Carrie Sheffield, Just the News, April 24, 2020
In a daily report dedicated to news updates and guidance for county employees fighting the coronavirus, an Oregon county in the Portland area said it was creating a safe “grounding space” for minority staff to escape a predominant “whiteness.”
The April 5 “situation report” from the Multnomah County Office of Emergency Operations Center announced that the “Emergency Operations Center Equity Officer is hosting a grounding space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) employees to share, heal, connect, and get grounded in a space that is not dominated by whiteness.”
Heather Mac Donald, a Stanford-trained attorney and fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research who writes about policing, homeless advocacy, criminal-justice reform and race relations, told Just the News that Multnomah County’s actions are particularly disturbing during a time of emergency.
“Identity politics long ago jumped from the university into the world at large, above all, into highly receptive government agencies and social service groups,” Mac Donald said. “It is of course outrageous that any alleged public health or service organization would spend any energy on reinforcing racial victimology and racial discrimination during this time of allegedly overburdened public health systems. But race hatred has been so baked into many government agencies by now that it is par for the course.”
Ron Christie, an African-American and senior staffer in the George W. Bush administration who was instrumental in getting federal backing for the The National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, told Just the News that he found Multnomah County’s initiative to be “unconscionable.”
Multnomah County dismissed any notion that a government entity hosting a race-specific “grounding space” as a haven from “whiteness” could raise constitutional concerns or furnish grounds for a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination.
“Multnomah County is acting lawfully,” Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, Multnomah County communications director, said in a statement to Just the News. “The space excludes no one. It is based on shared lived experience not identity. The same way our employee resource groups for veterans, parents, and people with a disability are based on life experience and not identity. All are welcome here.”
Mac Donald, author of the book, “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture,” told Just the News she was doubtful about the success of filing an EEOC complaint against the county.