Among the many arguments swirling around Oregon's Measure 37, there is a gaping hole that would be apparent to any who observed the many legislative hearings held on the topic:
You pretty much have to be white to have a Measure 37 claim.
Those hearing rooms were always filled with white people. In fact, if the lobby area outside of a hearing room was packed with angry middle-aged white people, then the chances were it was about M 37.
The drafters of Measure 37 wanted to take Oregon back to yesteryear, those halcyon days when the state’s minority communities were effectively barred from owning real estate and obtaining the keys to wealth building that home ownership offers…
…and the argument M 37 proponents offer is “fairness.”
In those days, just a few decades ago, redlining was the norm.
Financial institutions wouldn’t have lent an African American citizen the money to buy property outside of certain areas in Portland, much less prime real estate in the Williamette valley.
But the issue is about fairness….
Oregon’s Japanese citizens were locked away into interment camps in the 1940’s, their properties unreimbursed losses. Many sold their property under extreme duress, a direct windfall to the white citizens who scooped them up.
The M 37 argument is about fairness….
Oregon’s Latino and Chinese communities were also effectively barred from the wealth-building opportunities that real property ownership affords.
Native Americans were continuing to suffer from overt racism and actual genocide, and few would argue today the absence of fairness in driving property owners to the brink of starvation in order to motivate unwilling sellers.
Much of the Indian land was parceled out for free, exclusively to whites.
Fairness, indeed, is the argument….
The fact is that M 37 claimants have already benefited from the institutional racism embedded in Oregon laws and the Oregon Constitution.
Measure 37 claimants benefited originally from the fact that they bought their properties at a time when Oregon’s racial and ethnic minorities were excluded from the marketplace and competition was stifled, keeping prices lower than they would have been had the market been truly free and fair.
The further one goes back into Oregon’s history, tracing property ownership, the closer one gets to the days when the land taken from the Indians at the point of a gun was redistributed for free—exclusively to white settlers.
This is not an argument, but a reading of the actual history of the state, and not so long ago.
It is difficult to argue persuasively with people who are unfamiliar with history, who take the present for granted.
One would think from watching the M 37 hearings that the desire to build a few homes for retirement or to pass on to family members is a whites-only phenomenon, embedded in the genetic code.
After all, one would think, if Oregon’s racial and ethnic minorities valued these goals, then they would have bought up the land when it was there for the taking….
But the Oregon Constitution itself barred racial and ethnic minorities from residing in the state and purchasing real property for more than 100 years.
Oregon’s founding fathers sure knew how to put a selective damper on immigration.
An overwhelming majority of voters removed the last of that racist, exclusionary language from the Oregon Constitution only seven years ago...
…but 300,000 Oregon citizens voted to keep the racist language in the Constitution; again, only seven years ago.
That is ancient history for a lot of folks, and looking back thirty or forty years in time just makes people impatient.
“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us.” --T.Allsop 1831.
Fairness goes the M 37 argument, focus on the fairness…fairness, indeed.
Let’s focus on fairness.
I'm supporting Measure 49.
--Sean Cruz, October 1, 2007