Cover Photo by Rebecca Ellis
Generally speaking, there are few things more painful than listening in on a local budget vote. Still, Wednesday’s meeting full of budgetary amendments and amendments to amendments left an especially sour taste in my mouth.
Not just because the council failed to pass legislation that would have directed $18M into our schools and social services instead of the Portland Police Bureau amidst city-wide cuts…
Not just because incoming commissioner Dan Ryan, who ran on a campaign of going after the bloated police budget, went against the will of the people and joined TedBloc to vote against the amendment…
But rather because in all of his smugness, the mayor re-elected with less than 50% of the vote read the room and decided to quoted none other than Desmond Tutu, the South African archbishop (after whom my son is named) best known for fighting against police suppression in the form of the apartheid state. Saying he was moved by the quote he’d recently read, Wheeler recited, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
While anyone in their right mind would read this quote to mean that we should reduce our focus on emergency response and start working to resolve systemic social inequities that eventually present as emergencies, Wheeler took it as a call for more research, echoing his earlier vote to fund researching how we can invest in the community he simultaneously voted not to fund (at the behest of the police).
That said, I wanted to share 10 Desmond Tutu quotes that Ted Wheeler should read. Maybe if he gets enough context, he’ll start to see a pattern and think twice before watering down the words of a revolutionary leader.
1) “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
NOTES FOR TED: This means you’re the oppressor. Yes, you.
2) “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
NOTES FOR TED: This is called stealing. Ask your ancestors.
3) “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”
NOTES FOR TED: We don’t want your scraps.
4) “If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
NOTES FOR TED: Stop hiding. We are out here every night.
5) “Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.”
NOTES FOR TED: Stop defunding our schools.
6) “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
NOTES FOR TED: We’re not going to stop.
7) “For goodness sake, will they hear, will white people hear what we are trying to say? Please, all we are asking you to do is to recognize that we are humans, too.”
NOTES FOR TED: Listen to Black people. And not just Chuck and E.D.
8) “What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled?’
NOTES FOR TED: Your Black cronies are still just cronies. And we see it.
9) “All the United States, it is a society that is split like to the bottom, that had very poor people in the country that is one of the wealthiest countries.”
NOTES FOR TED: This is America.
10) “I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vacuum.”
NOTES FOR TED: You’re supposed to be the mayor, Ted. Be the mayor!