I lived in Portland, OR for a couple years and was just head over heels for the city. There’s so much that I loved (and still love) about the city and the state – so much coffee and food, so many quirks, so much creativity. The neighborhoods in Portland are wonderful and each have their own vibe and mini downtown. But like many cities and the states they’re in, there are many plaguing and problematic issues to address.
We, especially the people who live here, like to think that the Pacific Northwest is this progressive haven but in reality, there are so many problems that exist here. Oregon for example has a not so pretty racist past that’s not quite history yet – it was literally founded as a racist utopia because when it was granted statehood in 1859, it was also the only state with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It wasn’t even until 1926 that black people were legally allowed to move there – making Oregon’s exceptionally and disproportionately small black population no accident.
There are several different productions that have highlighted this racist past, like James J Kopp’s book Eden Within Eden: Oregon’s Utopian Heritage. OPB has a documentary called Local Color that chronicles the little known history of racism in Oregon and the story of the people for worked and fought for civil rights. There’s another OPB production called Lift Ev’ry Voice that explores Portland’s African American history, focusing in particular on the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s. One last thing I’ll suggest is the film Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon which documents the history behind the conflict between the Portland police and community members in the last fifty years.
White supremacy is allowing the #Oregonstandoff to continue for over two weeks. While locking up BLM protesters for standing in the street.
— Kwame Rose (@kwamerose) January 19, 2016
Hundreds gather to protest #Bundy terrorists! #OregonUnderAttack https://t.co/7au82ff5Kk pic.twitter.com/VDKiMjXBEg
— ~Gal~ (@StlGal_36) January 19, 2016
Knowing all of that history in Oregon makes things like the #OregonStandoff and #OregonUnderAttack not too surprising (unfortunately so) because it shows how deeply entrenched white supremacy actually is and thus, allows for white people to be held to different standards. We’re allowed to protest while armed over various issues but other people and kids like Tamir Rice and many many Black Lives Matter protesters are barely even allowed to live or practice freedom of assembly without being arrested or attacked.
And while the militants continue to stay and protest in the National Wildlife Refuge, concerns over issues like the unrestrained access to the Burns Paiute Tribe artifacts and the occupation’s impact on local schools have arisen. The occupiers may have also violated federal law by damaging a Native American archaeological site during their ‘protest’ so when we have these conversations, we also need to be talking about Native American people, land, rights, history, etc in addition to white supremacy and antiblackness.