Just in case you haven’t noticed, I love Oregon a lot. I feel like that annoying cheerleader with way too much school spirit shouting “I’ve got Portland Pride!” Yep, I totally became that girl.
Unfortunately, while doing a little MLK & Oregon research last night, I came across a few things that left me feeling less like a cheerleader and more of an ashamed citizen.
See, Oregon has a lot of white people. 88.3% of the population is white, making us one of the whitest states in the nation. That percentage isn’t much of a surprise when you take a closer look at Oregon’s history.
Starting in 1844, the Oregon Territorial Legislature passed exclusion laws, requiring black men to leave the territory within two years and black women to leave within three years. Those who remained were to receive whippings twice a year. It is argued that these exclusion laws came about in an attempt to avoid the controversy surrounding slavery.
Later, the exclusion laws were amended. Instead of receiving lashes, black Oregon residents who overstayed their welcome were essentially forced into temporary enslavement. (which goes against any attempt to avoid the controversy surrounding slavery.)
When Oregon was admitted to the Union in 1859, it was the only state with an outright ban on black residents.
In 1926, the exclusion laws were repealed.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Oregonians voted to remove racist language from the state’s constitution, which still contained a clause that banned African-Americans from residing or owning property in Oregon.
Ya know, Martin Luther King Jr. was a brave man. It takes a lot of confidence and courage to stand up for what is right. His speech about having a dream is, and always will be, one of the most powerful speeches we have ever heard. I might bitch and moan about how I’m unable to get married, but that’s nothing compared to how blacks were treated in the South. I’m lucky to live in a time and place where we are starting to celebrate our differences. Today, I hope everyone has the chance to go out and celebrates diversity. Don’t fear something just because it’s different from you.