored" people to commit crimes.
If Honeyford was serious about promoting racial justice, you'd think he'd meet with a Latino student who offered to drive from Western Washington University down to Olympia to meet with him. Mayra Guizar grew up in Eastern Yakima and her family lives there. (She's on the left in both of the photos in this post.)
Earlier this week, she called Honeyford's office and asked to meet with him. But staffers told her he was too busy, she said.
Guizar came to Olympia to send a message anyway. Before speaking out on the senate balcony today, she stopped by Honeyford's office and asked to speak with him one more time. She was turned away, she said, but she left them with a stack of comments from this online petition she started—for example, from Diana Alvarez in Eastern Yakima: "The level of ignorance of some of the people in power positions is sickening." The petition accuses Honeyford of making a "racist, classist generalization."
"I just want to say that as a constituent, it hurt me," Guizar told me, speaking by phone, "it hurt my family, my community. We want to see positive action." She made arrangements for her friends to turn in her homework and drove down from Bellingham to Olympia last night, arriving around midnight.
Why go to such lengths? "If we do nothing," Guizar said, "it sends a message to people in power that it's okay if you say these things and then apologize. I feel like he's been in office long enough and hasn't done anything to support the folks that he's representing."
Honeyford represents a 54 percent majority Latino district, but has sought to bar undocumented workers from getting driver's licenses. He's also opposed the state version of the DREAM Act, which allows the students who grew up here, but whose parents are undocumented, to apply for college financial aid.
Today, according to legislative reporter Stang, senate Republicans defeated an attempt by Democrats to pass the Washington Voting Rights Act, which would help rectify the disenfranchisement of Latino communities across the state.