Saturday night Derwood and I went to dinner at Toro Bravo in NE Portland, I have heard that it is always crowded and doesn’t take reservations. It opens at 5:00, so we went at 4:45 so we could just scootch in when it opened. We arrived early and found that there were dozens of people already in line. Stunned, we drove around the block looked for a parking space, we drove by a housing project, Nike Factory Store, library, etc. We circled, parked and got in line. Food is fabulous, great night.
I tell you that to discuss this. Toro Bravo is a cool restaurant in an old building in an old Portland neighborhood, located 75 yards from a housing project. The area was a “Do Not Enter” sort of place 20 years ago but the area is gentrifying. Do you know how many African Americans were in the restaurant?
Portland, Oregon for all its progressive politics and hoopla over food and cycling, has a secret…although not a very well-kept one. Portland is a deeply segregated city. In my opinion (which you are all entitled to), this city is so busy patting itself on the back for its organic foods, farm to table restaurants, recycling and composting programs, trams and light rails, bike lanes and boxes, etc., it ignores the very ugly reality that the black community in this city has been systemically disenfranchised and continues to be pushed to the outer fringes of the metropolitan area.
Anecdotally, I know that Portland Public Schools has been failing African American students since before I was born. My mother taught at Boise (pronounced: Boyce) Elementary in Albina, a predominantly black neighborhood. She told me stories about dealing with parents who were beating the crap out of their children because they thought that would make the kids perform better in school, about begging the administration and school board to get certain bright kids out of the school and somewhere where they would have a chance, about watching the news and seeing one of her favorite students following in his father’s armed robbery footsteps. Today Boise is in the bottom 15% of Portland Public schools, the population is 60% black, almost 91% of the students are on free or reduced lunch. Fifty years later and not much has changed, maybe nothing has changed.
I have done a bit of research for this post and these are my findings:
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, 2 (TWO, dos, deux) percent of Oregon’s population is African American. The nationwide average is 13.1%. The 2010 census shows that 6.3% of Portland’s population is black. A 2007 census report says 3.1% of Portland’s businesses are owned by African Americans.
Here is an excerpt from an article on OregonLive.com by Nicole Hannah-James:
The seeds of gentrification were planted during World War II, when African Americans from the South flowed into Portland to take jobs in the shipyards. Portland officials and community members, from real estate agents to bankers, pushed the black community into a small area called Lower Albina, near the present-day Rose Quarter, through redlining and other now-illegal practices. White Portlanders fled, and the city began a long pattern of disinvestment. Street and sidewalk repairs were neglected, and the city did little to develop businesses or enforce housing codes, said Karen Gibson, a Portland State University urban planner who has studied gentrification and is the author of a 2007 study entitled “Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000.”
Many banks refused to make home loans in black areas. Some residents were denied loans for less money than their bank-approved car loans. Appraisers artificially devalued the area’s housing stock, so even people who did own saw little growth in wealth or equity that they could tap to maintain their homes. Predatory lenders swept in, and the area became ripe for drugs and crime.
“Portland is smug about its progressivism,” Gibson said. “But Portland is in denial, and whites don’t want to acknowledge how their policies benefit them — someone had to sacrifice for these nice 20-minute neighborhoods.” She asked: “Do we want equality in this city? What do we want?” (Emphasis is mine).
I am a native Oregonian and I was never taught in the public schools I attended that Oregon has a long history of racism and segregation, albeit handled much like it is today. Say nice things but do the opposite. Back when Oregon was just a territory in 1844, slavery was deemed illegal BUT
“That same 1844 law ordered all black people out of the Oregon Territory under threat of lashing. This “Lash Law” mandated black people be publicly flogged every six months; however, before it could be enforced, it was modified and the whippings were replaced with forced labor.” Pete Shaw, Oregon Occupier.
The Oregon Occupier sounds like a publication that has a pretty strong agenda so I ran the Google on Lash Law and Mr. Shaw didn’t make that up, plenty of information available on that and other exclusionary laws.
Any of my native Oregonian friends ever heard about this? In 1848 an Exclusion Law was passed banning any “negro or or mulatto” from living in Oregon Territory.
You can read more here
So decades have passed, Portland mayors and city councils have come and gone, and nothing has changed. A few months ago Portland’s mayor, Charlie Hales, said “The job is starting to look like more fun now.” I suppose that is because all the tough problems have been taken care of. Oh Phew!
“He gets excited talking about the big issues: How to keep Portland’s neighborhoods livable, how to bring smart development and services to east Portland, how to maximize and accelerate development around TriMet light rail stations on the yet-to-open Orange Line through the eastside.” Andrew Theen, The Oregonian.