In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, we find ourselves thrust into a conversation that America has been avoiding for over 400 years. As the nation responds to centuries of oppression, and the president has fanned the flames of violence and anger, Lake Oswego feels unchanged.
Compared to anywhere in the state, and even in the broader sense of the nation, Lake Oswego is very privileged. It’s not only very wealthy, but also exists as an isolated community in a number of ways; it’s a “bubble” through and through.
Historically, LO has been an egregious offender, as has much of the state, in doing its best to keep people of color out. Besides being founded on stolen Kalapuya indigenous land, LO also banned people of color from owning property, working and living in the city and more. From redlining to numerous incidents of transphobia, racism, anti-semitism and common modern microaggressions, LO’s history of racism has resulted in its existence as a majority white community. To be more specific, white people make up 86 percent of the population (32.7 thousand people) while Black people make up about 0.4 percent (156 people).
With the world waking up to the systemic racism and institutions that perpetuate it, it’s time for LO to do the same. It’s easy to do nothing; to say “we don’t see it” and move on, but ignorance is a privilege and as a majority white community, we must recognize that in order to effectively combat racism.
This also applies to the smaller, subtler parts of racism that white people often don’t see. The school-to-prison pipeline, gerrymandering, the large disparities present in the prison industrial complex, over policing, redlining and more. The fact that life has remained (relatively) normal in LO is an indication in its own that many have the privilege to ignore the problems of racism that other communities both experience and fight regularly, and this needs to change.
For the radical action we need, we must get involved. The time has come for us all to be proactive in taking measurable actions beyond talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, systemic change to reduce police corruption and Trans Rights, to name a few. Already there have been protests, gatherings and social media outcry, but we must stand for more than temporary activism. We cannot allow ourselves to grow complacent with the way the country, the state or the city have operated. There is an opportunity here to make real change and to take action for a better world.
We also need to reevaluate the attitude that we do not contribute to racism or unjust systems. By living in complacency, we all allow bigotry to exist regardless of whether or not we willingly side with racism. We must be actively “anti-racist” and fight to make sure that every voice can be heard, with intersectionality. We must get involved in local politics; both in and out of our community and we must constantly put in the work long term. It’s about contacting local and state officials to advocate for the systemic, concrete change in policing, funding of local BIPOC-owned businesses, increasing housing opportunities, lowering mandatory minimums on petty drug crimes, as well as asking school administration to punish students that commit racist acts of hatred and mandate a more diverse school-wide curriculum
We must also look within ourselves to see how our actions and privilege contribute to often unnoticed forms of racism that inadvertently continue oppression. Privilege, microaggressions, biases; we must be willing to admit to our own failures and contributions, and to educate ourselves in hopes of being more informed and active in combating everyday racism.
There is no quick and easy solution to a problem as long withstanding as institutional racism. There is no magical button, or policy or law that suddenly makes it all go away. There is no quick way to remove racist ideologies or subtle, unconscious biases, but there is a chance now to start working for the long term. To recognize and act on the fact that change takes time, and that there is an opportunity to influence change in this very moment. That will be the first step.
As for Lake Views, we will not stop until those in power are held accountable. We will maintain ourselves as allies and as spokespeople, and we will continue to spread the word of change.