The Yacolt Town Council on Monday rejected a proclamation “acknowledging and denouncing systemic and institutional racism.”
The council voted 3-2 against the proclamation, which was introduced by Councilmember Amy Boget and supported by Councilmember Malita Moseley. Councilmembers Herb Noble, Marina Viray and Michelle Dawson opposed it.
The proclamation would have recognized, among other things, that “hate has become a daily occurrence across the nation” and that tragedies have occurred when people “stand by and allow acts of violence and hatred to occur.” It also would have made several commitments, including “to listen to those traditionally held mute” and examine implicit biases.
“Therefore be it resolved that we, of the Town of Yacolt Council, in keeping with the principle of equal civil rights for all, unequivocally oppose any manifestation of hatred and prejudice towards any group or individual,” the proclamation reads.
Yacolt, a town of roughly 1,500 people, is about 98 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Boget said that she wanted to recognize that many issues in the community would “be even more challenging if we weren’t white.”
Boget also said that she’s seen instances of racial division in the community, including regular sightings of the Confederate flag. She compared the proclamation with the council’s unanimous decision to declare the town a sanctuary city from Initiative 1639, a statewide gun-control measure that took effect last year.
“There is a lot of, just, pain and hurt out there, and I figured that it would be a good idea for us to stand up, just like we did with I-1639, and just say, ‘We don’t find these things acceptable,’” Boget said.
Seven people spoke during the public comment session of Monday’s meeting. Five of them opposed the proclamation.
Noble called the resolution “nonsense.”
“I believe hate crimes at this time in our society is over-driven by different groups, whether it’s antifa, Black Lives Matter. I think it’s news media also, CNN and different things,” Noble said. “And right now, I’m not real happy with looking at this thing. I think you’re stirring up a hornet’s nest that don’t need to be stirred up.”
The town council’s decision is the latest development related to a recent series of conversation about systemic racism in Clark County.
After Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring said on June 24 she does not believe systemic racism exists in the county, NAACP Vancouver and the League of United Latin American Citizens wrote a letter calling for her resignation.
“These decisions highlight why it’s so important that we are having this conversation right now,” said Vanessa Yarie, director of services and mission impact with YWCA Clark County. “When three of the five members of the Yacolt Town Council deny the existence of systemic racism, they ignore the experiences of their community as a whole.”