An Oregon county including parts of Portland, Oregon, has dismantled its government’s diversity, equity and inclusion programmes.
Efforts to defund the county’s million-dollar DEI programme have taken about a year, Ben West, a member of the five-person county board of commissioners, told Fox this week.
West, a Republican who was elected in 2022, has been a vocal critic of diversity initiatives, which he considers divisive. “In Clackamas, we promote classical liberal and American values, a good functioning government over ideology, promoting and hiring based on merit and competency, and not incessantly focusing on a person’s immutable traits,” wrote West. “The EDI work was divisive and heavily influenced by a radical ideology that measures fairness on the equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity. No longer.”
Portland, the whitest city in America, has a conflicted history over policies which contributed to its racial composition. Oregon was the only state in the US to explicitly bar black people from living in it upon its founding; violators could be whipped. In 2020, the heavily blue city was the site of 100 days of protests, many of which turned violent. The city’s leadership responded by making massive cuts to its police budget and staffing in June 2020 before reversing course the following year following a surge in crime.
Clackamas County praised a local community college for its DEI efforts in 2022, stating that the county was “part of a larger cultural shift”. But within a year, the county board had a 4-1 Republican majority, which has since taken a knife to the county’s diversity efforts.
The board’s lone Democrat, Martha Schrader, said that shutting down DEI was a mistake. “An extreme agenda is taking over,” she told Oregon Live. “Commissioners would be wise to lean into the expertise and history of the equity office in Clackamas County to understand the important work of the equity office that addresses the unique needs of our diverse workforce and community.”