Every violent death is tragic, no matter what the reason nor the point of view of the victim. Having lost three close family members in traffic crashes, I know too well the shock and grief of the family who expected to see their loved one come home at the end of the day, and find out that will never happen again. My heart goes out to them, as I continue to grieve with the families of people – specifically Black Americans -- killed and injured by police.
The current violence on our streets is not the way to address systemic racism and white supremacy in Portland effectively. Pastor E.D. Mondainé, President of the NAACP Portland Chapter wrote, “how do these actions stop police from killing black people?”. He recommends instead, “I am not suggesting retreat. Instead, I am proposing that we take the cause of Black Lives Matter into those places where tear gas and rubber bullets and federal agents cannot find us, and where there is less risk of spectacle distracting from our true aims. In boardrooms, in schools, in city councils, in the halls of justice, in the smoky backrooms of a duplicitous government — that is where we will finally dismantle the gears of the brutal, racist machine that has been terrorizing black Americans and hollowing out the moral character of this nation since its inception.”
We must return the focus to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the changes needed to end systemic racism evidenced in health, economic, education, police shootings, arrests, incarceration, housing and so many other outcomes where Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities have been disadvantaged and oppressed for centuries. White supremacy must be overcome in 2020. That won’t happen by force, but by lasting reforms.
I entreat all sides – including the Portland Police – to change strategies. Stop confronting each other, stop endangering lives and inflicting harm. Ignore outsiders when they come seeking to attract attention and provoke indignation. Engage in meaningful dialogue.
Daily, I receive dozens or hundreds of emails and phone calls making “demands”. Many say they will not stop turning out on the streets until their demands are met. The demands of some conflict with the demands of others. Some are impractical and simply not going to happen. Others need time and level heads to find effective solutions. Yelling and arguing are not effective strategies to get desired outcomes. Violence certainly isn’t. Nobody’s viewpoint is being changed as the result of demands or confrontations. I believe we must change from demanding that others take specific actions, and instead find ways to work together.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution says, ''No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion or restricting the right to speak, write or print freely on any subject whatsoever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.''
I ask each person reading this statement to consider, “Is what I’m doing (or not doing) abusing my fellow Portlanders? Am I using my voice and my actions responsibly, to help find solutions?”.
No politician has all the answers. Undermining Mayor Wheeler will do nothing to bring the protests to a peaceful conclusion or make real progress in reforming the Police Bureau. Expecting the Mayor, me, or any one person or group to solve every challenge, and “demanding” solutions is no substitute for accepting your responsibility in helping to create them and avoiding abuse of your Constitutional speech and assembly rights. Demands and violence will not achieve compassionate, equitable policing and true community safety and prosperity for every person in our city. We must work together to reach those goals.
Mayor Wheeler’s 19-point plan for addressing police accountability and racial justice has multiple options for engaging in constructive dialogue centering the leadership of Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. Offer to join the conversations about how to bring about lasting reforms. Volunteer with the Black Resilience Fund, and/or donate. Volunteer to make phone calls for your favored political campaign – whichever you support.
No more violence. At the very least, Portlanders can help by doing that.