Umatilla County commissioners are demonstrating a real lack of understanding and knowledge in regard to the serious issues currently facing our country. The comments from the commissioners in the Thursday, June 18, article "Umatilla County commissioners issue support for police, call protest movement disrespectful," especially in the face of the respectful protests here in our county, are disrespectful to citizens who are trying to make their voices heard in a constitutionally protected manner.
Commissioner John Shafer claims “one or two” bad officers are causing problems. If so, he should be interested in proposed police reforms that would help weed out problem officers. Umatilla County protestors calmly and cogently listed several proposed reforms, while also expressly stating their belief that most officers join to protect and serve (“Black Lives Matter protests continue in Umatilla County” June 9, 2020).
Commissioner Bill Elfering demonstrated a lack of understanding of the history of Oregon when he expressed his belief that there is no systemic racism in our area. From 1844, there were exclusions laws that banned Black people from living in Oregon. Oregon was one of seven states that failed to ratify the 15th Amendment, finally ratifying in 1959. This history is just a small example of the racist systems that to this day make it more difficult for people of color to participate in society and the economy.
The first step to addressing systemic racism is to acknowledge that it exists. Our commissioners have proclaimed their support for the police. Will they now proclaim their support for communities of color by acknowledging and educating themselves about systemic racism?