Lane County Board of Commissioners Denounce White Nationalism

Passes unanimously but Commissioner Jay Bozievich had some thoughts to share

Screenshot from video footage of Board of Commissioners' Feb. 12 afternoon meeting

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Lane County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a resolution denouncing white nationalism.

Lane County and Oregon have a history of racist governance, including removing indigenous people from their ancestral land. And Oregon joined the U.S. as a “whites-only” state and refused to ratify the 14th and 15th amendments, according to board documents.

The resolution states that the Board of Commissioners support the county as a welcome, inclusive and safe community for all who live, learn, work and play in Lane.

The resolution adds: “We condemn actions that promote hate, xenophobia, racism, white supremacy, white nationalism, Anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, homohobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism and other forms of bigotry.”

In Eugene, the city’s 2018 Hate and Bias Report said there were 81 reports of hate and bias. African Americans suffered the most physical violence, the LGBTQ community was affected by intimidation and the Jewish community experienced vandalism.

During discussion of the resolution, Commissioner Pete Sorenson said: “People are much more open about white nationalism than before. It’s more and more in our face as leaders. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a victim.”

The resolution was drafted in July 2019 by community members, including nonprofits, community-based organizations and local government agencies, according to board documents. Lane County Equity and Access Advisory Board (EAAB) brought the resolution to the Board of Commissioners Aug. 27, 2019. After hearing feedback from commissioners, the EAAB made edits at its December 2019 meeting.

Commissioner Jay Bozievich said it was an interesting proposal and spoke his mind for about six minutes. He said he has a tendency to not support resolutions that don’t have money or action behind it because “it’s virtue signaling.”

But he said that if he voted “No,” all that would be reported would be his dissent. “I believe any form of racist is wrong,” he added, then joked: “I like to say I’m a racist: I’m for the human race.”

Growing up, Bozievich said he knew what it’s like to be a minority because he lived in a 95 percent Jewish neighborhood. But, he said, he doesn’t like that the resolution includes the term “alt-right” because the term is often misused and makes incorrect associations with political parties.

The resolution says: “We recognize there has been a rise of white nationalist, white supremacist, and alt-right groups in the United States, many of which have been emboldened by the national political dialogue.”

Bozievich continued, “I dislike any form of racism — whether it’s the new Black Panthers — I dislike any form of political violence. What’s been going on with Antifa up in Portland is despicable. On any side of the political spectrum, no one should use violence, intimidation for political ends.”

Chair Heather Buch wrapped up discussion by saying the board is made up of people with privilege — with white skin and being an elected body.

“Whatever we can do to advance the inclusion of everyone in the community is what we should be doing every day,” she said.

The full resolution is below: