Salem, Ore. — Salem City Council resolved at their meeting Monday night, January 11, to ensure that all members of the community are free from acts that are rooted in racism, discrimination, intolerance, bigotry, and hostility.
The resolution, brought forward by Mayor Chuck Bennett and substantially amended by Councilor Tom Andersen, was approved unanimously by the City Council. The resolution commits Salem to welcome every person regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, disability, source of income, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Mayor Bennett said he expected the City’s Human Rights Commission to play a major role in moving forward under this resolution.
“They have in their charter, the ability to recommend to council actions, policies and legislation that allows us to move forward in changing some of the policies we may have that are really contrary to the spirit where I think all of us are, which is a deep concern about white supremacy, a deep concern about systemic racism,” Bennett said.
The resolution further condemns and rejects “the belief system of white supremacy and racism, and [remains] committed to the elimination of all forms of racism everywhere it exists, including institutional racism.”
The resolution followed a lengthy discussion in council comments about the issue of racism. Councilors Jackie Leung and Jose Gonzalez shared some of their personal experiences with racism.
Leung, who was born in the United States, described being spit at, sworn at, and receiving comments such as “Go back to your country” and “Do you speak English?”
She proposed a resolution declaring racism as a health crisis.
“We, as a council, need to take a stand addressing racism at its core,” Leung said.
Her proposal will be discussed at the Council work session on January 19 on the City’s strategic plan and is expected to be under consideration at the January 25 Council meeting.
“[This kind of hate] is based on something I can’t control,” Gonzalez said. “It’s based on my name, based on assumptions about my family or my beliefs.” He added that he wants to work toward de-escalation of hate.
The language and intent of the resolution reflect earlier statements made by City Council President Chris Hoy and Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett. Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack and City Manager Steve Powers have also published statements on the City’s website and social media pages condemning white supremacy and racial innuendos made on City streets during recent protests.
The resolution will give the City a basis upon which to build a sustainable effort starting with recommendations for actions, policies, and legislation from the Human Rights Commission.
January 11, 2021, Salem City Council Meeting (Discussion of resolution starts at 1 hour, 42 minutes)