Like many Portlanders, I was shocked by the comments of newly elected Charter Commissioner Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef. As the only Hispanic city councilor in recent memory, and the son of an English language learner, I’m offended that someone would so cheapen the struggles of those threatened by actual white supremacists, especially to attack a city manager who’s led multiple efforts to welcome and protect asylum seekers.

But my concern isn’t one statement – it’s that this type of poisonous, divisive rhetoric is on the rise more broadly.

How does this happen? It happens because, as at the national level, other leaders justify it or turn a blind eye, normalizing it and allowing it to grow unchallenged.

Seven local elected officials endorsed Ms. Sheikh-Yousef in her campaign. Every single one should be asked if they endorse this conduct as well.

Every concerned citizen in Portland should write Reps. Grayson Lookner and Mike Sylvester, school board members Micky Bondo, Emily Figdor and Aura Russell-Bedder, and Councilors Pious Ali and April Fournier and ask two simple questions:

• Do you think the city manager is a white supremacist?

• Will you speak clearly and publicly against this type of rhetoric?

They don’t have to disown Ms. Sheikh-Yousef or condemn her as a person to answer these questions. All they have to say is that they agree with her positions, but that she crossed a line.

If our elected officials can’t give straight answers to these straightforward questions, then you know they are OK allowing this divisive rhetoric to spread even more.

Justin Costa
member, Portland school board, 2008-2014;
District 4 city councilor, 2014-2020

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