by William Skink
Looking at our Missoula community from an outsider perspective might be confusing. Are we an enlightened liberal enclave truly grappling with inequality in a substantive and meaningful way, or are we a financially exclusive community focusing on the optics of race placation while our non-wealthy white neighbors continue to get economically squeezed?
Missoula County Commissioners are currently making economic decision about how to distribute public funds. Here is how the Missoula Current is reporting that effort:
As part of its annual distribution, Missoula County this week began earmarking revenue for a handful of social organizations to meet what officials described as basic human needs.
It also took steps to gauge the role a new position will play as the county looks to move away from its “history of oppression and domination” to address issues around equity, diversity and inclusion.
The role of this new taxpayer-funded position has not been defined yet, so to assist in that creating a definition for how this person will address issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, our elected brain trust at the County level has sent out letters soliciting feedback. Here’s more from the link:
The letters suggest that Missoula County, like all local governments, grew out of “a history of oppression and domination, perpetuated by a society built to centralize power based on the whiteness of a person’s skin.”
“This position will … be charged with reviewing everything we do as an organization, with a specific focus on making Missoula County a more inclusive leader in the community,” one letter reads. “We recognize many of our policies and practices are under-scrutinized and, to effect real change, we must look at the way Missoula County conducts every aspect of the services we provide and how we interact with all members of our community.”
How can local government “effect real change” amidst an economic crisis when its only idea to fix government is to grow government to police itself? The real change effected by these efforts will be more economic pain for the non-wealthy, whether they are white or not.
This is NOT TO SAY that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Missoula. It absolutely does, as any census of the jail population will immediately tell you. But the reality of racial inequality in places like our criminal justice system doesn’t erase the more pervasive ECONOMIC inequality perpetrated by these systems.
If you don’t think what I’m saying is accurate, then you probably don’t have much experience with the criminal justice system (this is often a byproduct of white privilege). From what I have seen of this inhuman system that runs on money, if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer to defend yourself, then it doesn’t really matter what color your skin is.