This weekend, a group of racist extremists are planning to rally in support of an abhorrent, anti-American and anti-Oregonian ideology.
They have chosen to march in a part of Portland that has a history of race-based cruelty, and their dogwhistles are an attempt to add to that history of cruelty.
I will not give them any more attention than that.
The impact of the history of racist actions in North and Northeast Portland continues to be felt today, in the lives, lost hopes and memories of our fellow Oregonians. These are the stories that we need to remember if we are to avoid repeating history, to avoid allowing extreme voices to carry the day and make decisions for us that will leave future generations shaking their heads.
The floodplains along the Columbia River are the aboriginal homelands and ceded lands of bands, tribes and indigenous peoples of the region, and also near the site of one of Oregon’s most tragic histories, the Vanport Flood, one of the few areas in our state where racially-segregated Black Oregonians were allowed to live. They then fought for their lives after a catastrophic flood. The flood displaced 30,000 people from their homes in Vanport and caused more than 50 deaths. After the flood, they were driven out of the racially-diverse community by right-wing racists and city officials.
The Vanport Flood is one of a series of linked tragedies that have permanently impacted, displaced and indigenous people in Oregon and across the Columbia River Basin. The Vanport Flood was used by the federal government as a catalyst to dam the Columbia River for flood control and power generation. This forced thousands of people from their homes, permanently flooding vast river valleys of the Columbia River Basin. These actions were, and continue to be, especially devastating to tribes across the region who have lost of ancestral homelands, suffered negative impacts to natural resources, and lost cultural sites and burial grounds that were inundated after construction of the dams.
Up the road, the Portland Expo Center was the site of one of America’s horrific crimes against humanity, the jailing of Japanese Americans just for their ethnicity during World War II. More than 3,600 Japanese Americans were jailed at Expo Center – then a livestock exhibition hall – before being sent to camps in Idaho and California.
These are painful stories. We have an obligation to do better.
Our elections are in six weeks. I urge all Oregonians to consider what future they want for our country, and to put their energy into building that future.