Statement on George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter
In the weeks since George Floyd’s murder, as important conversations about race and justice have engulfed the country, we at Oregon Energy Fund have remained quiet. We’ve done so out of respect, the desire to learn, and to make space for Black voices and other groups whose missions are more focused on social change than ours. But we also know that silence, in its own way, can be problematic. And so, at this critical time, we say to our donors, our partners, our clients, our volunteers, and all others:
Black Lives Matter.
To say Black Lives Matter is not only to demand an end to the racist violence that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others. It is to acknowledge, and work to solve, the many other systems that oppress Black Americans on a daily basis — right in our own backyard. Here in Oregon, Black people comprise just 2% of the population but 25% of people in poverty. They are twice as likely as white people to be severely energy burdened, due both to systemic barriers that have created lower education rates and lower incomes, and also to racist practices like redlining that have forced them into poorly insulated homes in more polluted neighborhoods. We must reckon with these facts, no matter how unpleasant they may be. For Black Lives Matter is not only about lives lost. It’s about the lives still unfolding, and those yet to come, and building a more equitable society where those lives can flourish. As Bryan Stevenson has written, “the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. It’s justice.”
As a predominantly white organization, we strive to identify our own blindspots and prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. We believe deeply in our mission to provide energy assistance to all Oregonians, regardless of race, ethnicity, or birthplace; and also in our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Plan, which directs our programs to directly serve and support historically marginalized people. We stand with our partners, especially those like Self Enhancement Inc., Latino Network, NAYA, and IRCO, who have deep ties with Portland’s Black community and have led the way in fighting systemic racism. We are grateful too for the work of Black scholars like Dr. Tony Reames (Univeristy of Michigan) and Dr. Diana Hernández (Columbia University), whose landmark research has deepened our understanding of energy insecurity and guided our evolution as an organization.
There is much yet to be done. But in our work and our hearts, the staff and board of Oregon Energy Fund are committed to transforming our state into a place where Black lives not only matter, but thrive. We stand with the Black community.