Concerned OCF Member

Opposition to the Motion Concerning "Hate Speech"

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Concerned OCF Member
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At first glance one might think a motion to prohibit hate speech in official Oregon Country Fair spaces would be easy to support but a thoughtful analysis quickly reveals the flaws in this motion. There is real cause for concern.

While some consider particular words to be offensive, others consider them to be a reclamation of power. This issue started because members of the same protected class disagree on when and where to use words with multiple spellings and meanings. Other protected classes also wrangle with acceptable terms. The list of slurs will always be subjective and personal.

Under US law, there is no legal definition of hate speech, nor a list of words that are hate speech. Ultimately, expressions that might be considered hate speech are determined through intent and context, which this motion specifically disregards.

This motion intends to stop discussion on hate speech, but it will start a never-ending debate on what words should be banned. However, it’s safe to say we all agree that slurs should never be purposefully used as insults. OCF Code of Conduct already addresses verbal abuse. There is no need for this motion.

This motion was announced just two weeks before it could become policy and there was no mention of it in the Fair Family News. The whole community has not had sufficient time for the nuanced discussion required to craft an upholdable motion. This is poor process that limits membership input, especially the voices of marginalized community members. Discussing a motion in private, unofficial Facebook groups is not adequate membership input.

The OCF has clearly demonstrated that we are not yet equipped to handle conflicts that require an understanding of marginalization, protected classes, and intersectionality. This conflict among the Black community is being played out in front of, and dissected by, members that do not belong to that community.

Diversity training must come first in order to create safe spaces where we can make mistakes and learn from them. During trainings potentially offensive terms must be spoken aloud and discussed in official meeting spaces without fear of retribution. The punitive and rapidly escalating sanctions in the motion set a disturbing precedent for OCF. Education must come first. Removal from a meeting and suspension should only be considered for intentional and repeated misbehaviors, and only after a clearly defined and accessible process for facilitated discussion has been followed

This organization has a glaring need for DEI education and training at every level. Membership has asked for it, and the Diversity Committee recommends it as well.

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