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A moment of reckoning

As Attorney General I have a special responsibility to take what is happening in our country to heart, to learn from it, and to act accordingly.

I am overcome by an ineffable sadness — one that's just too great to put into words adequately. I'm also angry.

At a time when national leadership is sorely absent, our country is gripped with a deadly pandemic and historic levels of unemployment. And, as usual, Black people and communities are bearing the brunt of the crisis, dying at sharper rates and receiving significantly less support due to structural inequities rooted in racism.

To add fuel to this crisis, along come the cries of George Floyd as his life is needlessly taken from him—which we've now witnessed on anguishing video footage.

Curfews have been imposed in dozens of cities across America, including where I live, in Portland, as important protests against police brutality and, more broadly, the sorry state of racial injustice in our country, have taken place and continue.

This is where we find ourselves today. And though the coronavirus itself cannot be blamed, underlying structural inequities that have existed since the formation of our country can be. They are coming to roost — again — in the most tragic of ways.

This moment — of protests and demonstrations, of communities responding to and working through their anger, fear, and pain — is an understandable reaction touched off by a horrific crime committed by officers of the law against a Black man in custody who did nothing to deserve such treatment, let alone even an arrest.

But the impact of systemic racism does not stop with lives lost. It manifests itself in our failures to protect working people of color on the frontlines of a global pandemic. It's reflected in the Trump Administration's perpetuation of hate crimes against communities of color across our nation. It's present in the daily fear and trauma that Black men and their families live with every day.

To every Black Oregonian: I hear you, and I will continue to listen. I also want you to know that here in Oregon we are making at least some progress together. Over the past four years, as Attorney General, I have led major task forces focusing on police profiling and hate crimes. Both have resulted in new laws and practices that are making a difference. But I realize these are just steps in the right direction. We still have so much to do.

The responsibility — and obligation — to do more, to do better, while it needs to be shared by all of us, falls first on elected leaders like me. We need to do all we can to repair the systems that perpetuate injustice, and to remove relics of racism in every part of our society — from unlawful use of force by law enforcement to microaggressions.

The Oregon-based Coalition of Communities of Color has called on our leaders to take action. Based on their recommendations, I have put together several agenda items for my office to consider this week. Over the weekend, I reached out to many of our Black legislators and have offered to join them in support of legislation to expedite additional reforms.

I agree with the words of Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone, who said on Saturday: "We are going forward, together, to create an actual community where respect and dignity are our core values." What Chief Boone said indeed captures what we must do.

How?

First, please be in touch with me with your suggestions. I have a virtual "open door" and want to hear from you. I can be reached at [email protected]

Second, when discussing racism and how it manifests itself in our country, we must listen to those directly affected. Those of us with power and privilege cannot sit idly by. We must stand up and use our voices and our votes. And we need all the allies we can get to join us as we actively work against racism and in support of Black communities.

Third, we can educate ourselves, our families and friends. As a starting point, Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein have put together some remarkable anti-racism resources. Please read their list of suggestions, share it among family and friends, and use it to help you take action in your community.

One final thought: As we reopen Oregon and America, let's not allow ourselves just to go back to how our lives were before. Rather, let's commit to working together from a newfound place of compassion, humanity, humility, and love for one another and the communities of which we are a part. And let's commit to equality and real justice for all. Full stop.

Ellen

P.S. My colleague, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison has been named to lead the prosecutions related to the death of George Floyd. I have the greatest of confidence that justice will be served under Keith's leadership.

Posted on June 2, 2020.
Oregon is a special place. As Attorney General, I am working hard to keep it that way for future generations of Oregonians.Oregon is a special place. As Attorney General, I am working hard to keep it that way for future generations of Oregonians.

Meet Ellen

As a prosecutor and judge, Ellen Rosenblum has spent her career fighting for and protecting the people of Oregon.

Now, as our Attorney General, she's standing up for the most vulnerable Oregonians, our seniors and diverse communities, small businesses, and all the people of Oregon.

Read more about Ellen