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Civil Rights Footage from Portland


For Martin Luther King Day, The Oregonian complied some footage of the civil rights movement in Portland. This is powerful stuff. The two most riveting segments are of the racial tensions at the high school, including a meeting where the kids are yelling at each other, and a story about a black family who integrated a neighborhood in Beaverton, a Portland suburb, and then were forced out because of racial harassment, deciding to abandon Oregon entirely and move back to Washington, DC.

This footage is especially important given that not only is Portland today White Paradise, but Oregon has always functioned as a White Paradise and most residents of the state are not remotely aware of this.

There are longer pieces of footage at the link.

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  • BiloSagdiyev

    But wait, there’s more! I don’t have the book at hand right now, but I read it just a few months ago. The family that was harrassed and left town, the father was a US Navy NCO. His son met a local white girl on the beach one day, just a brief encounter. Later on, he joined the Army, fought in Vietnam, came back, met her again in Southern California, they fall in love, early 70’s, smoking dope, yadda yadda yadda, and the next thing you know they’ve hijacked a jetliner and wind up in Algeria with the Black Panthers in exile!

    But they weren’t very political. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. They wound up in France, and she later just vanished in Europe. He got extradited to the US, after a long spell in France.

    The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking
    by Brendan I. Koerner

    The book is also just a tragicomic overview of a long, solid decade of hijacking by goofballs and misfits, mostly, and a long, slow response by the federal government and airline industry to the problem.

    I’ll stop gnawing on Paul Harvey’s femur now.

  • DAS

    Some of Oregon’s history was covered in an episode of Finding Your Roots: Ty Burrell has an ancestor who lived in Oregon and passed as white but was actually part African-American.

    As to the larger point, it’s interesting how “white” many progressive “utopias” are. One hypothesis I’ve seen raised is that it’s easier to convince people in a homogeneously populated state/nation to support social welfare programs because they feel that the money is going to “one of us” rather than “those people”. Is there any evidence for this? I know there are certainly many apparently homogeneous places in which the reaction to the homogeneity is to salami-slice identity so that even those from different sub-regions/social classes/tribes become “those people” (an extreme case of this being Somalia).

    • howard

      i don’t know whether proof can be offered, but that theory has especially been identified with the question of why the european welfare state remains much stronger than the american “safety net.”

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Krugman has talked about this here and there. Here’s one link:


      Can’t find a better link in a hurry, but he has cited academic work showing differences among nations, homogeneity vs. welfare state/safety net.

      I think an extreme and obvious example of this all would be the Japanese, who all seem to be in agreement that they’re all Japanese and deserve quality education, health care when old, etc etc.

      (Make a grumble about the Ainu here. And those few hundred people who are part Korean from 300 years ago. Really.)

      I don’t think any of this explains why cultural libs like to cluster in places like Portland or Madison. I’d say they do it because it beats living among the gun maniacs and godbotherers.

      • Dennis Orphen

        If anyone wants to anyone wants to get to the bottom of the question why cultural libs cluster in places like Madison and Portland, I would be happy to answer any questions, having lived mostly in one or the other since 1984, time and bandwidth permitting. There is an untold story of migratory patterns there on a par with the white flight to the suburbs of the post-war era. In fact it might be a continuation of that narrative arc, the second act or the flip side of the coin.

    • Bill Murray

      As to the larger point, it’s interesting how “white” many progressive “utopias” are.

      Who has time to dream of utopia, except those with money, which in America and Western Europe mean white people

      • The MOVE compound was a sort of utopia.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          “Not anymore.”
          -Chief Inspctor Jacques Clouseau

  • Mike in DC

    I think racism incorporates a “zero sum” view of socioeconomic and political gains/perks/allocations. That is, anything which is given to an Other group(e.g., black citizens) is something somehow taken away from the In group(e.g. white citizens). This line of thinking is absolutely antithetical to any kind of political or socioeconomic egalitarianism. Privilege, from this perspective, is destroyed when it is extended.

  • Kathleen

    I attended the University of Portland from 1967 to 1971. We had very few African American students, and the school’s idea of diversity was to offer scholarships to qualifying students from the Midwest. I was one of those students.

    Frankly, I was too young and self absorbed to pay attention to what was happening in Portland, though I do remember the school facilitating a discussion between African American neighborhood residents and city officials in an effort to resolve grievances and I was part of that group.

    To his credit, a new Academic Vice President initiated an exchange program with Xavier University in New Orleans in an effort to encourage diversity. Two of us from UP went to New Orleans during Spring semester of 1969, and Xavier sent 3 African American students to UP, one of whom stayed at UP and graduated from there.

    I moved to Cincinnati when I graduated, and over the years questioned why I came back and had flirted with the idea of going back to Portland. At this stage of my life I don’t think I’d find it interesting enough. I’ve grown to appreciate Cincinnati and its heritage and its diversity.

    • Thirtyish

      I moved to Cincinnati when I graduated, and over the years questioned why I came back and had flirted with the idea of going back to Portland. At this stage of my life I don’t think I’d find it interesting enough. I’ve grown to appreciate Cincinnati and its heritage and its diversity.

      For many years I dreamed of living on the West Coast, but at some point I decided that the East Coast–with its rich and vibrant history and diversity–was much more to my liking. I love the scenery of the American West, but culturally it is just not interesting enough for me.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Spent my whole childhood thinking that the West coast was where it was at, but never did move out there and can’t imagine being able to afford CA, even though I might like it… but the more I think about, really, the east coast is just… where I’m from. Even if the religion and politics of the region I live in are not my 5 gallon bucket of rancid tea, when I go into the woods, well, it’s almost exactly like being in the woods or mountains where I grew up.

  • Anna in PDX

    According to my black colleagues it is still exhausting to live in Portland as a black person. Many of the younger generation go somewhere else for college and never come back. This city has a lot to answer for.

  • Dennis Orphen

    Would a fellow who still calls the corner of 39th Ave and Portland Blvd ‘the corner of 39th Ave and Portland Blvd’ have anything to answer for?

    And King/Union? There is a whole post for Mr. Loomis right there if you think about it. And especially because Portland wasn’t the only city where that happened.

    • Anna in PDX

      There was an article in maybe the Atlantic? About MLK boulevards in many cities and how they are all in poor minority rundown sections of town.

      The 39th renaming was kind of a big deal here but most everyone I know does not say Portland Blvd or Union Ave anymore. (There are exceptions.)

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