City Council not equipped to lead anti-racism work
The Lake Oswego City Council recently held a meeting: on June 16th which continued on June 23rd. The meeting included lengthy discussion on racism, the DEI Task Force and policing in LO.
If you read the LO Review you know that, in an open letter to the Mayor, the Mayor was asked to resign because during a recess in the meeting he expressed that he was tired of listening to all the citizens (60+) who had signed up to comment at the meeting. The Mayor's comments show a lack of empathy and awareness, and a big dose of privilege.
The meeting agenda included two items from the DEI Task Force: Agenda item 4.2 recommended a motion to direct staff to implement the recommendations from the DEI Task Force on Boards and Commissions Recruitment and Retention. This motion passed. Agenda item 4.3 recommended a motion that the Council expand the scope of work for the DEI Task Force to include recommendations about eliminating disparities in City services, including policing. This garnered a lot of discussion.
Notably, some of the white male Council members spoke up and claimed that the issue of making changes to community policing (as it relates to discriminatory practices by police) is [suddenly] so important that the Council needs to take charge of this topic. Why now? Because the DEI Task Force suggested it? Because they are finally listening to the citizens? The city council may be ultimately responsible but they don't have the knowledge and cultural competence necessary to do the work.
The DEI Task Force had a reason for making such a recommendation and should be trusted to do the work. Testimony from the community confirmed that there is a need for the work and there appears to be trust in the DEI Task Force as many recommended the City Council adopt 4.3. Many also requested that any equity audit of the police include a culturally relevant and police department knowledgeable consultant.
It's clear that our mayor and council is not doing the work to become anti-racist. As such, they will do harm. To quote Jay Brown: "Please don't make a 'plan' without minority involvement. That would make no sense. You've been making the rules this long and clearly, it doesn't work. Let our voice be involved."
The mayor and council have asked for training around racism. Respond to Racism recommends that, while the DEI Task Force is doing its work, the Mayor and City Council engage a culturally competent trainer to lead them through a structured learning program that involves reading and thoughtful discussion of, at a minimum, "White Fragility" by Dr. DeAngelo and "How to be Anti-racist" by Dr. Kendi. Consider including the city's leadership team and legal counsel as well. Undertaking action as important as addressing racism in the city (and police) should not rest in the hands of those who have not dived deeply into dismantling racism and building equitable systems. And to be clear — this describes pretty much every white person in this country — even those doing the work to become more culturally aware and less racist.
To quote Dr. Kendi: "To grow up in America is for racist ideas to be constantly rained on your head, and you have no umbrella, and you don't even know that you're wet with those racist ideas, because the racist ideas themselves cause you to imagine that you're dry".
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