Portland's dark history of white supremacy

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tags: racism, White Supremacy



Nearly two centuries of exclusion, violence and intimidation have resulted in the whitest major city in the United States, in a state that has in the past been fertile ground for the growth of extremism. Last Friday’s violent attack came amid a new wave of “alt-right” organizing, but Portland’s very whiteness has attracted far right groups to attempt to make inroads in the city for more than 30 years.

Walidah Imarisha, an expert on Oregon’s black history, said that while “Portland spends a lot of time being incredibly self-satisfied”, the “foundation of Oregon as a state, and in fact the whole Pacific north-west, was as a racist white utopia”.

It’s not hyperbolic to call it a war. There was intense fighting


Ciaran Mulloy, union organiser and anti-fascist


First, the land was taken from its indigenous inhabitants and freely given to white settlers. And while Oregonians take pride in the state’s early move to outlaw slavery, Imarisha said that that pride rested on a misunderstanding of the ban’s intent.

“In 1844 Oregon outlawed slavery,” she said, “but it also outlawed being black in the state.”

Initially, the prescribed punishment for black people for simply being in Oregon was up to 39 public lashes. This was quickly repealed, and replaced in 1849 with a system of fines, arrests and deportations. From 1857 to 1927, there was a prohibition on black people entering the state, which was enshrined in the state’s bill of rights. These laws were sporadically enforced, but they sent a very clear message to would-be settlers, black and white, and limited black migration to the state.





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