PORTLAND -- Can You Not PAC, originally founded out of Colorado to support people of color, women, and LGBTQ folks who are running for office, is building a movement in Oregon. Diversity is a keyword which is chirped around through organizations, government agencies, and campaigns; yet white men still make up the majority of leadership positions. Can You Not PAC was started to tell unqualified white men to move back, and make space for leaders who stem from underrepresented communities.
The Can You Not Oregon PAC was started earlier this year, when founders Gnora Gumanow and Sydney Scout were overcome by rage at the sight of so many stupidly unqualified white men who were running races with no clue about the political process. Gnora and Sydney looked at each other and said “CAN YOU NOT?” as they read through campaign announcements being made all over the state. They decided that something needed to be done, and they couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore while white dudes wake up every morning and say “yeah that’s gotta be me”.
“We are overwhelmed by the amount of mediocre white dudes that seem to think captaining their high school lacrosse team uniquely qualifies them to run for office. We have news for them, it doesn’t. Men who fit the literal definition of a Scrub from TLC’s song are waking up and filing to run for office. This PAC is a way for us to say, hey! We don’t want no scrubs.” Stated Gnora Gumanow
Additionally, board member Amy Kessler is tired of repeating the phrase, “thank god I’m bisexual” everytime she goes out on a date with a mediocre white dude that says he’d like to run for office someday because he took Econ 101 his freshman year and passed with a solid C, so he could make a real difference in the community. But, as we all know, even though Cs get degrees a C campaign is still losing.
The PAC kicked off on March 4th during an event at Dig A Pony where they announced the races they will be involved in, and what mediocre brogressives they want to silence. “If you are the person sitting in the back of your gender studies class playing devil’s advocate all semester long, you probably shouldn’t run for office.” Said Gnora Gumanow. The kickoff also showcased many men announcing that they will not be running for office, and instead putting energy into the many well qualified candidates the PAC is supporting. “Really what it boils down to is using your privilege in the world to elevate the voices of people most impacted by issues in our community. Right now, we have a huge representation gap which can only be remedied by people in power asking themselves: How did I get here? And Why am I so inclined to do this? Am I really the best choice? We’re here to help make finding that answer easier, because the answer is NO. You might be a great person, and a charismatic leader, but please stop running for office against phenomenal woman and people of color in progressive and urban districts. We don’t need you.”
This representation gap can seem harmless, but in actuality leads to some pretty problematic decisions. “Oregon has been slow to dismantle overtly racist policies,” a 2014 report by PSU and Coalition of Communities of Color concluded. As a result, “African Americans in Multnomah County continue to live with the effects of racialized policies, practices, and decision-making.”
Can You Not Oregon PAC believes the way forward is with restorative justice, to support, maintain and heal community relationships whose responses to historical poverty and racism. Restorative justice aims to give folks who have experienced barriers a voice to restore and repair any harm from bad policy making. When we take actions that harm communities, it is our individual and collective responsibility to make things right. White dudes, you don’t get to “reclaim your time.” It’s time to get out of the way, have a seat, and support qualified, diverse candidates who can meet the needs of their community.