Lionel Donovan (KING)
PUYALLUP, Wash. — A symbol of hate stands in full view in a Puyallup neighborhood. Residents are demanding city leaders take stronger actions against a statue that evokes racial stereotypes of Black Americans, which is currently being displayed on the roof of a home along 9th Street.
Neighbors and other community members were shocked and disappointed to see that kind of statue be displayed in full view of a commonly traveled street.
Tiffani Young, who drives past the statue five times a week during her commute to work, calls the experience traumatizing.
“Basically he’s putting his hatred on display, and that’s very disturbing,” Young said. “You have kids in the neighborhood, and myself, who’s actually not far from this house, looking up at that is actually pretty traumatizing…I normally have my children with me when I drive past this. I don’t slow down, I don’t point it out to my children. They’re little, so it would be hard to explain to them what that is.”
The statue also reminds Puyallup of its dark history and that some of that history isn’t so long ago.
“It reminds me that Puyallup has a White supremacist history,” said Joe Colombo, who grew up in Puyallup and moved back to the city in 2001.
“I know that this area was the headquarters of the KKK as recently as the 1950s. So it’s just a reminder that there’s still racism inherent in this community,” Colombo said.
Puyallup city officials said that they also found the statue offensive, but that the city “has no reasonable legal authority to order the figurine removed.”
“While we all agree that this figurine is personally offensive, this type of display is protected by the US and Washington State Constitution,” city officials wrote.
City officials put out a proclamation regarding racial equality last November, but residents say that’s not good enough. Residents told KING 5 they have been disappointed by a perceived lack of action by city leadership.
“The statement they had before, clearly that’s not enough, there’s needs to be something more long-term, more opportunity for citizens to get involved to feel comfortable, to feel welcomed,” said David Berg, a longtime Puyallup resident. “If we’re trying to make Puyallup a more welcoming community, something they claim over and over again, the way to do that is to not let things like that go unchallenged.”
“They have not made any position other than this proclamation, which is just words at this point, it doesn’t have any actionable items,” said Amanda Cuthbert, who’s lived in Puyallup since 2016.
“I think there’s a lot of diversity within this city that’s been asking for systemic change, and it’s been a platform that several candidates have approached in their speeches, but no action by anybody to make the change,” Cuthbert said.
Some residents are demanding a commission to be created to deal with issues of race in Puyallup.
“One thing we’ve been really working on as the community is trying to establish a Racial Diversity and Equity commission,” says Davida Sharpe-Haygood, a Puyallup resident and founder of the Two-Way Racial Healing Project. “The commission would be a place to have these conversations, be able to help with making statements, being able to take the actions.”
Haygood issued a statement of her own in response to the statue.
“A statement isn’t enough. We need action to back the proclamation. It’s time for the city to get a backbone against racial hate,” she said in her statement.
“The role model that we have is Tacoma has a human rights commission. We need to have something of that nature within our city to be able to address this,” Haygood said.
In the meantime, as traumatic as the experience is, Young said she has no intention of changing her route home.
“Avoiding it to me is sweeping it under the rug, and that’s just making it so that guy is comfortable continuing to promote that. I don’t feel any need to change my routine home. So I’m not going to budge.”
KING 5 reached out to the person listed as the occupant of the home, but the phone number on file was disconnected.