A call to action Tuesday by the Restorative Justice and Equity Group community organization in the wake of the killing of Barry Washington, Jr. in downtown Bend last month.
“On a grass root level, there are a lot of people that are afraid,” said Teryl Young, a board member with Embrace Bend.
On Tuesday, a group of various community organizations led by people of color gathered at The Haven to call on leaders and schools to take immediate action against racism.
“This unfortunate incident encompasses serious emotional issues for our community, as well as exacerbates further racial divides,” said Dalton Miller-Jones, co-chairman of the RJE Group board of directors.
Washington, who is Black, was shot and killed outside a nightclub in Bend after a dispute.
The suspect, Ian Cranston, has been charged with second-degree murder.
“Oregon laws protect a person’s right to go to public places like restaurants, stores, and other public venues free from discrimination,” Miller-Jones said. “We believe this incident along with the consequences is comprised of racial implications, leading to three questions to ponder:
“Would the same deadly force be used if Barry Washington Jr. were a young white man?”
“Would the consequences be the same if Ian Cranston were a young black man?”
“What message does this incident tell our youth of color?”
Pointing to surveys conducted at recent town halls, the group said most minority students in the community do not feel a sense of belonging.
And 87% of the students they surveyed reported hearing racist remarks some of the time, if not frequently at school.
“That’s the biggest thing. You learn bias, you learn racism,” said Kenny Adams, Bend-La Pine Schools Equity Coalition. “If we can begin to work together to break down those foundations of those learned experiences, you can actually understand our lived experiences.”
The group is calling on teachers to address the shooting and broader issues of racism in their classes, on government leaders to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again and on the community to show its support for people of color.
And celebrate their contributions to Central Oregon.
“It is important to recognize the opportunity that is within the control of our governing bodies, and we are requesting for these governing bodies to take action in a system that has, thus far, failed to take fair and appropriate action,” Miller-Jones said. “In this way, we hope to begin mending and healing the dissention between the local government and the marginalized community of Bend, Oregon.”