Connecting the dots across struggles

December 12th, 2014

Dear ROPers,

Last Saturday, human dignity group leaders from across Oregon joined a conference call to collectively digest and brainstorm how rural and small town Oregonians can be a voice for human dignity in this moment. From Redmond to Grants Pass to Astoria to La Grande to Newport to Cottage Grove, folks shared what actions inspire them and pondered ways of engaging their human dignity groups, neighbors, and friends in conversation about what we can do locally to affect change.

There are still many questions to spend time discussing in living rooms and over kitchen tables, but here is where we got in one short phone call!

How are your human dignity groups and communities discussing this moment?
Communities and individuals are finding different ways to process this moment. Some communities are not having any discussion while others are digging into the topics of racial profiling and structural racism. Other human are digesting the role of police and what police accountability could look like (especially when you have NO police, the result of systematic budget cuts and defunding). Militarism of the police from weaponry to training and hiring also came up multiple times, as well as digesting the failures of our justice system. Some of the lingering questions include:
How do we do this work with white supremacists organizing visibly in our community?
How can we tie this moment back to democracy, government in the hands of the people?
What are ways we can connect the dots between rural and small town Oregon and Ferguson?
– Everything is symptomatic, including militarized police or no police at all, soaring poverty, voter suppression, the justice system. How can we tie this to the larger system? What can we build long-term that addresses root causes?
– We can link racial profiling to deportations in Oregon. With Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police departments communicating, a stop by local police can lead to deportation proceedings.
– While racial profiling is illegal in Oregon, there aren’t any central bodies that collect data on who is pulled over, arrested, or shot, meaning that if police are profiling people, there’s no one to catch it happening, let alone address it. There is a package of profiling bills coming up in the 2015 Oregon Legislature that, if passed, will create standards for reporting data and holding police departments accountable if there is evidence that they are racially profiling folks.
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about his vision of Beloved Community, which ties racism to poverty and how both are a means of keeping people divided and distracted. Can we use the Beloved Community framing for our work and connect the dots to homelessness and other economic justice issues?

What are actions we can take in Oregon?
– What are ways we can meet with the police and keep our expectations and standards high? Police review boards were discussed and folks are researching ways that police review boards were organized in Eugene and Portland to see if there are lessons for small towns.
– We can create community response networks to respond in crises.
– Let’s create community conversation. We can show documentaries and facilitate discussion about what’s happening in a broader context.
– Write and pass Welcoming Resolutions as a strategy to start the conversation with community leadership.
– Create space for human dignity group leaders to share strategies, information, articles, and ideas.
The leaders on the phone reached consensus around the idea of a Statewide Day of Action with multiple ways of engaging, from letters to the editor to rallies and marches. They asked ROP staff to reach out to the broader network of human dignity groups to see if there’s energy around a Statewide Day of Action after the holidays! What do you think? Email me at jessica@rop.org and let me know what resonates, what doesn’t. What is a way your community could possibly participate?

It’s been a busy week of action for Oregonians! Check out the photos and stories below, and announcements for upcoming actions across the state!

Warmly,
Jessica

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