OPINION: We can build a more just and dynamic future in Oregon
The members of Oregon's Legislature's BIPOC Caucus are state Sens. Lew Frederick, Kayse Jama and James I. Manning Jr., and state Reps. Diego Hernandez, Mark Meek, Wlnsvey Campos, Teresa Alonso León, Andrea Salinas, Khanh Pham, Janelle Bynum, Tawna Sanchez and Ricki Ruiz.
The members of the Oregon Legislature's Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus envision a future for the state that is diverse, dynamic and equitable, where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive.
To work toward our caucus's mission of advancing equity and eliminating systemic oppression and racism in Oregon, we are focused on:
Promoting civic engagement and participation, especially among groups and communities that have been excluded from the political process. We believe that these partnerships can lead to the creation and development of broad coalitions that actually reflect the diversity of life experiences in the state of Oregon.
Increasing political representation and power for people of color in all levels of government, in elected and unelected positions. We must ensure that BIPOC leaders have a seat at the table and are in key leadership positions. We are asserting our own power, skills and talents to move this state forward.
Advancing policies that seek to eliminate racial disparities and remove systemic and institutional barriers that BIPOC communities face. We advocate for policies that will move us closer to economic justice and that build generational wealth. The BIPOC Caucus's full policy agenda for the 2021 session was released in mid-January and can be found at bit.ly/BIPOCagenda.
We are building a support system for members, staff and interns of color who work at the legislature, providing a safe space for members of color in the Capitol.
And, ultimately, celebrating and honoring our distinct lived experiences as BIPOC Oregonians.
As a caucus, we come from a wide range of backgrounds, including where and how we were raised, race, ethnicity, languages spoken, immigration status, professional backgrounds, religious and cultural traditions, and much more. We each have our own legislative priorities, but we are united in our commitment to ensuring that the Oregon Legislature truly represents the people of this state.
In the coming year, our challenges are many. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating, disproportionate impact on people of color in terms of both health (infections, hospital care, death rates, testing, treatment, vaccination rates) and finances — the already abysmal racial wealth gap has only accelerated in the economic fallout from the pandemic. Infection and death rates are out of control in Oregon prisons, disproportionately populated by people of color.
We must ensure that Oregon's COVID-19 response and recovery centers the needs of the people who've been most impacted. The health, safety and wealth of BIPOC Oregonians cannot continue to be sacrificed for the sake of white comfort. Instead, we need to make intentional, targeted investments in historically under-resourced communities so we can build truly shared prosperity and economic progress. This includes educational reforms that acknowledge the reality of racial bias in our school systems, continuing police reforms and investments in culturally responsive health care.
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