A disgusting act of racism was committed at a construction site where our community is coming together to create an inclusive space for education, collaboration and progress.
On May 20 a noose was found in the construction zone at the Fourth and Montgomery Building in downtown Portland, where Portland State University, Portland Community College, Oregon Health & Science University and the City of Portland are building a joint facility. The seven-story, 175,000-square-foot building is expected to be complete this fall.
This act of hatred is heartbreaking. It is reprehensible. And it is particularly troubling at a moment when our country seems to be waking up – finally – to the legacy of slavery and our collective failure to address anti-Black racism. Incidents like this one, and similar incidents happening around the country, remind us how deeply racism is embedded in our culture and how far we have to go to attain justice for Black Americans.
Since we were notified on June 9, building owners have been actively involved in reviewing the response taken by the lead contractor, Andersen Construction, to this disturbing incident. The company has committed to doing everything possible to identify and hold accountable the responsible parties, as well as preventing future acts of racism. Steps taken by Andersen so far include – but are not limited to – filing a police report with the City of Portland, launching an independent investigation, offering support to impacted employees and scheduling mandatory respectful-workplace training for all craftspeople.
As partners in this project, it is our obligation to promote accountability and transformation. Over the past month, a justice movement has taken root to dismantle racism and its cumulative effects on the health, safety and prosperity of Black Americans and our Indigenous communities, Latinx communities and all communities of color. We, as leaders, recognize the country’s long-standing history of racial violence, intimidation and systemic oppression. Each of our organizations is deeply committed to ensuring a safe and inclusive workplace.
Together, we will make it clear that racism is not welcome in the building at Fourth and Montgomery – or anywhere else in our community.
Stephen Percy, President, Portland State University
Sylvia Kelley, Executive Vice President, Portland Community College
Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, President, Oregon Health & Science University
Tom Rinehart, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Portland