By Sean Cruz
The Oregonian’s January 18 story on Portland’s lack of diversity drew a smorgasbord of comments from mostly irate, mostly white folks, here:
Some attacked the content of Betsy Hammond’s story; even more lambasted The Oregonian for placing the information on the front page, or for printing it at all.
Some felt personally insulted by the data; for others, racial and ethnic insults rolled off the tongue with unsurprising ease.
I was moved to make the following comment:
Posted by seancruz on 01/18/09 at 11:22AM
I want to thank The Oregonian and Betsy Hammond for bringing this issue forward.
The appallingly ignorant comments posted by so many "readers" demonstrate that it is difficult to argue successfully with those who believe that history is irrelevant to the present, who have probably never read a history book, and who are offended by facts.
The one area that the article missed is the demographics of Native Americans; that is, the remnants of the non-white people that the white settlers didn't slaughter as completely as they would have liked.
As an openly Mexican-American former candidate for public office, I recognize the bias in the comments. I've heard them my entire life.
Regardless of one's qualifications, a racial or ethnic minority candidate can never win a vote from these people, and that is a fact of life.
Less than ten years ago, Oregon voters overwhelmingly voted to remove the last of the racial exclusionary language from the Oregon constitution, but 300,000 voted to keep the references in, providing a quick count of the number of actual racists living in the state.
The demographics are real, and they do make a difference in our everyday lives.
See this earlier posting for more information on the subject:
White tide--not blue--sweeps the Oregon House! The Senate is next!
The Oregonian article noted that Oregon public policy is controlled from a white point of view at every level: city, county, state, and in special districts like Metro.
This is a simple statement of fact, an absolute fact, across the state.
Measure 37 offered a clear picture of how race affects public policy. Its proponents intentionally wanted to turn the clock back to a time when only white people could buy property in Oregon, but not so far back as to include Native Oregonians.
Every Measure 37 hearing was packed with white people. No diversity at all was present. I wrote about this issue previously here:
Measure 37 and the case for affirmative action
As President Barack Obama takes office, The Nation becomes achingly aware that our national capitol was built with Black slave labor, a really inconvenient truth.
Some want to believe that the United States had a virgin birth, Oregon an Immaculate Conception. They become angry when the facts of history are raised, when the issues that mattered then are placed in the historical context of now, and some of them commented on The Oregonian’s story in that spirit.
Race and the history of race is a fundamental issue in every nation, in every community, in every population everywhere in the world. It is fundamental to the human condition.
The Oregonian did well to bring the issue forward, and to put it where it belongs, on the front page of Oregon’s largest news organization, above the fold.
Sean Cruz writes:
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