Is it divisive to want equal treatment? Not more, just equal. Not better, just equal. 

In a recent conversation I had with an elected official, I was accused of being divisive for wanting a community that cares for everyone equally. This reminded me of a quote I read which states, “When accustomed to privilege equality feels like oppression.” Equality shouldn’t be divisive, especially if we are supposedly already offering everyone the same opportunities. But this highlights the fact that we’re not.

A good example is this last election cycle where I was denied an opportunity to be interviewed by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce while all other candidates for state representative and Keizer City Council got the equal opportunity to apply for endorsement. 

I’m not going to sign a letter to the Supreme Court invalidating voters over it, but it is an insult to say the very least – that someone can fight and almost die for the creed that all are created equal yet be denied those very same equal opportunities coming home. These microaggressions extend outside of politics though and impact Keizer BIPOC business owners.

COVID-19 has laid bare the failure of the Chamber to network with Latino businesses resulting in community members having to step in to support those not affiliated with the Chamber. None of whom were compensated by the grant funding the Chamber received to specifically offer such support. The reason I bring this up now is because, as a small business owner in Keizer, I now have hope with the Chamber changing leadership. 

We’ve heard the gripes about KeizerFEST’s Familia Day lacking any “Familia.” We’ve seen the high turnover rates of Latino leaders on the Chamber board. And so I hope the Keizer Chamber will offer the equal opportunity to all qualified candidates in their search for a new executive director. Because businesses are going to need all the help they can get coming out of this crisis, and that means tapping into Latino-owned businesses which are the fastest-growing sector of the U.S economy, representing a purchasing power of over $7 Billion in Oregon alone.

(Ramiro “RJ” Navarro owns a business in Keizer.)