By LaNicia Duke, The Love Coalition
I want to thank you for acknowledging the national conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter and the “tragic deaths of black citizens in other parts of the country”. I appreciate you being “committed to the life, health, and safety of all people of color in our community and otherwise vulnerable populations”. I am hopeful in knowing you believe “racism is insidious, and we all have to be vigilant to root it out when it crops up. It is encouraging to see you “becoming more aware of the experience of black people and other minorities living in our community” and see this as “an excellent opportunity for all of us to grow in empathy and awareness and think about the experience we want for our neighbors and their children”.
James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” As I read your statements, it saddened me even though you pledged to do “everything in your power to protect the rights of people of color in our community”, as I continued to read I was hoping to see how you would specifically address issues that have happened and to provide a framework for preventing other instances of discrimination in our county. Even though we have not had any incidents of Black people being killed in our county, we must surely bring honor to those who have been on the receiving end of discrimination, microaggressions, and biases that have indeed happened in Tillamook county, not just 50 years ago, but in the last six years since I’ve lived here.
How have we evolved as a county? Have our leaders been trained in cultural competency? Do our teachers know how to respond to the conversation of “all lives matter vs. blue lives matter vs. Black lives matter?” Do our business leaders respond to everyone who visits our wonderful community with the same respect and dignity? To simply say we’re blessed to not have the instances of systemic racism in our communities like the rest of the country and not acknowledge that people of color have been on the receiving end of intolerance in this county makes me wonder what will it take for us to respond with more than just, “yes, it happens, but just not here.” I’d encourage you to seek out people of color in our community. I don’t speak for them all, as they too have voices, but many have been stifled over the years because we don’t want to acknowledge or address what is sometimes right in front of us.
Have you reached out to those who are demonstrating in our county? Have you considered they may have other reasons to be out there outside of it being a “national movement”? Do we stay complacent and complicit by quoting Dr. King’s words against violence while not sharing his thoughts on why there is violence? Do we continue to sweep things under the rug and pressure people into silence because we want to make sure we don’t get a stain on our image? I know we have transitioned to a place where people want to make sure we know they aren’t “racist” and are inclined to be “colorblind”. I implore you to listen and hear from people of color so we can go from not being racist to actively fighting against systemic racism and seeing brown skin and not treating people differently because of it.
I’ve met with some of you before and have attended meetings in the past asking our Board of Commissioners to begin considering the experience of some who aren’t just a different skin color, but of different sexual orientations, physical challenges, speak different languages and I again offer you an invitation to meet with The Love Coalition and become proactive in actually ensuring (with system measures in place) people who are underrepresented in this county will truly feel safe not just because of a statement, but because of the actions of our leaders to be proactive in continuing to identify ways our communities can grow better together.