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Newberg School District board member Dave Brown responds to criticism he's received since voting against an anti-racism resolution

With recent events unfolding, I have been hearing from you, my constituents, that you would like a broader explanation of my no vote on the Newberg School Board's HYPERLINK "https://www.newberg.k12.or.us/district/committing-be-anti-racist-school-district"2020-04 "Anti-Racism" resolution. As many of you may know, due to technical issues during the vote, I was unable to comment on my decision during the June 23 board meeting. Today, I would like to explain the decision I made as a public servant, as I believe full transparency in matters of such importance are necessary.

I have committed the majority of my life to working with and supporting youth and our community as a coach, mentor, Newberg School District employee, volunteer and now as part of the school board. In my 20 years of public service in the Newberg School District and more than 30 years of direct interaction with thousands of youth in the Newberg community, I have prided myself on ensuring the importance, safety and development of all individuals regardless of race, gender, age or background. I have always lived my life this way, will continue to do so as long as I live, and expect the same from my community.

My voting against this resolution has been perceived by many as a denial of racism's existence or an outright condoning of racism. We are all too quick to draw the conclusion that, "A vote against this `anti-racism' resolution, means you must be racist or condone racism." 

I consider this reflexive reaction one of the main issues we face today in our country. The breakdown of our ability to have objective, nuanced and open-minded discussions about critical and highly complex issues is a major downfall of our current society and, in my opinion, the primary reason for the polarization of our country.

Stating a non-popular, dissenting or divergent opinion in our society today is no small matter. 

It will likely result in hate-filled responses, character attacks, censorship or even violence. This is a sad reality of our current culture.

We have the freedom to speech by inalienable right, but we are failing to remember that right comes with the responsibility to listen and try to understand. If all we do is preach and speak at each other and no one is on the other side to listen or try to understand, then what is the point? We have to consciously and proactively want to, and encourage, rational discussion between opposing viewpoints as well as honest self-reflection and the challenging of our own viewpoints and biases. Myself included, most especially when considering such high gravity issues as that of racism. If we don't, if we cancel, if we blindly renounce, if we attack character and not content then our world will nosedive into extremes and polarization.

By voting against this resolution I am in no way condoning racism or diminishing its impact on certain communities, but rather my disagreement with the approach, methods and message this resolution sends to our community. I also disagree with the viability of the resolution to affect meaningful change in our community and the assumption of the resolution that we are not already committed to these goals in our community. This seems to be a gesture without any verifiable action plan or solutions.

While our country, like every other country, has a checkered past, we have made some incredible and unprecedented strides toward combating many issues of oppression and equality. But I also believe that we have plenty more work to do, and likely, always will. 

However, I believe that much of the currently promoted ideology around racism and race relations is rooted in a very narrow and unnuanced understanding of what is obviously a very complex and emotionally-loaded topic. The current public debate around race relations is not one that I think is being had in a constructive way. There are a bevy of nuanced thoughts that are not being heard and in general detract from some of the very difficult conversations that we must have. With this in mind, I am continuing to listen and learn from other perspectives. 

I fully believe the intent of this resolution was coming from a good place and with benevolent intent; the intent to put a stop to the wrongs and ills that racism and bigotry have caused and still are causing in our country. But I believe the approach and rationale is misguided. Where I differ in my views are: I believe the "anti-racism" movement reduces all issues to race and will lead to polarization, not progress; how we go about addressing and combating the issue of racism, especially as they apply to political policy; the pervasiveness or "systemic" nature of racism in our society and the Newberg community today.

The Newberg School District already has HYPERLINK "https://policy.osba.org/newberg/"policies that deal directly with students, staff and parents. These policies have been reviewed within the past year. In them, there is coverage for any wrongdoing in our Newberg school community. Nondiscrimination, racism, bias, hate speech and mistreatment is explicitly addressed in our policies.

This leads me to believe that this latest resolution is less about combating racism and more about adopting and being influenced by current cultural "anti-racism" ideologies rather than addressing the specific issues and possible solutions as they pertain to our community. If not, then why is it necessary to create an additional resolution on top of the existing policies that clearly state the same clauses and condemnations of discrimination based on race?

As a coach, volunteer and school staff member hate speech, discrimination, and racism have always been antithetical to my worldview and everyday interactions with youth and individuals in our community as I believe they also have been for our school district and education system at large. If these policies have already been in place in our school district then why are we just now attempting to tackle the issues stated in this resolution?

At what time or in what specific instances has our school district, employees or students not stood up, not punished, overlooked or excused grievous instances of racism? 

Whatever racially motivated issues in our community have happened in the past or even recently may not be as brightly illuminated as they are today due the national attention on the issue, but I cannot believe there was no fight or justice for these issues in the past. I believe it is because our community, employees and students are already onboard with this and have been for a very long time.

But this is not about nondiscrimination anymore. This is about our society and policy makers being influenced by national organizations like Black Lives Matter and their push to not only be against racism, but to be "anti-racist." These ideologies claim that America and its citizens are inherently racist, perspectives that claim if we are not actively "anti-racist" then we are by default racist. I refuse this mindset.

The "anti-racism" movement is reducing all human relations to a rudimentary correlation of skin color and inequality. Any inequality in outcome, therefore, must be solely attributed to race. In this view racism can no longer just be understood as the belief that someone is inferior based on race. Rather, racism must be defined as the belief that any differences in outcome must be assigned directly to racism. Thus, any system that ends with different outcomes must be racist.

This is a dangerous, misguided precedent that I do not stand for. I stand for, and believe in, equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome is not possible to guarantee and seeking it only results in the reduction of groups to individual characteristics and factors and not paying attention to the holistic nature of our society, the multitude of factors at play in any individuals lives, and human nature. Absolutist thinking of this kind can only lead us to extremes and furthering oppression, not suppressing it.

The OSBA Caucus of Color also made a resolution and, along with the OSBA, stated in their resolution statements that they were in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter organization. Our school board followed the OSBA, as we nearly always do on educational matters. While the intent is noble, we must ask if doing the popular thing is in our long-term best interest.  Some of the wording and much of the theme that the Newberg School District used to frame its own resolution was from these resolutions.

To be clear, this resolution has direct ties and influence from the Black Lives Matter organization.

To me, all black lives matter, they always have. But these three simple, lowercase words have been co-opted by the organization Black Lives Matter. I think it is critical this distinction is made. The Black Lives Matter organization stands for much more than the simple slogan they have titled themselves after and is not the same as just believing "black lives matter."

The popular viewpoint in our society has become that if you don't side with, believe in, or support Black Lives Matter (the organization) then you don't believe that "black lives matter" and by proxy are racist or condone racism. And so by default we have to also accept the additional ideological baggage of the Black Lives Matter organization.

This is false reasoning. I also vehemently disagree with much of what the Black Lives Matter organization stands for and is promoting. This does not make me oblivious to the multitude of issues faced by minority communities in this country. I personally am very concerned about racial inequality, but I care about finding actual solutions to specific and clearly-defined issues in our community and country as a whole. I believe the Black Lives Matter ideologies, and similar or like-influenced ideologies, are either willfully trying to undermine finding solutions to racism in our country or are ignorant to the fact their methods are actually damaging and will set back race relations and the opportunity for justice and equality that is desperately needed.

My first action at my first Newberg School Board meeting was to take the HYPERLINK "http://www.osba.org/Resources/Article/Board_Operations/Sample_Oath_of_Office.aspx"oath of office. In this oath, I solemnly swore to uphold the HYPERLINK "https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/"Constitution of the United States of America and all of its laws. I solemnly swore to uphold the Constitution of the State of Oregon and all of its laws. I solemnly swore to uphold the HYPERLINK "https://www.newberg.k12.or.us/district/school-board-policies"policies and rules of the Newberg School District. I take these vows very seriously and will honor them to protect every person no matter what.

But the Black Lives Matter organization, amongst other ideological movements, has led a charge into our society that flies in the face of our constitution and the values that this country was founded on. These values are the only thing standing between systems of oppression and freedom and equality for all people in our society. But these values and our constitution are being renounced by not only BLM, but the strong undercurrents at the root of the organization and undercurrents in the ideological beliefs of the socialist left in our country that are actively trying to, not reform, but absolutely and fully tear down the system of values that have made our country a beacon of hope.

The Black Lives Matter organization states in its own words that they believe in a Marxist/socialist form of government: "We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, we're trained organizers. We are trained Marxists." — Patrisse Cullors, co-Founder of Black Lives Matter.

When their leaders say "Burn It Down" they mean taking down our democracy, our constitution and our current form of government and they will not stop until they get what they want. This is their agenda and their goal and they are succeeding today in many places, especially the minds and hearts of people who think this is about George Floyd and justice for people of color.

What happened to George Floyd was wrong and justice needs to happen, peacefully. This movement is taking advantage of Mr. Floyd's tragic death to advance their agenda. Black lives do matter, absolutely, but we must distinguish between the true statement and the organization that uses this statement as a title to mask their true, nefarious intent.

The Black Lives Matter organization believes that they want to, "disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement," in the United States of America (see third from last paragraph on their HYPERLINK "https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/""What We Believe" webpage). Why? Because the strength of the individual and a solid nuclear family unit undermines Marxist/socialistic movements because these ideologies rely on all citizens to be reliant on the government, not themselves. Strong individuals and families are antithetical to socialism because Marxist/socialist governments' success depends on central control of indoctrination and morality, which is not possible with the nuclear family intact.

Further it has been HYPERLINK "https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/power-two-parent-home-not-myth"shown time and again that the primary factor that leads to poverty, higher crime rates and poor quality of life are fatherless and broken homes. If the goal is to lift minorities out of systems of oppression, then why is the primary driving force behind race relations in our society today (the BLM organization) promoting "disruption" of such a fundamental value?

The Black Lives Matter organization wants to dismantle and defund the police in the United States of America. Our police are not perfect and never have been. Reforms are needed and we have to do better. But our laws and the 800,000 police officers that serve our county and protect us like no other country in the world are and should be respected.

I support police reform that is done wisely, peacefully and respectfully and I believe the majority of the police officers who do this amazing and demanding job would agree. For the police officers murdered during these so-called peaceful protests, to the over 700, and counting, who have been injured, and to the rest who are waiting for our country to stop this incredible disrespect they are being shown, I say thank you for protecting our country, our communities and my family every day.

The Black Lives Matter organization wants and seeks a Marxist/socialistic form of government, but just as disconcerting is the fact they are actively trying to undermine our current values and actively working toward policies that will actually harm, not help, minorities. Whether this is intentional or not I won't speak to, but I cannot support these ideals. Unfortunately, there are many in our society today that do not see this as a bad thing and, in fact, encourage it.

And while BLM may not speak to everyone in the broader movement, I cannot in good faith stand behind a movement whose leaders espouse such radical positions for the reordering of American society. Unfortunately, this movement has perpetrated our country far and wide and is now influencing our community and policies here at home.

Many in our society today also believe the values of this great country we live in are founded on lies, racism and oppression. They fail to understand the Constitution and founding documents were not declarations of successes or claims of a job well done, but rather ideas that we have, still are, and should always continue to strive toward. They were declarations of what this country can be, not what it is. They are ideals we will never live up to up, but should never stop trying to attain.

I cannot sit back idly while our youths are indoctrinated with ideas that our country is inherently evil. I cannot sit back and accept that racism is part of our "DNA," as has been widely claimed recently.

The idea that racism is fundamental to our people in either our "DNA" or as a "virus" is one of the most damaging ideas I can think of and will, and has certainly, set back race relations possibly by decades. The only natural conclusion to such statements is that the vast majority of the people in our country are inherently racist and without cure. How does this solve anything? How can anyone look at the progress of this country and believe such things? The answer is there is no solution here, just further division and polarization.

The resolution (before the school board) also outwardly assumes a "systemic racism" in the Newberg community. systemic racism is defined as "fundamental to a predominant social, economic, or political practice" and HYPERLINK "https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism"racism "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; or racial prejudice or discrimination."

I understand we all have biases and many of us may and likely do hold biases of race. Bias is inherent to human psychology. But our individual biases are not fundamental to our existence, a bias is something we can build awareness to, something we can "learn out."

The statement in this resolution that our community is "systemically racist" is an acquisition against all of the people of Newberg that we are innately and predominantly racist. The Newberg community should be upset and enraged that a small group of people are willing to claim for them that they are racist. 

We as Americans who love this country need to stand up and say 'no more.' Not just for the sake of our country, but for the sake of actually finding real solutions to the problems of racism and discrimination in our country. If we want to solve a problem, then we first must accurately and specifically understand the truth and nature of the problem. By reducing the worldview and values of our country to being fundamentally racist we are setting the stage for the destruction of a nation that was, and is, a pioneering force in human rights and justice. The only natural drawn out conclusion to such extreme ideas are to raze not only the structure, but the foundation itself. To think about this happening should scare us all.

Are we genuinely deciding to slide into a belief that there is nothing good or just about this country, that we have to "tear the system down?"

That is why I voted no on this Newberg School District resolution to further this movement by using "anti-racism" as their voice. I took an oath of office that gave me no choice to follow this movement. I will never apologize for defending the United States of America and the constitution of our nation.

If I see or hear racism, I will stand with you and fight it. But I will not allow myself, my friends, my family and community to be deemed racist by default and you should not either.

If you truly care for others no matter who they are, you will treat others well every time. You will stop hating those who disagree with you. You will engage in healthy discussions and dialogue that seek positive change and aim to help all people no matter their race, gender, or age. You will love this United States of America and all the wonderful freedoms we enjoy.

You will respect Americans who came before us and fought to make this country great. They had flaws and they didn't always do what we think is right. They may have been completely wrong at times. However, they lived in a different time and place. Things were vastly different than today.

Instead of damning their missteps, how about we also celebrate their foresight and progress. We have a 20/20 lens of hindsight that they did not. Let's learn from them, good and bad, to not repeat their mistakes and to build upon the good. 

John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." The time is now to take that to heart. The United States needs you and I to step up with honor and civility and bring this country together. We must heal one person at a time and quickly. We must stop the violence and hate. We must stop seeing each other through lenses of color and race and seek the heart of the person.

This will not be easy.  There have been many wrongs. We again have to be better than those wrongs and today, move forward. We move forward with every single encounter with every single person we meet. We must work hard to take care of our United States of America because this country has given us so much and can give us so much more. We must remember and not forget all the blessings we have.

To those of you who have spoken harsh words directed at me I say, let's move past words of hate and move toward words of healing and seeking to serve others and not ourselves.

God bless the United States of America and all the people in it.

Dave Brown represents Zone 6 on the Newberg School District board of directors and is also the former boys tennis coach at Newberg High School


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