It’s a goal of mine not to turn this into a whiny, rant filled blog because God knows there are enough angry people screaming at the Internet in this world.
That said, there’s something going on in my community that really bothers me. I figure it’s worth writing about because I think I can be angry without sounding rant-y and it also highlights one of my biggest complaints about Portland which is that people here are “progressive” only in the white, middle class sense of the word rather than the social justice frame I formerly understood progressive politics through.
So, last summer a little boy was kidnapped from his school. Terrible right? And so unexpected. He came from a white, middle class family. Dad worked at Intel, mom stayed at home. The Portland community was understandably horrified and this story stayed in the news for months — as it should have. We still don’t know what happened, and it still makes the community really sad.
More recently, another child, this time a 14-year-old African American girl went missing. Two weeks later, her mother learned she was murdered. Did the Portland community have the same response? Nope. In fact, when the girl’s mother reporter her missing, she was told by the police that because of her daughter’s “background” they would consider her a run away. Nothing happened until two weeks later when the cops got a tip she’d been killed.
So, surely, now there’s a ton of coverage of the case right? No again. The most I’ve seen of it is 200 or so words buried in the community section of the Oregonian.
The plastic bag ban has gotten more newspaper ink. Gross, right?
There is so much that upsets me about this and I can’t help but think the lack of response to this girl’s disappearance is racial. In a city where the police have a history of shooting unarmed Black people, and only last year shot a mentally handicapped Black man in the back, I’m not too willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
I posted about this on Facebook and basically got a bunch of, “well it’s not as bad there as it is in Arizona” type responses. Which is true — racism in Portland is not at outwardly obvious as it is in Arizona. Doesn’t mean it’s not here. Maybe it’s better characterized as unchecked, unrealized, progressive white privilege. This isn’t a topic I’m really qualified to talk about other than to say I know that if my (hypothetical) 14-year-old daughter were to suddenly disappear, I’m guessing the color of my skin affords me the privilege of not being told “whatever, she’s just a runaway.”
Do I think that all, or even most, Portland Police officers are explicitly racist? No. Do I assume the Portland Police Department has outwardly bad intentions like, say, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department? No.
Do I think that despite having good intentions, they have a race relations problem? Yes. And, I also think they have a problem with the number of officer related shootings of unarmed assailents.I’m not the only one — many, many people in Portland, particularly in North Portland where I live, agree.
But, unfortunately, not enough people with actual influence care. My state senator Chip Shields has introduced a package of police report that are dying at the statehouse and getting minimal attention from either party or the press.
I think there are a lot of good people in this town. And, I like the bike lanes that the activist community puts so much effort into securing. I just wish that we put as much emphasis in this city on people as we do on bikes, bags and sketch comedy shows.