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County holds listening session on race issues posted on 09/01/2020

In response to the civil rights moment sweeping the nation following the death of George Floyd, Clackamas County Commissioners showed they want to listen and learn from residents’ experiences with issues of race and racism in the county.

The commissioners hosted a digital town hall on Wednesday, Aug. 19 on the topic “Race Issues in Clackamas County.”

The town hall was a listening-style session during which community members shared experiences with race and racism in the county directly with the commissioners. The event was moderated by Clackamas County Equity and Inclusion Officer Martine Coblentz.

“Equity, diversity and inclusion have been important to the county for years,” Coblentz said. “We want to continue building the public’s trust and that includes rural and unincorporated communities in the Mount Hood area as well.”

On June 18, commissioners passed "A Resolution Condemning Violence and Racism Directed at Black, African Americans and All People of Color," censuring racism following Floyd’s death.

The resolution tasks the county to review all county policies and ordinances for any discriminatory impacts.

The town hall was held in an effort to provide a safe space for residents to share impacts and recommendations toward addressing inequities that exist.

The commissioners stated in a press release for the event that, “recognizing racism is both an historic and present reality in Oregon and Clackamas County specifically, the commissioners find it critical to listen to resident experiences.”

Community members described their experiences with racism in the county and shared recommendations for change.

Shared experiences included bullying and racial slurs in the county’s schools, profiling in stores and encounters with “Proud Boys,” a right-wing group designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Calls for action included establishing methods for holding institutions and elected officials accountable for systemic discrimination and addressing inequity in access to housing, healthcare and bias by law enforcement.

Clackamas County is 85.8 percent white according to county demographic data. The county’s 1.1 percent African American population is below the state’s 2.2 percent average and the nation’s 13.4 percent total.

“We had a good representation from communities throughout the county,” Coblentz said about residents' participation in the digital meeting. “I was pleased; it was a very good first step.”

Coblentz added that the next step of the process of implementing the recently based resolution involves reviewing what policies and procedures need to be addressed for discriminatory impact.

Clackamas County will partner with the Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) for a full scan of minority communities throughout the entire county including the Mount Hood communities. The CCC will use this data to help assess how county policies and institutions impact these communities and make recommendations.

More information about the county’s efforts to address equity, diversity and inclusion is available at https://www.clackamas.us/diversity. A full copy of the recently passed resolution is available at https://dochub.clackamas.us/documents/drupal/9367ec38-f479-46c0-a732-29dd9b917092.

By Ben Simpson/MT




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