[News] Portland's dark history of white supremacy
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 1 11:42:29 EDT 2017
Portland's dark history of white supremacy
Jason Wilson <https://www.theguardian.com/profile/wilson-jason> - May
Ciaran Mulloy remembers how the neo-Nazis outnumbered the anti-racists
in Portland <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/portland> in the 90s.
A union organiser and anti-fascist, he was was deeply involved in
fighting against the far right’s infiltration of American youth culture
in the 1980s and 90s. But when he arrived in the city in 1990, he said,
“we were not prepared for what was out there in Portland”.
“There were multiple gangs, and 300 Nazis in a city of 300,000,” he
said, adding: “The anti-racist youth were intimidated and isolated. The
Nazis were just openly hanging out on the streets.”
Drawn to the overwhelmingly white population, Nazis brought violence to
clubs, shows and the streets, carried out gay bashings, and assaulted
people of color.
Two years before Mulloy’s arrival, three racist skinheads beat Mulugeta
an Ethiopian student, to death in a suburban street. And in 1993, a
racist skinhead named Eric Banks was shot dead by John Bair, a member of
Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.
“It’s not hyperbolic to call it a war,” he said. “There was intense
fighting.” The racially charged double murder on a Portland train
last week may seem at odds with the city’s current image, and
self-perception, as liberal. But actually, the history of Portland, and
of Oregon, reveals an enduring current of white supremacy and militant
racism, experts say, that is apparent in the far and recent past.
Nearly two centuries of exclusion, violence and intimidation have
resulted in the whitest major city in the United States, in a state that
has in the past been fertile ground for the growth of extremism. Last
Friday’s violent attack came amid a new wave of “alt-right” organizing,
but Portland’s very whiteness has attracted far right groups to attempt
to make inroads in the city for more than 30 years.
Walidah Imarisha <http://www.walidah.com/>, an expert on Oregon’s black
history, said that while “Portland spends a lot of time being incredibly
self-satisfied”, the “foundation of Oregon as a state, and in fact the
whole Pacific north-west, was as a racist white utopia”.
It’s not hyperbolic to call it a war. There was intense fighting
First, the land was taken from its indigenous inhabitants and freely
given to white settlers. And while Oregonians take pride in the state’s
early move to outlaw slavery, Imarisha said that that pride rested on a
misunderstanding of the ban’s intent.
“In 1844 Oregon outlawed slavery,” she said, “but it also outlawed being
black in the state.”
Initially, the prescribed punishment for black people for simply being
in Oregon was up to 39 public lashes. This was quickly repealed, and
replaced in 1849 with a system of fines, arrests and deportations. From
1857 to 1927, there was a prohibition on black people entering the
state, which was enshrined in the state’s bill of rights. These laws
were sporadically enforced, but they sent a very clear message to
would-be settlers, black and white, and limited black migration to the
“The goal was to keep out people of color,” Imarisha said. “Oregonians
were anti-slavery not because of issues of racial justice, but because
they didn’t want people bringing enslaved black folks to Oregon.”
The exclusion laws, incorporated in Oregon’s constitution, were not
<http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/29/news/adna-racist29> until 2002,
after one of a series of campaigns led by people of color to expunge
them. Even then, 28% of voters opposed the measure to clear the language.
Has Donald Trump’s presidency emboldened racial violence? A brutal
double murder in Portland, a stabbing in California, and the hit-and-run
death of a Native American man – all within a few days – are dark signs
Chinese Americans were also prevented by the state constitution from
owning property, and from filing or working mining claims. Amid a
growing anti-Chinese movement throughout the country in the 1880s,
buildings in Portland’s Chinatown were burned down. And in Hell’s
Canyon, in eastern Oregon, a group of white men massacred 34 Chinese
miners in 1887.
Around that time, so-called “sundown towns
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundown_town>” began to form in the
state, as in the rest of the country – municipalities that endeavored to
stay all white using “laws, practices and the threat of violence”,
She added that even though racist ordinances are off the books now,
covert methods are still in use such that “there are hundreds of sundown
towns across this nation to this day”. An online project coordinated by
James Loewen, who wrote a book on the phenomenon, lists
<http://sundown.tougaloo.edu/sundowntownsshow.php?state=OR> several in
Oregon which remain almost wholly white.
And in Portland, “redlining <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining>”
was used in an attempt to confine people of color to specific
neighbourhoods. Adding in waves of gentrification, the net effect has
been the creation of the whitest major city in the US.
This deliberately crafted demography was one of the city’s, and the
region’s, attractions for white supremacist organisers in the 80s and 90s.
The White Aryan Resistance
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Aryan_Resistance>, masterminded by
Californian racist Tom Metzger, was actively recruiting skinheads in
Portland from the mid-1980s.
“He saw the spontaneous self-organization of skinhead youths into white
power organizations,” Mulloy said. “He wanted to turn it into a more
politicized movement and a fascist force.”
The foundation of Oregon as a state, and in fact the whole Pacific
north-west, was as a racist white utopia
Portland, and Oregon, were already integral to the far right’s plans.
“There was an idea floating around called the Northwest Imperative
Mulloy explained. Far-right leaders like Metzger and Richard Butler from
Aryan Nations imagined carving out the Pacific Northwest as a white
ethnostate, because it was already “the whitest part of the United States”.
This idea echoed the desires that the State’s founders codified in the
constitution, and is still enthusiatically discussed on “alt-right”
podcasts and websites.
By the time Mulloy went to Portland, the skinheads were deeply
entrenched. Anti-racists engaged them in a prolonged street conflict.
“The Portlandia image is quirky and middle class,” Mulloy said,
referring to the popular comedy sketch show that lampoons the city’s
liberal image. “Underneath that is a long history of working-class
militancy in Portland, from the right and the left.”
But he says that in the 1990s, other, non-violent tactics also played a
significant role in driving fascists underground – organizing and
building anti-racism into youth culture.
He thinks these tactics are still relevant, as the city prepares for an
“alt-right” rally downtown on Sunday
The rally is the latest in a series that has been growing in numbers and
militancy all year. Jeremy Christian, accused of attacking the three men
on Friday with a knife, attended one of them on 29 April.
He says they feed on the current downward mobility of the working class,
and Portland’s whiteness. “The ‘alt-right’ is careful not to embrace the
neo-Nazism of Metzger, but they’re using the same ingredients.”
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News