MBA Statement on the Death of George Floyd and Racial Justice

Dear friends and colleagues, 

Words are not enough to express the heavy sadness that we feel at this moment. It is the sadness from grieving for another senseless death. This time, the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by law enforcement. 

Unfortunately, there have been countless others, such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who have experienced similar racially-motivated injustices in our nation, in our state, and in our city. 

And, last week, twelve hours before George Floyd’s death, the anti-blackness that permeates our society was highlighted by the video documenting Christian Cooper’s encounter with a white woman in Central Park. In response to his simple request that she follow the park rules about leashing her dog, she called the police and informed them that an “African American” man was threatening her. That this woman of privilege understood that she could use the police to control and possibly harm Christian Cooper, a Black man, is disgusting, but it is an appalling reality for Black people. 

Similar events have happened in our state and in our city. As lawyers and judges, we should be very concerned that Black members of our community - colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, clients - are not safe mentally, emotionally, or physically. The pictures in the local news, the focus on the destruction of property in downtown, and the failure to act to address the root causes demonstrate that the lives of Black people continue not to be valued and that our community has much work to do.

Our hearts should be heavy, indeed.

We acknowledge the pain, anguish, and frustration that a tragedy like this creates for all of us, in particular the Black community and other communities of color. This is our problem. As an association, we must stand against racism and oppression. We must stand against injustice. We must not remain silent. Silence kills, as we were reminded by the officers who remained silent as their colleague kneeled on George Floyd’s neck while George Floyd pleaded for his life. 

Let us not ask for our lives to go back to “normal;" the normal before the uprisings in our city and across the nation, the normal before COVID-19. That normal has allowed racism and inequality to permeate our daily lives and go unchecked - inequality that was further compounded by the virus and that resulted in the virus disproportionately impacting communities of color. We denounce the violence and destruction in our city and those who would detract from the message of the protesters. Property lost or destroyed, no matter how significant, can and will be recovered and rebuilt. But no matter how hard we work, we cannot breathe life back into George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery or other victims.

As an association, let us lift the voices of peaceful protest and change. Let us stand in solidarity with all who denounce acts of racial injustice and police brutality and who challenge the systemic challenges and biases experienced by many in our community. 

We further commit ourselves to equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging, and ask our members and our community to engage in meaningful conversations and actions toward racial justice.  

We will actively engage with the statewide diverse and affinity bars to support them and their work. We encourage you to read statements being issued by the statewide diverse and affinity bars: 

Oregon Supreme Court

With question or comments, email MBA President Valerie Colas can be reached here.

The Multnomah Bar Association Board of Directors

Learn more and commit to being antiracist - National Museum of African American History and Culture, Talking About Race
Sign the MBA Statement of Diversity Principles - Statement | Sign here

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