Bend councilor says she won’t stand for Pledge of Allegiance

By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Bend City Councilor Gena Goodman-Campbell says she will no longer stand for the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings as a “statement of solidarity with protesters in Bend and across the world.”

The City Council met virtually again on Wednesday night and video of the meeting shows Goodman-Campbell seated and silent while her colleagues stood to recite the pledge.

Goodman-Campbell, who took office in January 2019, issued a lengthy statement on her Facebook page following the meeting, saying she “cannot recite those words with the respect they deserve when systematic racism continues to steal the lives of Black Americans in every corner of this nation.”

“Instead, I will silently pledge my allegiance to the patriotic fight for equality, freedom, and justice, until Black are valued just as highly as white lives in America,” she wrote.

Bend has been the site of a handful of rallies in recent weeks as communities protest police brutality and social injustice. The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in late May has brought the issues of inequality more into focus and sparked worldwide outrage.

Her Facebook followers applauded the move.

When we posted the story on our Facebook page, though, the reaction was much different.

 

“In the coming months, I will advocate for policy changes that have proven to reduce police brutality, including many of those about to be considered in a special session of the Oregon Legislature,” she wrote. “I will also encourage the city to think creatively about how to change the way we define the role of the police in Bend, how we allocate resources, and how we respond to bigger community problems such as mental health issues, addiction, and homelessness.”

Goodman-Campbell’s statement comes as the City of Bend looks to hire a new police chief to replace the retiring Jim Porter.

Porter met with councilors on Wednesday to talk about the goals and successes of the department and to discuss a recent use of force report released by the department.

“I just don’t think we should completely pat ourselves on the back and think that something like what happened in Minneapolis couldn’t happen here,” she said during the meeting.

We are speaking with Goodman-Campbell and Mayor Sally Russell about the issue today and will have more in our newscast at 5 p.m.


You can read Goodman-Campbell’s full statement below:

Tonight I did not stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the Bend City Council meeting. I did this as a statement of solidarity with protesters in Bend and across the world who are calling for an end to state violence against Black Americans.

As a nation, and as a community, we are failing to live up to the aspirational and powerful words of liberty and justice for all. I feel that I cannot recite those words with the respect they deserve when systemic racism continues to steal the lives of Black Americans in every corner of this nation.

Right now, Black people in Bend and across the country are telling us that systemic changes must happen for them to be truly free to live here. I have heard many statements from other elected leaders who say they are listening. So am I. But unless we act on what we are hearing, those are empty words.

First, let’s be clear: Racism lives here in Bend. Racist actions and racist systems shape how we all experience this community. Often most white people, myself included, don’t even notice. This can lead us to think that Bend is somehow immune to racism, and that any racist acts are rare incidents perpetrated by a few “bad apples.” This is simply not true.

In reality, the racist history of Oregon has shaped this state and this community to be predominantly white. The “exclusion clause” in Oregon’s Constitution, which prohibited Black people from owning property, entering into contracts, or even simply being in this state, was not repealed until 1926. The City of Bend was incorporated in 1904. Though the exclusion clause was not legally enforceable after the 14th Amendment was passed in 1866, it nevertheless discouraged Black people from coming to Oregon. How could this history not continue to make Black people feel unsafe and unwelcome here?

The daily injustices that Black people experience in this community, which often go unseen by the white majority, continue to make them and others who are not white feel that they are not a valued part of this community. No matter how kind and compassionate I may consider myself to be, I cannot help keep Black people safe by simply being a nice person or a good listener. It will take intentional and sustained action.

I am committed to helping lead Bend towards becoming a truly inclusive and antiracist community, and I am asking you to help hold me accountable. I am committed to doing the internal work to examine my own underlying biases and white supremacist beliefs, and ultimately changing the way that I operate as a leader. This will take much more training and learning than the half day of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training that I and other city councilors have participated in so far.

I am committed to listening to ideas that Black people and other people of color are bringing forward and receiving them with curiosity, not defensiveness. I will not dismiss creative ideas as unrealistic or extreme. I will believe Black people, and other people of color, when they share their experiences and concerns with me.

It is difficult to keep up with the huge number of emails I am receiving lately, but one small step I am taking now is to respond as quickly as I can when a person of color gets in touch with me. I have heard from several people recently who reported being threatened or otherwise made unsafe in Bend because of their race. I will continue to work with the Bend Police Department and other law enforcement officials to make sure these immediate threats to peoples’ safety are resolved, that past threats or acts of racism are investigated, and that justice is served. If you have experienced racism here and want to share your experience with me, or if you have other ideas for how I could better serve people of color in Bend, please email me at ggoodman-campbell@bendoregon.gov.

I am also hearing many calls for police reform and changes to the way we fund the Bend Police Department. I am especially listening for ideas coming from Black people living in Bend that are based in their experiences with police here or in other communities. Because of the existing culture of accountability in the Bend Police Department and the openness they have expressed to reform, I am hopeful that we can work in partnership to move towards structural changes that will make everyone in Bend safer.

In the coming months, I will advocate for policy changes that have proven to reduce police brutality, including many of those about to be considered in a special session of the Oregon Legislature. I will also encourage the city to think creatively about how to change the way we define the role of the police in Bend, how we allocate resources, and how we respond to bigger community problems such as mental health issues, addiction, and homelessness.

I know that there will not be many clear or easy solutions in this work. Racism and white supremacy are complex and thorny problems that are tangled up with the same issues that have plagued Bend for decades—inequality, unaffordable housing and an economy that does not allow a large portion of our population to earn a living wage, to name a few. We cannot address systemic racism without addressing these other injustices at the same time.

With the size and scope of the task ahead, it can feel like the work of antiracism will never end. That may be true, at least in my lifetime. Every day, I will commit myself to working alongside all Americans who are striving towards the goal of liberty and justice for all.

I will no longer be joining in the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of City Council Meetings. Instead, I will silently pledge my allegiance to the patriotic fight for equality, freedom, and justice, until Black are valued just as highly as white lives in America.

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