By State Representative Rob Nosse
I can recall many moments in my lifetime that reveal the sometimes stark differences in the ways people of color experience policing and daily living in the US versus what I experience as a white male, but I cannot remember one galvanizing the culture, particularly the white part of our culture, in the way the murder of George Floyd has.
Maybe it was the pandemic with more of us having time on our hands due to being unemployed, not in school or working from home. Maybe it was how social media made sharing and resharing about what happened so easy.
Maybe it was Donald Trump’s presidency and his racism brought to the attention of all of us so regularly in a way that we have not experienced with any other president I can remember.
Or maybe it was just that finally enough of us white people are starting to get it – that something has to be done about racism in policing and criminal justice as well as in health care and education and our economy.
We have to address these issues if the lives of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are going to get better and we are going to be a less racist nation.
Here in Oregon, people of color and their organizations have more representation in the Oregon Legislature than in any other moment in our state’s history and certainly more than I have seen in any of my previous terms in office. This a solid development.
They have organized into a formal caucus within the legislature calling themselves the Oregon’s Legislative Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus.
The 12-person BIPOC Caucus includes state representatives Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn), Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas), Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland), WLnsvey Campos (D-Aloha), Khan Pham (D-Portland), Ricki Ruiz (D-Gresham), and fellow senators James Manning (D-Eugene) Lew Fredrick (D- NE and North Portland) and Kayse Jama (D-East Portland).
The Caucus is advocating for over 40 different pieces of legislation under 10 themes which include:
1. Police accountability: Putting laws in place that hold individual police officers and police organizations accountable to the community for racist conduct and behaviors that disproportionately target BIPOC populations.
2. Criminal justice reform: Eliminating legalized slavery in Oregon’s prison system and eliminating wealth transfers from their communities through the justice system.
3. Economic opportunity: Providing targeted support for BIPOC workers and BIPOC-owned small businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so they can remain open and can be successful.
4. Education: Removing student achievement barriers at all levels by enhancing school environments, reducing over-testing and prioritizing student voices when it comes to education policy.
5. Healthcare access: Expanding and providing for greater access to culturally sensitive, linguistically appropriate mental, behavioral, physical and telehealth by BIPOC providers and acknowledge racism as a public health crisis.
6. Housing and homeownership: Expanding options for building housing and attaining homeownership while providing for community voice in property development.
7. Expand access to democracy: ensuring equitable access to the ballot and voting rights and the ability to run for office.
8. Equitable, welcoming and transparent government: Working to make the Capitol more accessible to communities, lobbyists, non-native English speakers and potential legislators.
9. Revenue reform: Because BIPOC communities are disproportionately affected by an inequitable tax system.
10. Protect and expand critical social services: Ensuring equitable services and support for the most vulnerable among us.
Each of these themes have several different proposed pieces of legislation that will attempt to make them happen.
Helping to pass bills that make our state less racist and improve the lives of BIPOC communities is very important to me. Due to word and space limits I won’t be able to highlight every bill coming forward, but I will endeavor to keep you informed about various pieces of legislation the BIPOC caucus is prioritizing.
If you write to me and ask to subscribe to my legislative newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org, I can also send you a copy of their 11-page platform with the bill numbers and summaries of what each of them would do.
More to come about efforts to undo and dismantle racism as the session moves forward. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.