Two weeks into her job, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the first black woman to serve on the Portland City Council, launched an unusual and pointed broadside against the disruptive gadflies who interrupted her first council meeting, and many before.
"I am concerned about how privilege, and, specifically, white male privilege, is limiting the public's access to City Hall," she said in a statement Jan. 15. "These disruptions create a chilling effect on people who are unaccustomed to coming to our City Hall to have their voices heard."
Hardesty was describing a familiar phenomenon at City Hall: protesters, many of them self-proclaimed "cop watchers" live-streaming their own remarks, who monopolize council meetings with hostile screeds.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, white and male and no fan of the disruptions, endorsed Hardesty's analysis as "factually correct." But the comment raised the hackles of some constituents. Of the more than three dozen calls and emails from the public that followed, Hardesty's office reports a lopsidedly negative reaction.
"Sadly, there have been some negative—and racist—comments, reaffirming parts of our white supremacist history, which hurts my heart," Hardesty tells WW. "Regardless of these outsized voices, though, I believe in the majority of Oregonians who are building our next, more inclusive chapter of our state."
Here's a sampling of the public's response to Hardesty's statement. The emails, obtained from Hardesty's office, have been edited for length and clarity.
Was it always your plan to insult a huge portion of Portland's men or did you just think of it recently? What a sexist, racist, misandrist, ignorant thing for you to say. Not only did you say it, you took it further and broadcast it to the media. I can understand you saying such a thing like that in the privacy of your own home, but no, you have to "Get Whitey" right up front.
Until you apologize just as publicly as you insulted and impugned 80 percent of Portland's White men I will never vote for you nor will I support any policies you might try to push.
If you think I'm some alt-right Trump Republican, I'm not. I'm a liberal Democrat who voted for Bernie. Even though I've never voted for a Republican in my life, I absolutely will not put up with your "Identity Politics" and your race baiting. So until you clean up your act and apologize, you will have one more constituent who will work his damnedest to remove you from office.
Puhleeze… Last time I checked my reservoir of karma, I've expended way too much dealing with obnoxiousness from all kinds and colors of people. Obnoxiousness is not a quality determined by one's DNA. Get a grip!
If you wanted to stop this, you could draft etiquette rules that would pass U.S. District Court muster. That would be a positive contribution to this mess. All you've done is contribute to the level of discord.
You're not off to a very good start. That chip on your shoulder is going to get mighty heavy mighty fast if you keep saying this kind of stupid shit!
Your comments regarding white privilege people who are disruptive in City Hall was uncalled for. Your comments regarding white privilege shows the racism that you carry on you should not be a commissioner in Portland, so next election year we will see if you still hold that seat.
You may be a black woman in charge, but that is no right to turn the tables and not only see color, but also complain publicly about the behavior of a race. THAT'S RACISIM[sic]!!!!!!
YOU ARE A BLACK BIGOT!!!!
At the very least, you owe the entire city of Portland, and especially white males, a very genuine, heartfelt apology. There's nothing in my life that was handed to me because I'm white, and male. I've worked my ass off for everything I've got, and I willingly give of myself to my community, and to those in need, including three young black boys who played basketball on my son's team, two of whom had fathers in prison.
They couldn't afford their uniforms, so I bought them for them. They couldn't make it to games, so I drove to North Portland to pick them up, and then I would take them home. Sometimes, I would have them stay over for parties with the other boys on the team. There are a lot of good white males in this city, and you just insulted all of us, just because of a few unruly ones you have a problem with. You, Jo Ann, are a racist, and you have no business being in that position.