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Oregonians embrace diversity, but bias still exists, poll finds



PORTLAND TRIBUNE: TROY WAYRYNEN - Protesters hold up traffic as they march against traffic on Dec. 3, 2014, in Portland. Protesters were marching to bring awareness to the public against police brutality.Recent police killings of unarmed African-Americans in other states have helped make race the hottest issue in America today.

A recent survey conducted for Oregon Public Broadcasting found that most Oregon voters believe discrimination is still a serious problem here, too. But a majority also say we talk about race too much.

“Oregonians expressed conflicting opinions about race relations in the state. On the one hand, they believe that racism is still a problem and that most people hold some racist attitudes, while on the other hand most think we talk too much about race relations. As Oregon’s population becomes more diverse, how we collectively address — and talk about — these tensions will be one of the key challenges over the coming years,” said John Horvick, vice president and director of research for DHM Research, which interviewed 400 Oregon voters in mid-April.

Although Portland police have not killed any unarmed minorities in recent years, such deaths will be a focus of a downtown protest planned for Friday, May 1. A solidarity rally for Freddie Gray, the African-American whose death sparked riots in Baltimore, is planned for 2 p.m. at Portland State University near the South Park Blocks.

The rally is being organized by Don’t Shoot PDX, a protest group formed after the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. If it follows the pattern of previous May Day protests, it will include both permitted and unpermitted marches through downtown during the afternoon rush hour, and splinter groups breaking away from the main crowds.

In the recent survey, 76 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, “Racism is no longer a problem in Oregon.” Only 54 percent agreed that, “Everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has the same opportunity regardless of their race.” Forty-four percent disagreed.

At the same time, 55 percent of respondent agreed with the statement, “We talk too much about race and race relations.” Forty-two percent disagreed.

Perhaps that is because 72 percent of respondents are confident that police in their communities “treat everyone equally, regardless of their race.”

In fact, despite the recent race-related confrontations across the country, 65 percent of Oregonians say race relations are about the same here and 23 percent say they actually are getting better. Only 8 percent say race relations are getting worse.

When it comes to conflict between people of different races, most respondents — 73 percent — feel both are equally responsible. And 83 percent believe both are responsible for solving them.

But that does not mean most Oregonians are against improving race relations. Eight-six percent agreed with the statement, “Racial diversity is a good thing, and we should encourage it in our communities.” Only 12 percent believe that, “Oregon was a better place to live when there were fewer racial minorities living here.” And just 5 percent believe different races should live in different neighborhoods.

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