Racial discrimination, systemic inequities, and criminal justice reform are topics you haven’t heard me say much about over my eight years in the Legislature. It can sometimes feel as though these issues don’t affect us, that they are a Portland problem, or a big city problem. But that sentiment itself, and especially the urge to remain silent in the face of the murders of Black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery contributes to the systems of racial discrimination that have plagued our nation since long before it was founded.
On the South Coast we have an especially dark history — Coos Bay is the site of the only recorded lynching in Oregon. The impact from that racist violent act remains with this community today. This spring, an event in remembrance of Alonzo Tucker’s 1902 lynching brought people from across the country to acknowledge our community’s disturbing history, talk about it, and help us heal. But racism is not just a part of our history, it continues today and is evident not only in ongoing acts of violence but in racial disparities in our justice system, access to health care, housing, and employment. Another result of this systemic disparity can be seen in the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on communities of color.
I have spent much of this week processing the murder of George Floyd, examining my own heart, and listening to Black leaders speak about the systemic racial injustices they face. I know that the pain and horror that they are experiencing now is neither new to them, nor unexpected, it has been felt and lived by people of color for generations.
My friends and colleagues who are raising Black and Brown children carry a burden of fear and stress every time their children leave the house, simply because of the color of their skin. My heart aches for them. As a mother of two white children, I did not have to fear for their safety as they went for a run in our neighborhood, or were teenagers driving through town. Neither should anyone else.
I believe that moving forward, dismantling systems of racial injustice must involve every American, our South Coast region included. We are not immune. Change must begin, as it always has, at home. It is long past time that we all grapple with racism personally, and at the local, state, and federal levels.
Thank you for reading, and take care.