The following opinion-editorial piece was submitted by CHS Senior Gareth Starratt.
“I am writing this because I would like to submit an op-ed article I have been working on for several months now. I hope to voice my opinion because I believe Camas High School can benefit from young students stepping up to voice their opinions on our town and how the events of the past year have reshaped our culture at school. My submission is as follows, I deeply thank you for reading and considering my work.
Every day, thousands of students would walk under the huge mural of the mean machine scrawled across the bricks of Camas High. But for many students, this mascot represents the weight of hundreds of years of white, cis-gendered oppression.
Before the town, the paper mill was established by venture capitalist and industry mogul Henry L. Pittock, which would eventually lead to the importation of hundreds of majority-white, blue-collar workers. Over a century later, the old ways of white oppression and toxic conservatism have festered and bled their way into our schools. With the resignation of principal Liza Sejkora over a racist comment online and the collective attention of national media, hundreds of resounding comments attacking the racism of Sejkora and Camas as a whole. And fundamentally– they are correct.
Only in 1973 did the state of Washington prevent banks from issuing loans on the basis of race, just one of the many forms of red tape designed to keep African American and LGBT minority groups from finding freedom in Camas. Fundamentally, Camas is a town established by whites for whites. Not only does this show with a 0.49% black population, but the institutionalized oppression and exclusion of blacks from finding a foothold in the economy and culture shows through the extreme poverty that the minorities in our city live in. African Americans in Camas have a 17% poverty rate compared to the 2.5% poverty rate of Whites, and at the center of it all– the bastion of white industry and black exclusion– the Camas paper mill. Owned by the Koch brothers, the second wealthiest family in the United States.
The Camas paper mill is operated by and funded by the Koch brothers, an Old-moneyed family at the foundation of the political right. The Koch brothers have pledged $889 million between 2009-2016 to conservative think tanks and the republican party. Not only did this money go to conservative foundations, but the Koch brothers also donated $4.5 million to the anti-gay Heritage Foundation between 1997 and 2010. For many minority groups within Camas, the mill, as well as the family that controls the old industry in this town represents the weights of oppression that have weighed on minorities through economic red tape and suppressive political agendas.
In the last few years, with the mill coming to a close and the Koch brothers grappling with the government to dodge environmental cleanup cost. We need to shake ourselves loose from the festering shackles of racism and oppression. It is time to take another step forward by switching to another mascot that doesn’t symbolize the deep-rooted, anti-BIPOC, and minority agenda of the old conservative Camas.”