Monday, May 2, 2011

Local Color

Interesting post to the "Lost Oregon" Web site on Portland's radical past, focusing particularly on the immediate post-World War II era:

I was struck once again by how many of these cases related to civil rights. Oregon's heritage in this regard is seriously scarred; the succession of stories about accusations of radicalism based upon race relations activism--and about radical groups standing, often nearly alone, on the side of racial justice--is a significant reminder that the practice of typecasting civil rights concerns as the work of Communist infiltrators seeking to arouse domestic unrest was not isolated to the South.

That said, we must bear in mind that this is not the complete story. Oregon Public Broadcasting's excellent 1991 documentary, "Local Color," outlines how a young Republican state legislator named Mark Hatfield, for example, played an important role in finally securing passage of a public accommodations bill in the early 1950s.

These are stories of which Oregonians (indeed, Americans more generally) should be aware, especially at a time when the leaders of cities such as Portland are just beginning to become aware of the darker side of gentrification. Significant numbers of African Americans are being driven from the very neighborhoods to which they were once confined by red-lining and de facto segregationist practices: see recent Oregonian coverage.

Too often, we fail to acknowledge the role the past plays in how we perceive the present. Ignoring Oregon's history doesn't erase the past; rather, it causes future division without equipping citizens to make thoughtful, informed decisions.

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