Message to City Employees regarding weekend incidents of deadly violence

News Article
An update from Jeff Selby, Interim Director
Photo of Jeff Selby

**Trigger warning: Racially motivated violence/murder**

May 16, 2022

Dear City of Portland Colleagues,

On Saturday morning, I joined other Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community leaders and Senator Jeff Merkley at the Oregon Rises Against Hate rally to speak out in support of our AANHPI communities, where we urged everyone to fight racism, bigotry, and hatred. It was heartening to see so many Portlanders brave the threatening weather to join in solidarity with our communities.

Those moments of joy were cut short upon hearing of the deadly violence in Buffalo, NY and Laguna Woods, CA.

On Saturday, an armed white man stormed a Buffalo grocery store, killing 10 people, most of whom were Black. Police Commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia, said, "The evidence we have uncovered so far makes no mistake. This is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime. This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind." The FBI is investigating the Buffalo murders as both a hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism.

The gunman is reported to support white nationalist ideologies, including the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory to justify his plan to target and murder Black people.

Yesterday, in Laguna Woods, a gunman opened fire at the Irvine Taiwanese Geneva Presbyterian Church, killing one and injuring several others—all older Asian adults. No motive has been determined.

Last month, our own community saw acts of violence and hatred targeting Congregation Beth Israel's synagogue, Congregation Shir Tikvah's synagogue, and the Portland Muslim Community Center.

The surge in white nationalism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Asian and Pacific Islander sentiment around the nation and in our own backyards is fueled by white nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric and is a crisis. As City employees, I urge all of us to remember that many of our systemically excluded and institutionally oppressed coworkers and community members experience fear, anger, and fatigue on a daily basis due to racism, bigotry, and hatred. As a City government, we cannot allow our Core Values of Anti-racism and Equity to be performative. We need action, accountability, and a sense of urgency.

In partnership with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s Office, the Office of Equity and Human Rights has been developing an Anti-white Supremacy education opportunity for City staff and we will keep you updated on that forthcoming program.

Employee Resources

  • For City employees of color, please remember that the Racial Equity Support Line is available to you and all community members of color: 503-575-3764.
  • All employees may contact the City’s Employee Assistance Program for 24-hour counseling services.

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month and recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s not only recognize the threats, but also remember how resilient our diverse communities are in the face of tragedy, racism, ableism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-transgender sentiment.

Finally, to my team at the Office of Equity, bureau Equity Managers, equity practitioners, and DEEP leaders/members, thank you for moving this incredibly vital work forward on behalf of Community—the City sees you.

Jeff Selby