Oregon’s original constitution included a “bill of rights” that banned black people the state.
The state used a popular vote to adopt their constitution and had separate votes on two issues. Oregon residents voted to outlaw slavery with a strong 75% majority. But an overwhelming 89% voted to ban black or any mixed race people from the state.
The laws were technically overturned by the federal government’s 14th amendment, which Oregon ratified in 1866, but then un-ratified in 1868 (largely symbolic).
We like to whitewash our history and think that segregation and racism only happened in the South, or that being anti-slavery meant people weren’t racist. Not so.
I first heard about this history at the White Privilege Conference and Gizmodo has a fascinating blog post about it.
And of course Oregon isn’t the only Northern state with a troubled racial history. The Gizmodo blog links to a story about a black family buying a home in a white, Minneapolis neighborhood in the 1930s and the riot that ensued.
Last week I attended the White Privilege Conference in Louisville, Ky. The name of the conference always raises eyebrows, especially when people don’t understand the concept of white privilege.
The conference gets criticism on both sides. It also gets the attention of the KKK, which tells me they must be doing something right.
So is it a bunch of white people sitting around in a guilt trip? No. It’s not the Privileged White People Conference. It’s about realizing the various kinds of bias we have in our lives—racial and otherwise—how it often leads to oppression of various forms, and what we can do to stop it.
The fact that I’m a white, anglo-saxon male with a college degree gives me certain privileges and biases that color how I see the world. It doesn’t mean I’m a racist, but it does mean I’m immersed in a society built on discrimination. Many of those biases have unknowingly become a part of who I am. It comes up in everything from the color of bandages (why does the “flesh color” match my skin but not my son’s?) to how we related to the police.
For example, Franklin Graham seems to have a different relationship to the police than the black citizens of Minneapolis.
“Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience.” -Franklin Graham
“People just feel alienated from the police, or don’t trust the police, or don’t think maybe that the kid is going to be treated fairly, or don’t think that calling the police makes a difference, or don’t feel empowered to engage the police.” -School Board Member Don Samuels, who lives in predominately black North Minneapolis (in a report on the racial bias in Minneapolis policing)
Continue reading White Privilege & the Ferguson Report