Editorial: Racial equity report unfairly suggests bias

A new report says one-third of Oregon lawmakers, all Republicans, “need improvement” on issues of racial equity.

“Facing Race: 2013 Legislative Report Card of Racial Equity” rates the legislators according to their votes on 21 bills the authors say promote racial justice. Eighteen of the bills became law.

By naming and scoring individual senators and representatives, the report unfairly suggests racial bias and ignores the principled rationale behind individual votes. For example, a vote against driver’s cards for illegal immigrants isn’t a vote against racial equity. Neither is a vote against in-state tuition for those in the country illegally. Those are complex issues with profound counter-arguments, involving fairness and the rule of law.

Unlike a previous report two years ago that rated the House and Senate overall, this year’s version names and rates individuals. Central Oregon’s lawmakers all received the lowest rating except for Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, who was rated a B.

The report details Oregon’s “history of institutional racism” and says the Legislature “has the vitally important duty to craft and pass policy that corrects racial injustices.”

We have no complaint with the use of report cards to advocate for political action, nor with the detailing of individual legislators’ votes. It’s a time-honored way to encourage lawmakers to support the advocates’ position and help voters evaluate those they have elected. We do object to this suggestion of racial bias.