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Oregon’s White History Uniforms

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Oregon loves its white heritage. As a native, I’ll be honest, Oregon history is really boring. It missed out on most of the interesting flash points of US West history. It lacked almost all of the Old West violence that people love. There were no major wars with Native Americans. There was almost no mining, especially compared to every other state. It experienced relatively little transformation during World War II, especially as its major World War II city was wiped out by a flood soon after the war. So what Oregon as its central mythology is logging, which is controversial enough in an environmentalist-oriented state with an embittered pro-logging minority that is too recent to embrace, and its pioneer history. That is pretty boring to tell you truth. It’s a bunch of conservative white people moving from Ohio and Indiana and starting farms in the Willamette Valley. And that’s pretty much it. But at the beginning of that is the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Oregon loves it some Lewis and Clark. It’s kind of unclear why. It’s an exciting story in a sense. But it’s also a story that is central to American conquest. Yes, the expedition was relatively nonviolent toward Native Americans. But there’s no question what this was about–Clark’s brother George Rogers Clark was an architect of the late 18th century Indian conquest and William came from the same cloth. And that this is so central to Oregon historical mythology makes sense in how the state is so white. Portland has become the nation’s white paradise, but it kind of always was, with the original Oregon constitution banning African-Americans from the state and with the state never developing a large African-American population.

And then there are the Oregon uniforms. Largely, I love them, even the ugly ones, because I want the Ducks to win, as challenging as that has been with the atrocious quarterbacks of the 2015 edition. They help Oregon win because the kids love crazy uniforms. So it really helps a team in a state with a big zero of high school talent to recruit quality players. They keep coming up with new ideas. And on Saturday, Oregon will be wearing Lewis and Clark uniforms. I have trouble with this because it’s another example of Oregonians embracing a white supremacist history as its core mythology. I can’t be comfortable with this. No, it’s probably not the equivalent of Mississippi fans bringing Confederate flags to games. But then we still downplay racism toward Native Americans in American culture, even on the left, as we often forget about them when thinking about racism in the present. Lewis and Clark uniforms are uniforms celebrating American conquest. That’s not cool. Not at all.

Maybe I’m taking this too seriously. But the politics of history matter and so much of American history is based upon exclusion and white supremacy. That includes the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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