Outgoing Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard issued a statement Thursday condemning and denouncing white supremacy.
The extremist ideology and those who hold it, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation regards as one of the United States’ most serious domestic threats, became a national talking point after ambiguous statements President Donald Trump made during the first presidential debate Tuesday night.
The president’s comments concerned the Proud Boys, which has been active in Portland and which law enforcement and civil rights groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center associate with white nationalist and white supremacist ideals — though many of the group’s members dispute this.
Asked to denounce white supremacy in general, and tell the Proud Boys in particular to “stand down,” President Trump instead said, “Stand back and stand by” — words the group received enthusiastically and even began merchandising.
Later in the week, the president unequivocally condemned white supremacists, specifically referring to such groups as the Proud Boys and the Ku Klux Klan.
“Our current political dialogue seems to leave the door open to white supremacy,” Bernard said in the statement, which did not mention Trump or any other person or group by name. “We want to go on record very clearly — that door is firmly closed in our county.”
While remarking on the “cracks — manmade and otherwise” that the global pandemic and historic wildfires have brought into greater focus this year, Bernard offered hope.
“We have the ability however to change our future through our own education and action,” he said.
He and the four other elected commissioners of Clackamas County represent different ideologies, different points of view and different opinions, Bernard said, yet “we come to do our work each day with a commitment to work together to advance and improve the quality of life for all of our residents.”
“We have spoken out together about racial injustice in our county and in our world,” he said. “We are working to eradicate it and to truly value every individual who calls Clackamas County home so that all of its residents may thrive.”
Bernard’s reelection bid was defeated outright in the May primary by challenger and former Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith.
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