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White 'privilege' is not always what it seems

Readers' letters


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Schwinn bikes are the draw for members of club Belligerante in Northeast Portland that attracts a racially diverse crowd. Letter writers say it's time to have a good conversation about racial relations.Verenice Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, doesn’t have a clue how racist she sounds — and she’s a Portland Public Schools educator (“Schools beat the drum for equity,” Sept. 6). I will not endorse the system that created her by voting yes on a half-billion dollar school bond.

If I were a black parent and could afford it, I would be looking around at private school options in Portland. Young, black males are capable of intellectual achievement. They don’t need more stereotypes about their musical ability.

Here’s an assignment for Gutierrez: Go talk to some white skinheads about why they are the way they are. Don’t be surprised if you find out that “white privilege” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Pamela Fitzsimmons

Southeast Portland

Looking for racism? You’ll find it

Of course, Principal Verenice Gutierrez finds racism in the PB&J (“Schools beat the drum for equity,” Sept. 6), she’s looking for racism.

When you are constantly looking for evidence of something, you will find it, whether it is real or not.

Yevgeni Stepanov

Pleasanton, Calif.

Discussion of racism falls flat

Since white people are the ones responsible for almost all of the effects of racism in this country, maybe they should be having this annual “Why can’t we talk about race?” (Sept. 6) discussion amongst themselves to figure out how to solve a problem they created in the first place.

The minoritized groups on the receiving end of institutionalized racial bias must be getting really sick and tired of explaining how the world really works to people who aren’t listening anyway.

Gerhard Magnus

Northwest Portland

Math team runs into discrimination

Regarding the story, “Schools beat the drum for equity” (Sept. 6), about Harvey Scott School principal Verenice Gutierrez supporting the formation of a black and Latino drum class:

In 2005, when I served as chair of the mathematics department at Benson Polytechnic High School, my principal, Christie Plinski, called me into her office and asked what I would recommend as a means for improving the achievement of African-American students of Benson in mathematics.

I told her that I would sponsor a math club specifically designed to address African accomplishments in mathematics.

It would have the title, the African Math Club, and anyone could join, but it would be designed to highlight the undoubted accomplishments of African mathematicians.

(I have an master’s degree in the history of science in addition to my master’s degree in mathematics.)

My principal refused, not once but several times, to approve such a method of improving African-American students’ access to mathematics.

She told me it would be contrary to nondiscriminatory regulations and laws.

I leave the reader to draw his or her own conclusion.

Michael Meo

Northeast Portland

Racial dialogue takes more than talk

I greatly enjoyed the Tribune article, “Why can’t we talk about race?” (Sept. 6). However, I have a concern regarding it and one important observation.

My concern is that the topic addressed the entire issue of race talk and racism in Portland as though it is exclusively a black/white problem. There was no mention of Latinos, Asians, American Indians and other people of color groups.

Diversity in Portland has become synonymous with “black.” When organizations want to increase their diversity, they hire blacks, not Latinos, Asians or others. The majority of minority positions in City Hall have gone to African-Americans; the same goes with Portland Community College.

Yet, African Americans comprise less than 2 percent of the population of Oregon, while Latinos are at 12 percent. Blacks are 6 percent of the population of Portland; Latinos are 9 percent. The majority/minority population group in Portland is Latino.

None of this came out in the article. We are not going to move forward in this city if racism is seen simply as a black/white problem.

A big reason “why we can’t talk about race” is due to the problem of omission versus commission. Whites see racism as acts of commission — what you have actually done; while people of color see racism as acts of omission — what you failed to do.

As Thomas Kochman says in “Black and White Styles of Conflict” (Chicago), “Whites start from a premise that a situation is not racist until we prove it is. Blacks start from a premise that the situation is until you prove it’s not.”

Thus, whites would rather do nothing when confronted with a “perceived” racist situation than take action, so as to not be regarded as racist.

This is why there is an impasse in dialogue. Thus, no action is taken, because “doing nothing” makes me non-racist.

Yet, in taking no action, the “bystander” has merely gone along with the status quo and silently supported the prevailing discrimination and racist policies and behaviors.

But, as Ben Franklin reminded us, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Welcome to the conversation.

Caleb Rosado

Newberg

Honor Timberline, stop bike park

Every Oregonian needs to extend a thank you to Jon Tullis for penning the essay celebrating the 75th anniversary of Timberline Lodge (“Timberline Lodge still a jewel 75 years later,” Sept. 27).

He perfectly explained why Timberline is held in such high esteem, and why we are all responsible for the preservation and protection of our historic mountain home.

At the end of his essay, Tullis even testified to his personal belief in the historic meaningfulness of the lodge.

It is our hope that this a signal that RLK and Co. is withdrawing its proposal for a commercial gravity flow mountain bike park at the lodge since such an enterprise is the antithesis of everything Tullis wrote.

Here is a small sampling of what we know about the proposed pay-to-ride bike park:The elk that have used Timberline for their summer habitat for hundreds of years will be displaced in order that people can recreate with their bicycles.

The miles of bike trails will annually release tons of sediment into the watershed that is the source of Still Creek and the West Fork of the Salmon River, and also introduce invasive noxious plants that will replace the wildflower meadows with a monoculture of weeds unless controlled by herbicides.

The “inspired alpine setting” of the “iconic” lodge will be sacrificed for an adventure park atmosphere on a daily basis, and also to be a venue for the touring Pro-Am race circuit. (Google “mountain bike parks” to view educational videos of these parks in action.)

If the core belief of RLK and Co. is to “honor the Lodge’s original rustic charm,” then it will cancel this misguided adventure.

We can all appreciate another love letter to Timberline, but as we all know, action speaks louder than words.

Dennis Chaney

Northeast Portland

Chairman of the

Friends of Mount Hood

Library district maintains a treasure

Thanks to the Tribune for its insightful endorsement of the library district (“Say yes to school bond, library district,” Oct. 4).

Voting yes for the library district will reverse the erosion of resources for one of our most treasured civic assets and provide dedicated and stable funding for years to come.

I am voting yes for our libraries, yes for an educated and inspired Multnomah County, and yes for our collective future.

Tom Mattox

Northwest Portland

School bonds build better future

I believe in a good quality public education for the youth of Portland.

An essential first step is to ensure we’re providing safe and high quality buildings for them to learn in.

Children deserve buildings that are seismically safe, with roofs that don’t leak, and with properly heated and lighted classrooms where they will want to learn.

Portland’s future generations deserve educational facilities with science labs that contribute to skills for a 21st century economy and jobs. It’s time to end the era of divestment in public education in this state.

Portland voters have the opportunity to reverse that trend by voting yes on Measure 26-144.

Brian Hoop

Northwest Portland