By CASEY CHAFFIN
On Saturday, Sept. 1, in seeming response to a set of Keizertimes stories on hate crimes and bias incidents, Oregon State Rep. Bill Post created a poll in the Keizer, OR Facebook. Post’s poll asked: “Do you feel like Keizer is a ‘racist’ or ‘non-inclusive’ community?”
The poll set off a discussion about hate and inclusivity in Keizer. Much of it ran along the lines of “Keizer is great, everything’s fine” and “racism is everywhere so stop attacking Keizer.” But there was a subset of commenters talking about structural inequality and several people of color sharing their experiences with discrimination in Keizer.
As a contributing writer to the set of stories about hate in Keizer, it’s the kind of conversation I wanted to see. Some of the comments made me angry, but I was encouraged to see people grappling with what it means to live in this community and what it means to ostracize others.
As I was scrolling through comments, I noticed an admin of the Keizer Facebook group was telling people “political/religious comments” weren’t allowed. I thought, how are we supposed to discuss hate, discrimination and racism without getting political? These are political issues and we need to discuss them, even if it starts arguments and ruffles feathers.
I was disheartened later that day to see that the admin ended up deleting the entire post with all the comments, and then made a new post with a disabled comment section redirecting people to the Keizertimes website to vote in the poll addressing the homophobic language in the Keizer city charter. In doing so, the admin shut down a conversation about hate and discrimination and racism—and in the process shut down my hope of progress toward a better Keizer.
Neither the question of what it means for Keizer to be inclusive nor the dismissal of that question are new. This topic has previously been brought to the city council. In the past year since Keizer citizens requested the city council pass an inclusivity resolution, it was discussed at only one work session before disappearing completely. If every forum for dialogue is shut down, we will not make progress—only stagnate in our current positions.
Hate is an uncomfortable issue to discuss. Looking at our own community and seeing something we don’t want to see is jarring. But we need to get uncomfortable. That discomfort is the beginning of understanding. And understanding is what we need to address the systemic flaws that allow hate to go unchecked. We need to create spaces where we can discuss these issues of discrimination and inclusivity, because we need to have this conversation now. We’ve been putting it off since Oregon’s founding. We can’t just delete the Facebook posts and pretend like everything’s fine—because it’s not. And it won’t get better until we can talk about it as a community.
(Casey Chaffin was an intern with the Keizertimes this summer.)