The Stranger’s overwhelmingly white “Election Control Board” has rescinded the paper’s endorsement of Erin Jones for state superintendent of public instruction.
Jones is the first African-American woman to run for statewide public office in Washington. The Stranger is now backing her opponent, Chris Reykdal, a white man from Tumwater who has most recently been serving in the state legislature.
Staff writer Sydney Brownstone seems to have spearheaded the campaign against Jones, publishing this article about Jones a day after the Election Control Board, of which she’s a member, announced it was no longer backing Jones. Erin Jones then posted this open letter, and Brownstone quickly responded again. Brownstone pointed me via email to this interview as the origins of her push against Jones.
“I interviewed Erin multiple times and heard from LGBTQ advocates that they were concerned about her comments,” Brownstone wrote. “After we endorsed Erin, we received a flood of emails pointing us to those concerns.”
It took me a while to figure out what to make of this. As with anything, I’m still not sure. We’re all just doing our best out here. But here’s where I’m at:
Any candidate for any office who reveals blind spots when it comes to race, gender and identity is raising a red flag. Erin Jones’ comments are at least that: a red flag. I’m not not concerned.
But anyone who has any understanding of Jones’ career also knows that she is an unflinching advocate for equity. Black children are being failed more than any other student demographic by our current public school system, and she has raised black children of her own. She understands oppression and marginalization, what it’s like to live through it and fight against it both personally and professionally. That doesn't give her a pass, but it gives her several layers of credibility.
Whatever her current blind spots, I cannot imagine they are greater and more blinding than Reykdal’s. I continue to trust her to be thoughtful and engaged, to listen and to truly, fully put children first, regardless of the issue.
Our school system needs transformational change, and we need a transformational leader. Electing Chris Reykdal, no matter how well he has spoken during his campaign, is electing more of the same.
The Stranger Election Control Board, meanwhile, is Sydney Brownstone, Heidi Groover, Ansel Herz, Tim Keck, Ana Sofia Knauf, Tricia Romano, Eli Sanders and Dan Savage. Some quick Googling shows that if this group is not entirely white, it is very nearly so. I know that some members of this board are themselves members of other marginalized communities, but the fact remains that a group of white (self-proclaimed) progressives snatched back their support for a black woman at literally the first sign of a blemish and handed their high-fives eagerly to the nearest white face.
The Stranger also supports Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the presidential election, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton was very late to the game in supporting gay marriage, called black teenagers “super predators” and has helped to originate and support legislation that has led to mass incarceration of people of color and perpetuated systemic oppression.
But she’s come around on marriage equality, right? And on race, we’re told. You could argue that anyone would be better than Trump, and you might be right, but the Stranger also didn’t choose between Clinton and Bernie Sanders earlier this year, so those concerns over Hillary’s backwater beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity and, frankly, civil rights weren’t enough to cause them to rescind her support.
Maybe she’s not perfect, but I continue to support Erin Jones because I believe she is our best hope for transformational change in the office of the superintendent of public instruction. Like anything, I can't be sure, but I trust her.
I would ask the Stranger if it can say the same for Chris Reykdal. How confident are you that he will be the solution our kids need? That he will be better than Erin Jones for all of our state's marginalized communities and children being failed by the system?