A Step Forward

With the Elections right around the corner, we face something serious. A clear and present danger. We have Militia’s planning to mobilize around the country in the event that the 45th president is not re-elected. Oregon happens to be in the top 5 states where militia activity is expected to be the heaviest. (Source: https://www.opb.org/article/2020/10/22/here-s-where-the-threat-of-militia-activity-around-the-elections-is-the-highest/ among others). The BILAPOC (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, People of Color) community has raised many concerns in both private and public conversations about what can be done to feel safe. I was asked to join with a group of other BILAPOC community members, along with City Leadership and Law Enforcement and others from different industries here in Central Oregon to discuss and form an action plan. We had a daunting task. Several conference calls, zoom meetings and ultimately, production that in the span of just over a week, a message was put together comprised of many recognizable voices in the community to explain a simple, yet heavy message. White Supremacy & violence will not be tolerated; especially following the Election. Entering into this small meeting of about 10 people, I presented them with the following statement. This was primarily for the Law Enforcement & City Leaders that were present and I was not ready to share it with the public, until now. Before I share the essay that was written, I would like to present the 30 second PSA that will run. This is not going to solve anything by any means. But it is a first step in the right direction if the people speaking, especially the ones that are in “power”, follow through with action and not words. 

And the community will hold you accountable.


The purpose of this meeting is to identify why the BILAPOC community feels unsafe in Central Oregon. Our goal is to ensure protection for the marginalized community members and to provide a plan to prevent attacks from far-right extremists and white supremacists. I compel the Bend Police, Deschutes County Sheriff’s office, Bend & Redmond City Council and the respective Mayor’s offices to hold joint press conferences publicly denouncing white supremacy and taking a zero-tolerance stance on violence against the BILAPOC communities, deeming them hate crimes.

Naming this threat for what it is; White Supremacy; is imperative.

After this statement, take action by publicly following through with arrests and prosecutions for any hate crimes that occur. Showcasing a unified stance against any hate and vitriol will send a clear message that this will not stand in Deschutes County.

Currently, our various community members from the Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other people of color (aka BILAPOC) members, do not feel safe for a reason. Many have lived in Central Oregon for all of their lives, while some have been here for less than 10 years, myself included. For some, this has always been a wonderful, safe place to live while others have varied experiences in racial discrimination and hate. All of us share the same sentiment: Since 2016, we have faced increasing discrimination. Further, since the first March for Justice from the Old Mill to the Courthouse downtown on May 30, 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, discrimination has graduated to armed threats from III%ers, Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and general citizens waving flags displaying messages like “Don’t Tread on me” or “Trump 2020”. In the last 6 months, members of the BIPOC community and their allies have been met with handguns, long barrel rifles; and more recently, what appears to be a six shooter. We have also been met with men and women in diesel trucks, “rolling coal”, blowing their exhaust in our direction. Further, these trucks and motorbikes revving their engines as they pass by us, seemingly because we are exercising our First Amendment rights. None of these actions have been condemned by officials from the city or law enforcement. In fact, when the Bend Police were called in response to a man on a dirt bike riding through the parking lot of Pilot Butte Park, peeling out & revving his engine in the direction of party goers; instead of de-escalating the situation and asking him not to continue that behavior, he was literally patted on the back and commended for “What he was doing out here” by an officer.

At the Central Oregon Diversity Project’s Kickback event, I asked several officers on site why they had not responded to the multiple calls for assistance. I was informed by an officer that “We had come earlier in the day and we were getting yelled at by the activists so we figured we weren’t wanted there”. This is an issue about trust. Trust is not built in a day. There is a general distrust from the BILAPOC community with law enforcement and officers have not taken strides to mend that trust. They turn their backs on the BILAPOC Community while they asked questions civilly, and when we raise our voices with passionate please to simply hear us, they walk away. This type of behavior has been mimicked nationwide. We have seen examples of this close to home in Portland, where police officers knelt “in solidarity” with protestors, only to tear gas them later (https://dailyhive.com/portland/portland-police-violence-protesters-george-floyd). We have also seen police take a stand and march with protestors in solidarity. Full stop (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/02/police-marching-with-protesters-george-floyd-reform). The night following the Pilot Butte Park incident, there was a protest at the Bend Police department. There were many that requested that Chief Krantz take the time to come out and speak to the protesters. A simple gesture of bringing two chairs outside, sitting in one, and spending time sitting down and hearing the grievances would have gone a long way in the first stride towards trust and diplomacy. Instead, a press release and a tweet was the only correspondence with the protesters. That night, I witnessed something while watching the live streams of the protest. While the Police Chief did not take the time to speak to any protestors, a group of young counter protestors, waving “Thin Blue Line” flags approached and proceeded to have an hour long conversation about our differences and our similarities. It was a peaceful conversation. The young counter protestor that spoke with the protestors showed more courage and empathy in that hour long conversation he spent educating himself and providing motivations for why he supports various organizations that counter what the protestors stand for. They came to a common ground of agreeing that there were things they would not agree on, but that they were still looking for common human decency.

If people want the protests to stop, we must take a step back and realize that there are two key points that seem to be missed by the officials and law enforcement of this area.

  1. Listening with Empathy.
  2. Acting with Compassion.

It is as simple as that. BILAPOC in this community, and in communities all over this country want the same safety and freedom to express themselves as the white members of their community. When we see a MAGA hat or a “Trump 2020” flag, while we may not like it or see it as a symbol of an oppressive ideology, we dare not touch it nor vandalize it. On the other hand, if some of these “Freedom loving Constitutionalists” were to see a Black Lives Matter flag or sticker, we find roofing nails laid behind our tires or “Nigger” spray painted on the door of our garages. If the city officials and law enforcement truly care about their entire community, these situations would be addressed with full understanding that they are in fact, hate crimes, and would be taken seriously. Instead, only a segment of city officials signed a statement stating that they condone white supremacy. It took community activists noticing and informing the Mayor Sally Russell, in order for her to make a retraction, releasing a new statement. Flubbing the one key statement in that release spoke volumes that the seriousness of getting the message sent out correctly was not a priority.

Our county deserves better. We deserve city officials that pay attention during Q & A sessions rather than appearing to be distracted instead of listening with empathy. Our county deserves a police force that acts with compassion. We’re not asking for special treatment. We aren’t asking to be praised or heralded as better than anyone else. All that we are asking for is for the same fair treatment that you give your fellow white community members. Often times, when we say “Black Lives Matter” we are immediately met with “ALL LIVES MATTER!!!” shouted in our faces. And yet, those screaming all lives matter, do not act like it.

You don’t have to take my word for it though. Today, I reached out to many different BILAPOC Community members to ask them if they felt safe in Deschutes county and regardless of their answer, if they could explain why they answered the way they did. I would like to note that it was almost exclusively women that replied to these questions. These stories are heartbreaking. These stories involve their children. These stories are from the people living in our community. I encourage you to read each one. Let it sit in your stomach for a bit. Absorb what you’re reading. And let’s get to work.


 

Female – Latinx:

Bend use to be a sanctuary for me. I moved here in 2012. I’ve never feared for my life like I have in the past six months. I’ve never feared for my life before. President trump has created a toxic film of air in this country that settles over Bend; guised as micro aggressions and puffs of black smoke as I exercise my first amendment right. I’ve never been afraid of the police. Not until this year. On more than one occasion I have been ignored by police in Bend, Oregon this year. Through vehicular intimidation, online death threats and physical assault, I was unheard and disregarded by the officers of this station.    I’ve never felt so unsafe and unprotected. And then ICE came. I am a legal citizen of this country and I was terrified to leave my home for weeks because of the collusion and negligence of Bend PD’s Chief of police. I am not one who has ever held fear of the police; I was raised to trust that these people were here to protect me. Michael Krantz of Bend PD has demolished all trust I had left in the justice system.

Female – Asian American:

I fear for my children’s safety. I hear about the racist comments and retaliations at high schools and it worries how often it gets swept under the rug. I am glad my oldest is stuck in China because he is actually safer there than he would be here. My fear mostly for my youngest because he is cognitively/neurologically diverse and doesn’t understand social cues or harms of just mimic words he hears without knowing what he says. All my kids have been bullied in the past. I don’t see that changing for diverse community. They can’t even take pride of their heritage without someone making a racial slur. I can’t let them go for a walk to the park alone anymore. They are teens!

Female – White – Mother of two black children:

I’m white but my two children are Black.  Their father passed away in August and both my kids beg me to bot put Biden signs up, to not go to rally’s or protests to be quiet in our town about where we stand for fear of retaliation.  We have neighbors who have been racist and harmful to them and just yesterday a neighbor told my kids and 3 other black kids to leave the park and called them the N word. I let the other mother handle it this time cause it’s usually me.  My kids fear for our safety and we’ve been staying low for a few month.  I do fear trouble is coming as well.

Female – Latinx:

My kids always fear for our safety, regardless of whether it’s an election season or not.  After tensions have built up throughout the year, it is even more necessary for my children and I to be vigilant. That is the reason why I do not go to protest this year.  Engaging counter protesters is a foolish act of negligence that puts supporters at risk. Our Law Enforcement do nothing to interrupt white supremacy because they are painfully underqualified.  Other than writing a superficial statement, they do not know how to lead or hold accountable our city employees and police regarding issues of white supremacy and racism.

Female – Asian American:

I fear for my family’s safety. Watching our law enforcement manipulate situations that paints BIPOC as rioting mobs means there is little room or priorities to make informed judgments.

Two summers ago, I was followed and ‘watched’ by a a white lady walking her dogs in Pine Nursery while cleaning up equipment for my job. I had been there all summer and she harassed my coworker and I because we were both BIPOC women who couldn’t be youth coaches in her eyes. I’ve been stared down with my kids in our own front yard but men in MAGA hats driving by while gardening… literally rolling at 10mph because he felt the need to intimidate us.

I’ve been extremely cautious of our outings in NE Bend. We only mingle with people we trust or if my husband (who is white) is with us. I answer this question because prior to this nightmare administration we rarely felt apprehensive feelings regarding safety. The nasty shift has made this extreme right-wing minority much louder, belligerent and aggressive.

Female – Indigenous People:

I’m terrified. I’m always pretty scared but this is just so much worse. I’m working on staying-put plans with enough resources to ride out several weeks and trying to find space for extra stuff in case others need supplies, as well as fleeing the country plans, at least for my kids. I already do so many things to try to stay safe as a brown person, like having a backpack that isn’t black, having a dog treat pouch that is visible and clearly not hiding a gun, thinking about the color of my clothes and how threatening that looks. I don’t know if it’s safe to walk in my neighborhood or not, but lately I haven’t been brave enough to go out by myself.

I’m autistic and brown, and the world isn’t safe for me. I’m not good at masking, and I don’t always pick the “right” things to say or “right” way to act. That already makes everyday life exhausting and impossible, from interacting with other parents or receiving medical care that I need. I already have a constant fear of my children being taken from me because plenty of folks don’t think I’m valid or even human.

I don’t know what to do, but I know I can’t do anything without community. Any way we can plan and share resources and safety with each other I direly need even without such a volatile election coming up.        

Male – Asian American:

I think the questions you ask are complicated and necessary.

I think this hinges on the definition of safety. I feel my child is safe in the sense of free from abduction and physical violence. Looking at reported crime statistics this area is reasonably safe.

The other question is whether she is in danger of being bullied and ridiculed and the target of racial violence, absolutely. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak there has been an increase in targeting of Asian Americans for hate crimes. From murder to assault to just name calling and taunting the amount of incidents is staggering.  I see the main issue for my child being called names or blamed for COVID. But that is the extent.

So to answer your question do I feel she is safe. The answer on the balance is yes. This town is mostly welcoming and safe and the loudest voices are the minority.

Female – Asian American:

I’ve been a resident of Central Oregon since 2013. With the US political shift in 2016, the frequency of racial encounters has increased for me here. To illustrate my point, I’ve put together a list of frequent incidents where I’ve “lost count of the number of times” they have occurred:

  1. Told to go back to another country. Pick any country, I’ve heard all the stereotypical ones.
  2. At the receiving end of either a racist remark or a physical threat, sometimes both.
  3. Glared or stared at in stores, post offices and public spaces.
  4. Catcalled, and labeled as exotic.

These aggressions occur so often, that I’ve wondered if it’s bound to be my reality, and that I have to simply shut up and take it.

With freedom of speech, everyone is entitled to expressing their thoughts. Racist or not, right? Knowing that many of these aggressors could potentially be carrying guns (2A) is intimidating. This concern suppresses any thought I have to report an incident to authorities, as I would then be afraid of being targeted. Their intimidation makes me shut up, keep my head down and walk away. I am, after all, a minority in a predominantly white area. It has been far more than any one ‘isolated incident’ that I’ve been made to feel like I do not belong, just because of how I look.

You know how they say racism is detrimental to one’s mental health? Well, I am a shining example of that. I do not get to take advantage of the beautiful landscapes the outdoors of Oregon has to offer. The thought of going out into nature to seek peace and solace doesn’t feel safe. Hell, I even have nightmares of getting beaten up, shot at or raped by racists. This is definitely not the way I prefer to live, but hey – “Cest la vie”, right? I have been conditioned by the actions of racists to the point where I just ‘take it’.

The lack of action and stance the leaders of Central Oregon have taken is disappointing, discouraging and frankly very abysmal. By being quiet and saying nothing at all, it affirms the actions and minds of white supremacists and hate groups. It tells them that it’s okay to continue to dish out the hate and racist rhetoric. It makes them feel like they have every right to “run this town”. It shows the racists, with the intent to hate and hurt, that they have every right to wave their guns openly at a crowd of people, that their freedom to express and the freedom to bear arms are more important than the lives of a group of people who were terrified of them. All the complicity, has proven to me that the City of Bend and its people they employ to represent them are not BIPOC friendly and are okay with the hate crimes that occur on a daily basis. The silence is deafening. If we cannot come together, speak up and unify our voices, we can never squash racism. If we cannot look past our status, class and race, we will never achieve justice. If you, as a representative of this local community, cannot proudly denounce racism? You are then not representative of my values. You do not qualify to ’serve and protect’ me or the BIPOC community when you’ve decided to not press charges against the white man who brandished a gun at a crowd recently in Bend.

Do we really need another person to be beaten up to literal death in order to be taken seriously? That incident was less than a month ago. Why can’t we make the change by having representatives that will actually listen to their constituents and heed to our cries and pleas about how bad racism actually is? Racism does exist. Yes, even here in the most beautiful area I have ever lived.

Male – African American

I would not say I’m scared for my safety (because i fear no human-being), but more concerned and don’t trust the powers that be if the shit goes down. For my family, that is my first priority and i know if it came down to it, I’ll die for their safety, so be it. 

Why? Because as a father, provider, and protector it’s my responsibility for them to have a bright future. In terms of our collective communities, we need to continue collaborating, communicating, and update everyone if something goes down that affect us. Finally, I have no time for the ignorance or energy for the white supremacy culture 95% of the time I don’t even acknowledge their existence because they could give a flying flip about mine. Nevertheless, as long as I’m breathing, I will keep fighting for change by any means necessary. 

Female – Latinx

Prior to 2016 my personal safety and that of my 2 school aged children of mixed race (brown Latinx presenting) attending BLP school district has been unsafe to say the least. My children on multiple occasions, have been the targets of racial slurs and attacks in and out of the school buildings. Being called the N word, illegals, and their safety threatened by white children on school grounds. Outside of school we have been harassed and profiled dozens of times. On one occasion we were asked to provide a credit card prior to ordering our meals at a locally owned ‘high end’ restaurant. During a traffic stop my eldest son froze in terror in the front seat with his hands placed on his lap while tears rolled down his cheeks out of anger as the officer approached my window and asked him his name. It took all I had in me to remain calm and ask the officer not to speak to my minor son who looks like a grown man. A large brown man. I fear for his safety every day, and his brothers when we leave the house and drive in front of our Trump supporter neighbors with MAGA and Trump 2020 signs lining their yards. 

We are not safe and have not been safe for a long time. In the weeks following the August 12th ICE incident I received emails filled with harassing words and one included threats of harm to me. Because of Trumps calls to his white supremacist base on national television I do not feel safe approaching a ballot box in the event that they may in fact be guarding the boxes as he asked them to. As far as the protesting at rallies, there is absolutely no gain worthy of the risk in engaging with his supporters and we must come to the understanding and acceptance that these people will not be swayed to the ‘other side’ by confrontation. White supremacy is deeply ingrained in their minds and it cannot and will not be undone by attempting to convince them otherwise. These are people that were raised to believe in white superiority and indoctrination in beliefs that people of color must be subdued in order for them to survive. My fight for the 40 years I have been alive, and the 10 I have spent in central Oregon, has always been against the systems that uphold those beliefs. The systems that affect our BILAPOC community from health care and housing to education and to law enforcement and city government are what need to be demolished from the inside out. I have committed and dedicated my life to learning these systems and strategically infiltrating them to implode them. And I invite all new and emerging leaders of color to join in the same strategic fight. We know now more than ever that the second #BLM or #AbolishICE stops trending on social media the supposed white “allies” scatter to the winds. We cannot rely on white people to change our realities for us, but we can come together in solidarity of one another and make systematic changes that affect us all although in various ways. 

My liberation is tied to your liberation. We need to dismantle white supremacy together. 

Male – African American

I fear for my family and my safety. I do not like thinking about myself as a victim, therefore I have initiated the process of purchased and licensing a concealed weapon for a 10mm handgun to go along with my 2 shot guns and 2 rifles! I live in an overtly racist Trump supporter neighborhood

Although I do occasionally attend the protests, I agree with another polled community member. “Engaging counter protesters is a foolish act of negligence that puts supporters at risk. Our authorities do nothing to interrupt white supremacy because they are painfully underqualified.  Other than writing a superficial statement they don’t know how to lead or hold accountable our city employees and police regarding issues of white supremacy and racism.”

Female – Filipinx

I have been defending my identities my entire life. I have known that I haven’t been safe my entire life. There have been questions of whether my existence is valid or not. I am now going to be a public figure and as the BIPOC community leaders know we often get targets on our backs. I have felt that in the last few months even more than I did before. 


We can do better. We should BE better. We DESERVE Better.

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