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Recognize racism, then change it

Readers' Letters
by: L.E. BASKOW, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith discusses the possible closing of Jefferson High School with community leaders Ron Herndon and Tony Hopson (right) at a school board work session in June. The board recently attempted to dramatically overhaul Jefferson High School amid the African-American community’s protests.

I was pleased to see your front page article on racism in Portland (Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?, July 1). Portland's racism is subtle - for white folks.

I was one of the participants in the city of Portland's series of intensive three-hour sessions of facilitated dialogue. I am a left-leaning, middle-aged white woman who would have told you before those sessions that I had not a racist bone in my body and was open to diversity and all that it means.

What I learned during that dialogue (six weeks of three-hour sessions) was that I had deep-seated biases I didn't even realize existed. I had the 'Why don't they just pull themselves up by the bootstraps?' mentality that allows disconnected white folks to place the burden and blame of racism back onto people of color.

I know now that I had a basic misunderstanding of the impact of racism on people of color. It is huge. It is every day. It is something they can't escape just by wishing things were different. It impacts health, job availability, opportunity, wealth - even walking down the street.

I was pleased to see your article on racism because what we need are many, many more people talking about it. We need to acknowledge that it exists. When we - especially us whites - see it, we need to call it out. We need to express emphatically that it is not OK and that we will not tolerate it. We also need begin dismantling institutional racism, but we can't start until we begin saying 'Yes, I see this racism. Yes, I want to change it.'

Penelope Luedtke

Northeast Portland

Portland already combats prejudice

Regarding 'Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?' (July 1), as a white woman who semi-regularly attends the Restorative Listening Project and fully participated in an Office of Human Relations Latino-White Dialogue group, I am proud of the work our city and its populace are doing to attempt to combat the pervasive racism, prejudice and bias that exist in individuals and institutions.

Thank you for this terrific article.

Sandy Bacharach

Northeast Portland

Gentrification must stop

What is Portland doing about racism? I'll tell you: gentrification. Plain and simple (Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?, July 1).

TriMet builds MAX rails through poor, underdeveloped neighborhoods (which house many minorities - largely in part due to segregation many years ago that hindered the social and economic development of minorities), and then the city raises the land value of the property in those poor neighborhoods, kicks out the residents when they can't afford the taxes, and then auctions their property off for a fraction of the price so Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Starbucks and a 7-Eleven can open a shop (near) the MAX line. The minorities are being pushed as far out of the city as possible.

I'm from North Carolina, where I have witnessed segregation and racism over the course of many years. And yes, it is more open there than it is here, but the fact remains that it does exist here in Portland and many of the residents are either ignorantly blind to it or they don't realize it because all you see are white people when you walk down the streets.

The true issue of racism will not be addressed in this city until the gentrification stops, and until the cops stop racially profiling people (and killing them at their discretion).

John Dandridge

Southeast Portland

School's failures are due to race

Regarding 'Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?' (July 1), if Jefferson High School was a white school with 400 kids, it would have been closed 30 years ago.

Kathryn Hogan

Southwest Portland

Racism affects whites, too

I am white, and finally gave up on urban living after being the victim of racism for too long (Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?, July 1). I can barely afford to live where I do, but I have had enough of racism and bias being leveled against me by people with different skin color and culture than I have.

There are no 'whites victimized by racism' groups that aren't racist or separatist to begin with. I have no desire to be racially separate or biased, but my own inner peace forces my moving to where I am separate for my safety.

Now I live far enough away from my neighbors that we don't even know each other. After 20 years of care and attention to being a good neighbor to everyone I lived near and still being punished for my race, I've given up on urban society.

I could care less if 'talking' about racism does any good. It never did for me.

Dan Jacobs

Washougal, Wash.

People with agendas can find racism

Anyone with an agenda will find what they want to find (Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?, July 1).

Perhaps it isn't about race, it's about behavior.

R. Lee Willis

Scappoose

Portlanders need to listen more

Thank you, Portland Tribune, for writing an article that speaks to some of the real problems we have in this city around race (Racism in Portland What Are We Doing?, July 1).

We have a long way to go before people will stop putting up their defenses and denial and just listen to their neighbors' experiences with their hearts as well as their ears. As a white person living and working in Portland, I was frustrated by how segregated this city is and therefore my social life as well.

Since I have taken the simple step of reaching out and listening to and engaging with people of different races, I understand more fully the impact of race on all of our lives. I'm happy to say my social life has blossomed, too.

I for one will keep working to build bridges, through Courageous Conversations about Race in Portland Public Schools and in my community.

Linea King

North Portland

Racism is in eye of beholder

A white person goes into a restaurant and doesn't get served right away, the service is poor. A black person doesn't get served right away, it is because of racism (Racism in Portland: What are we doing?, July 1).

You see what you want to see.

Scott Butler

Northwest Portland

White apologies not a solution to racism

This is the biggest piece of white apologist crap I have ever seen (My View: Whites need to deepen understanding of race, July 8). Really? 'In my whiteness'? So, in her whiteness, is she saying that someone who is white could not run a school that is attended primarily by black students? And about 'white privilege' - what exactly is that?

Does that mean that just because somebody is white they have things better? Would you mind explaining that to some poor white family that has lost its jobs, its home, everything?

You would think that with a black man in the White House we would have come to the end of this apologist crap: Saying, 'Sorry, I'm white. I know I should feel bad about it because 200 or so years ago my people enslaved your people.'

So, does that mean I have the right to go up to someone of Italian descent and say, 'Hey, the Romans enslaved my ancestors 1,000 years ago, I want you to feel bad about that and say you're sorry.'

Get over it.

In this day and age, there is no white privilege. I work side by side with white people, Asian people, black people, Hispanic people, everybody. It's about who can do the job.

Maybe if people like you stopped apologizing for what color you were born, other people wouldn't focus so much on what anybody else's color was.

Dennison Adkins

Southeast Portland

Concept of race does not exist

From an anthropological perspective, race is a subjective concept that is usually dismissed as irrelevant (Whites need to deepen understanding of race, July 8).

There is not such thing as race, and the sooner we all learn this the better off we'll be.

Patrik C. Martin

Southeast Portland