Oregon: The State of Supremacy

Author Note: Previously published on May 29th- cataloguing here as well.

I attended a protest for George Floyd in late May, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the numerous other protests and demonstrations across the world.. Speakers kept saying “We cannot let white supremacy and racism take over our state.”

There is a very real truth about Oregon that we all need to understand and grapple with. Oregon, as a state, was envisioned to be a utopia for white supremacists. Let that sink in. Some of you may know this. For some of you, this may be a brand new thing. Our state was designed to be whites only.

Oregon was admitted to the US in 1859. At that time, it was the only state who had a constitution that banned black people from living, owning property or working within it’s borders.

Up til 1926, it was illegal for black people to move into the state and couldn’t vote til ‘27.

After the end of the civil war, it billed itself as a promised land for white folk looking to escape the reconstruction of the South. During the 1920’s, the state had a Ku Klux Klan membership that was well over 35,000, in 60 local chapters.

9,000 of them lived in Portland. They had a Women of the Ku Klux Klan, The Junior Order of Klansmen (teenagers), and the Royal Riders of the Red Robe (foreign Protestants)

The Klan was able to oust the sitting Governor and force him from the state. They won lots of elections.

Portland itself was one of the most segregated cities outside of the Confederate south.

Portland officials let the city of Vanport, home to the majority of black residents, flood without warning a single resident. It resulted in wide scale destruction of homes, the school, and Vanport College (which became Portland State University)

Oregon even has it’s very own Trail of Tears. They made a blind indigenous woman walk barefoot from Coo’s Bay to Yachats.

Here is Walidah Imarisha talking about the historical reasons why Oregon’s black population is so small.

We have countless historical accounts of murdering indigenous peoples, chasing minority groups of out of cities/towns. We have sundown towns. We have a MASSIVE population of white supremacists in this state.

We have neo-nazis. We have proud boys. We have 3%ers. We have white separatist groups.

The point is, our history is appalling. White supremacy and racism have already taken over our state. It is embedded in the veins of the Oregon territory. It is our job to educate ourselves on it. It is our job to never forget it and to actively combat it daily. (Each link is for a different topic/ subsection).

Educator. Author.

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