I was greatly encouraged by developments in Portland this past week, when Black Lives Matter organizers seeking racial justice refused to participate in a “direct action” march to downtown Portland, choosing peace over chaos.
The split was a long time coming, and gives those of us who see the deeply-rooted racial injustice in Oregon and throughout the nation — and truly hope for and support change — the opportunity to offer their full and unqualified support: Black Lives Matter!
As those who seek chaos and violence rampaged through downtown, “about 150 people remained at the downtown waterfront demonstration near the Skidmore Fountain, where they listened to speeches and musical performances by people of color. The demonstration was entirely peaceful, and it had a distinctly different tenor than the march that unfolded simultaneously several blocks west,” as reported by the Oregonian/OregonLive.
I would like to have been there.
I was greatly disturbed by developments in Portland this past week as well, when a small group of activists marched to the home of a Portland City Commissioner, breaking a window and throwing burning flares and paint at his home: It was far to reminiscent of the fiery crosses and white robe tactics of the Klu Klux Clan of times past, designed to silence opposition and sow fear.
There is no clear road to racial justice, and the Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan had voted “no” to significantly defunding the Portland Police Bureau.
Protesting (peacefully) his vote, voting him out of office, finding another path forward — those are the tools of democracy and change. There are others, but attacking the individual because you disagree with them, physically or even on social media, should not one of them.
Disagreement is to be expected — the road has yet to be mapped — and throttling dissent with fear is reprehensible. It is unlawful, as well.
Such attacks sow only fear and division — the very thing we need to be working to end.
Supporting racial justice is only part of the political equation, however: Rejecting the doctrines of white supremacy or white nationalism — and those who organize to promote those doctrines — is the flip side of the same coin.
Klu Klux Clan, Aryan Nations, Proud Boys — names change and morph but their doctrines remain much the same over the generations.
Federal laws “prohibit discrimination based on a person’s national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, and familial status,” as stated by the United States Department of Justice, and further, “laws prohibiting national origin discrimination make it illegal to discriminate because of a person’s birthplace, ancestry, culture or language.”
Those who would promote such discrimination are criminal, not patriotic.
I further reject armed convoys of vigilantes rolling down our highways and circling our streets — that speaks of Fascism and hate and again, have nothing to do with patriotism and a free democracy.
Nevertheless, I was greatly encouraged. Black Lives do Matter, and although the road to racial justice and reconciliation will no doubt remain rocky and long, the seeds of change now have a greater chance to sprout and grow along the wayside.
Mark Gibson is an editor of the Columbia Gorge News. He is based in The Dalles.