Over three dozen faith, civic, business, and racial justice leaders send open letter to González, whose false and incendiary ad uses dangerous anti-Black stereotypes

SEATTLE – Over three dozen leaders in Seattle’s Black community today sent a letter to Council President Lorena González demanding that she cease airing a commercial for her mayoral campaign that began running Thursday evening. The ad, leaders say, uses dangerous racial stereotypes – in this case a white woman trying to connect her trauma as a victim of assault to the unrelated actions of former Councilmember and mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, who is Black.

“This ad is morally disgusting and traffics in anti-Black dog whistles that harm our community,” said Paula Sardinas, an advocate for victims of assault and former member of the State African American Affairs Commission. “This issue touches and traumatizes not just our community, but my own family. My daughter was assaulted in 2016. As the mother of a survivor who works with victims every day, I am speaking out against a candidate who would rather campaign on fear than advocate for justice. This is exactly why we need Bruce Harrell as our Mayor.”

The letter addresses the underlying message sent by the ad, sponsored and paid for by González’s campaign and shared Friday on social media by the candidate directly.

“Dangerous racist tropes involving the insinuation of Black men as insensitive to issues of sexual violence remain pervasive in our society,” the letter explains. “This painful and ugly part of our country’s history continues to this day. For you to perpetuate these race-baiting stereotypes in your campaign is a new low in our civic discourse, and an attempt to erase the decades of advocacy and accomplishments of Bruce Harrell, who has been an unflinching voice for victims of violence and discrimination throughout his career in law and politics.”

Harrell, an attorney of Black and Japanese descent and longtime leader in Seattle’s underrepresented communities, believes the ad was crafted specifically to raise racial fears and distract voters in the waning days of a campaign where public polling has shown Harrell with a consistent double digit lead.

“Voters have responded to my message of unity and calls for action on homelessness,” said Harrell. “But instead of sharing her vision for our city, my opponent instead launches a desperate last minute attack on my credibility and my race. I have spent my life working in our communities, fighting for marginalized people, victims of hate, bias, and violence. This ad is not only insulting to me, it is harmful to the next generation of minority leaders. We must reject these divisive, personalized politics and get to work for the people of Seattle.”

Comparisons between the González ad and the infamous ‘Willie Horton’ ad in the 1988 presidential campaign were not lost upon many of the letter signers.

“The clear message González and her consultants are sending through this ad is straight out of the typical Republican playbook,” said Gerald Hankerson, Regional President of NAACP Alaska, Oregon, Washington. “It’s sickening to see this kind of Willie Horton style, racial fear-mongering used in a progressive city like Seattle. We must reject these tactics and elect Bruce as our Mayor.”

Several faith leaders signed the letter, including the Reverend Harriet Walden, a leading voice for community safety and cofounder of Moms for Police Accountability.

“Council President González should be ashamed of this brazen and false attack on Bruce and the Black community,” said Reverend Walden. “Aside from her attempt to politicize the trauma of assault, the tragic irony of her ad is that it shines a light on the impact of cuts she led to SPD investigations of domestic violence and sexual assault. Instead of seeking to improve police and support for victims, she actually made matters worse for women in this city.”

The letter concludes with a direct request for removal of the ad from the airwaves.

“Launching an ad like this, as an ‘October surprise,’ is the kind of dog whistle politics that Seattle must reject,” the letter reads. “We must also reject politicians who perpetuate ugly stereotypes, resorting to anti-Black attacks for political advantage.

“Please remove your commercial. We are better than this. Seattle deserves better. Our African American community deserves better.”

Full text of the letter, and its signers, is available here.