REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Racial Justice Council Kick-Off
September 16, 2020
Good morning everyone.
This week, as we brace for the impacts of a once in a lifetime wildfire season, we are amidst a global pandemic that has sickened and killed Black, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color at disproportionate rates.
Racism and racial disparities impact every part of our culture and our economy. The pandemic and the fires have further exacerbated these disparities. We know that most Oregonians are feeling the impacts of wind, fires, and the pandemic, but the effects are not felt equally.
Today, we embark on a process to build an Oregon that we can all love. An Oregon where we can all be loved and respected. As we reshape our state budget, we must support the communities currently experiencing crisis. We must ensure a better future, by focusing necessary recovery measures around racial equity and inclusion.
Today also marks the first of many meetings about some of the most important issues that Oregonians face: economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, police accountability, health equity, climate change, education, housing, and homelessness. And how all of those parts of our lives are inextricably tied up in race.
For far too long, Oregon’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color and Tribal members haven’t had a seat at the table.
But Shirley Chisholm said, “If they don’t offer you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
I think, in Oregon, we can do much better than that.
I want to recognize that the council exists in part due to the incredible advocacy from folks in and out of this Zoom room in pursuit of racial justice after the murder of George Floyd.
In honor of the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, we must center racial equity as we build the state budget and develop our 2021 legislative agenda. As we recruit and promote people in state agencies. And our boards and commissions. In the very structures of state government.
I’m excited to work with this council, and with our facilitators at Tusk. You all bring valuable perspectives from many different backgrounds and life stories, and serve this council from all over the state of Oregon. I’m hoping that Daesha and Steph’s focus on transformative systems change will put a fresh spin on what can often be tired discussions of inclusion that amount to a lot of talk, and no definitive change.
I think I’ve been pretty clear on the subject of racial justice: actions matter. And it’s long past time we take decisive anti-racist action here in the state of Oregon.
The institution of racism won’t be dismantled in one day, but I know we can dismantle it the same way that it was built: brick by brick.
That’s why we’ve started here, at the beginning, in the room where budgets, investments, and policy agendas are created. After generations of exclusion and racist policies, I hope we will take advantage of this opportunity to shape the future of our state for generations to come – a future where everyone has the chance to thrive.
So let’s get going.
As a Racial Justice Council, you have been charged with two tasks:
First, developing a Racial Justice Action Plan, which will influence the short, medium and long-term goals for the state of Oregon, as we seek to address structural racism.
And second, it is my hope for this council that you will recommend legislative actions, executive orders, and investments that I can make in my last few years as your Governor to make substantial progress toward racial justice.
I want you to know that I value your perspectives very much, and have high hopes that this council will be able to lay the foundation for some concrete steps forward that will benefit Oregon’s communities of color and Tribal communities.
The urgency could not be greater. We are facing a global pandemic, historic wildfires, an economic recession, and a clarion call for racial justice.
I have faith that Oregon will recover. But this much is clear: our budgets, policy agenda, and priorities should reflect, support, and honor the communities who have been most deeply impacted by systemic racism.
We must take lessons we learned from the last recession, from this pandemic, and from these fires, and put the needs of our historically marginalized communities first. With that focus, we will be able to build a safer, stronger, and more resilient Oregon – for everyone.
Let’s get to work. Thank you.
And now I’ll hand it over to Chief Don Ivy of the Coquille Indian Tribe.