Vitriol and ageism mar annual board elections
from the Jefferson Westside newsletter
“It is the policy of the State of Oregon that unlawful discrimination on the basis of Oregon’s protected classes is a matter of state concern, and that such discrimination threatens individual rights and privileges and menaces the institutions and foundations of a free democratic state. (OAR 839.005).” [Oregon.gov]
Bigot: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.; someone who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group.
Ageism: prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. Age is protected class in Oregon (as with race, gender identity, and disability amongst other categories).
Wondering “did that really happen?” It did (watch it here):
- The flyer for the alternative slate of JWN board candidates extolled the need for a “young and nimble” board.
- When a long-serving board member in her 60s agreed that having younger and new people serve would be good, the questioner pointedly asked her if then she would withdraw from her race.
- After Ted M. Coopman (age 60) was reelected chair, a neighbor and alternative slate candidate remarked “Well, the olds prevail.”
These are a few examples of the hostility leveled at “olds” (apparently anyone at least 60) attending the April general meeting and board elections and those running who appeared to be middle-aged or older.
Bigotry is unacceptable anywhere, including in the JWN. Neighbors would not tolerate a racist or sexist remark or microaggression nor should we accept the idea that age should disqualify someone from participating or serving the community.
Conversely, we should not accept the idea that youth somehow imbues a person with superior leadership ability or morality. The audience audibly gasped at several comments and dozens of neighbors—including our apparently “old” Ward 1 Councilor Emily Semple—expressed their shock and disgust at the disproportional vitriol and hostility. The harm done to those in attendance was unacceptable.
Disagreeing with the JWN Board or its members on policy, actions, or statements or believing that it should be doing some things or not others are a legitimate part of a democratic process. To delegitimize someone for what they are (age, race, gender identity) is not acceptable by any measure.
Certainly the idea that older people, especially homeowners, are protecting their privilege or pursuing their self-interest at the exclusion of others is disappointingly common. Like all other forms of bigotry, ageism flattens diverse individuals into a single “other” to be labeled and denigrated, and is poison to political discourse.