Check out my recap of the Teaching with Purpose Conference 2011. If you’re in the Portland area, and an educator, parent, community member or simply a person, try and attend next year. Don’t miss out on the innovations that could revolutionize education.
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Protesters in the Occupy movement have chanted they are the “99%” but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the majority of protesters are white. Many wonder why more people of color aren’t showing up to the protests, considering the disproportionate effect the financial crisis has had on them.
In the case of Portland, look no further than gentrification and an understanding of history.
Bankers looking on Occupy Portland should consider themselves lucky. The supposed “99%” occupying downtown aren’t doing it nearly as forcefully as a certain 66 percent have done in Northeast Portland.
Thanks to overzealous police and predatory lenders, many of the same people you might see at Occupy Portland have taken advantage of black people getting pushed out of their homes.
People go to war over their property in other countries. In Portland, people are reluctant to even acknowledge gentrification is happening, much less that there’s something wrong with it.
The businesses that have replaced the black owned establishments stand as monuments to this passive aggression colonization.
For example, what was once a black owned barbecue restaurant, Doris’s, has been replaced by Russell Street Barbecue. Doris’s was one of the many black businesses that couldn’t get a full business loan and had to survive under capital. Not surprisingly, it didn’t last.
Russell Street Barbecue stepped in and gave Doris’s a white, yuppy makeover, complete with cheap, thrift store furniture and drastically smaller portions of all the same food. However, it didn’t even have the decency to pick a logo different from Doris’s. (At least the people that replaced Yam Yams, another black soul spot, had the decency to change it into a Mongolian Grill).
When I went there for the first (and last) time I couldn’t help but feel I was toasting to the white takeover of historically black Portland neighborhoods.
Russell Street Barbecue is just one of many establishments that have taken advantage of racist lending practices and shamelessly appropriated black culture to make more profit than their doomed black predecessors.
This is not to say that they were malicious in their intent. White privilege doesn’t require malice. It’s simply the ability to take advantage of opportunities denied to people of color.
This is what evokes suspicions about Occupy Portland, as well as the Occupy movement as a whole.
Do the people that are participating really care about the welfare of people of color? Where were all these people when it was time to protest ridiculous immigration laws or the prison industrial complex?
What’s stopping them from leaving the people of color they co-opted for their movement hanging out to dry when all is said and done? After all, this has been the motif of history.
Whether it was the Revolutionary War (and every one since) or the 60s counterculture, majority white movements have had a predictable penchant for using people of color to push their agendas without any real commitment to their concerns.
Terms like the “99%” sound nice but to many they sound a lot like “post-racial America”, meaning they take unity for granted without addressing wounds that have yet to be healed.
Being a progressive doesn’t exempt anyone from the legacy of colonization.
The one percent may have cleared people of color out of their communities, but that doesn’t excuse the 66 percent from settling there and appropriating black culture for profit.
Until we can have honest discussions about gentrification, don’t get upset when you don’t see faces like mine at Occupy Portland.
Just for fun, I Twitter searched “portland police” yesterday afternoon. People were buzzing over the police surrounding a man locked in a bathroom who allegedly had a gun. Mayor Sam Adams was even praising the Portland Police Department for their great service.
When I looked up the story later in the night, it turned out the man had dropped a pellet gun and didn’t say anything, much less make a threat, during the incident. Typical.
With budget cuts hitting the Portland PD, there’s been no shortage of officers trying to make names for themselves. Whether it’s highway robbery, tagging people’s records and reputations, or shootings, times are getting desperate for the department.
Just like with any other gang, the tense times have hurt the people in the community the most.
It’s gotten to the point where I feel safer standing on any corner in New Columbia with a red jumpsuit on after 2 a.m. than I do when I see a car with sirens behind me.
That I’m black doesn’t help my case.
According to the Portland Mercury, blacks account for 14.6 percent of traffic stops while making up only six percent of the Portland population.
However, that’s just the police being nice.
You can catch officers practicing feces graffiti through the press every week. I used to find it strange that every incidence of violence involving black people was “possibly gang related”. Then I noticed that sometime around the fourth printing of a “possibly gang related” story there would be a correction saying gangs actually had nothing to do with it.
After all, how much damage can you do by claiming someone is a gang banger on every news channel and paper for a few straight days?
Not as much as you can with gun.
According to The Oregonian, The U.S. Justice Department had to launch an investigation into the Portland PD in June because the rise in police shootings over the past 18 months involved a majority of people with mental illness.
It’s as if the people chosen to protect and serve us are nothing more than high school bullies with guns. This is evidenced by their sometimes breathtaking incompetence.
In June, the police accidentally shot a man with live ammo. Not accidentally shot him as in the officer had a happy trigger finger. Actually the officer loaded the wrong (real) bullets into his beanbag shotgun and fired.
We already have police cameras on every traffic light post in places like Beaverton. With cops like these it might be safer to start patrolling the streets with drones.
I’m not saying all Portland police officers are evil, vindictive people. In fact, I’m sure most cops have their hearts in the right place.
There are plenty of nice people that burglarize homes and rob banks too. That’s usually why you see their neighbors on the news saying, “I never would’ve expected him to do something like that.”
Whenever a group of people with guns and little accountability are desperate for money, watch out.
I’ve had way too many conversations that ended with, “We could change things if all oppressed people just came together.” While it’s a nice thought, the opposite has actually happened. Races have unified against blacks even though blacks have the least resources globally.
Nonetheless, black people have been the first to embrace multicultural efforts (Some famous examples include Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Party). We must become more ruthless, because when it comes to money we’re the only ones playing by such friendly rules.
This is obvious even in places like Portland, where multiculturalism is supposedly celebrated. For example, a black administrator put together Administrators of Color but soon after, Latinos split off and started their own administration organization.
The decision wasn’t a malicious one. It just shows that people look out for their own interests first when dollars and cents are involved.
Embrace of multiculturalism and political correctness has also made it so blacks must suffer in silence. Despite a history of gentrification, black people that have cried foul when bike lanes took precedence over other needs in historically black communities have been marginalized and characterized as playing the race card.
Never mind, that historically black areas like Alberta Street get whiter by the day. According to a Portland Tribune interview with Angela Martin of Economic Fairness Oregon, the subprime loans disproportionately handed out to blacks caused the “the biggest transfer of wealth from African-American homeowners to the pockets of banks, the biggest transfer of wealth in our lifetime.”
Why must we pretend that this isn’t a race issue?
Historically, crimes against humanity have always been economically motivated and now is no different.
It’s even more obvious at a national level that blacks have to fight for their lives for any small semblance of justice.
Black farmers that were denied land by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) because of race were only able to get compensation in partnership with Native Americans under the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. The Pigford settlement, which gave money to black farmers who were discriminated against, was a part of the resolution and was labeled as “reparations” by Representatives Steve King and Michelle Bachmann.
Conversely, according to the Huffington Post, Cherokee Nation expelled black descendants of slavery on Thursday despite a treaty dating back to the Civil War that granted Cherokee slaves’ descendants membership. The article notes that tribes get money from the government as well as profit from a $26.4 billion gambling industry.
It may be cynical, but we can’t expect people to love us when we don’t even love each other? Especially when money is involved.
I know blacks that don’t like other black people, Africans that refuse to go to other African country themed restaurants and black Americans that have traveled to Africa only to be treated like dirt by people they thought were their brothers. Yet many of these people believe in the power of a multicultural revolution.
To think, we have President Obama hiring a rainbow coalition to keep everyone happy but still receiving hate from all sides. Abroad, racism thrives in many shocking ways like blatantly racist Mexican television shows, Arabs enslaving blacks and worse conditions for British Blacks now than in 1985, just to name a few.
Unity is a beautiful thought and an ideal rule to live by. However, if we’re the only ones playing by that rule then we will continue to be taken advantage of. Other groups are unapologetic when it comes to looking out for their best interests.
There’s no shame in fighting for black empowerment first and foremost whether we’re taking the reparations owed to us, protecting our communities, or patronizing our businesses. We don’t need other races pretending to love us when it’s convenient. No one can free us from oppression but ourselves.
Check it out. My first piece in The Skanner. Also, be on the lookout for an update following the book giveaway.
As the NBA lockout continues we get a real glimpse of what the league is all about. The owners want to make a profit and the players want to protect themselves. It’s a business.
No player seems to understand this more than LeBron James. He has been unapologetic going about his career on his own terms while milking every dollar possible. James embraced the “King James” moniker, became the Nike poster boy and built himself up as a hero in Cleveland. When he got the chance to leave he didn’t just switch jerseys “gracefully.” He had the balls to make a one hour TV special out of it while picking up a few dollars for the Boys and Girls Club along the way. James has gladly accepted the villain role, knowing he can make more money as the heel in a big city than the hero in a tragic sports town like Cleveland. His ads continue to get major play and even when the Dallas Mavericks beat his Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the top story was him. While some might find this arrogant, it’s a brilliant business strategy. Life in the NBA is relatively short and capitalizing on all the money it can produce is simply intelligent.
No matter how much fans may say they love you, the truth is that NBA players and pro athletes in general are well paid race horses. As long as they can play, entertain the fans and sell merchandise then it’s all good. However, as soon as they suffer a career threatening injury they might as well be euthanized to some fans and sports critics especially.
For example, people kill me when they say Brandon Roy should retire. Up until last season, he was an untouchable hero here in Portland. Roy was drafted even though people knew he had a history of knee problems. Nonetheless he gave his all to the Trailblazers and won Rookie of the Year, followed by three consecutive appearances in the NBA All Star game. Portland was practically Roy’s city until last year when his knees caught up to him and he had to have surgery during the season. He wasn’t able to come back to pre-surgery form and came off the bench for the rest of the year.
It was funny to see how fickle fans got when Roy was no longer the dominate player he used to be. Never mind that Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul have had injury plagued seasons and come back to form. Everyone and their mother proclaimed Roy was done. Since he was paid a max contract, few fans thought we could trade him and some even hoped he might retire. How stupid does that sound when Roy is slated to make nearly $15 mil next year, followed by $16 mil, $17 mil and $19 mil in the final year of his contract? Just having his presence would help the team in the worst case scenario, since Roy is not the Eddy Curry type, who would spend his max contract sitting at home, eating Cheetos.
Although if he did, who could blame him. NBA players’ careers are based on production and potential. Greg Oden has been a disappointment but he’ll continue to get paid as long as he has the potential to be great. Likewise, John Salmons will continue to get paid if he keeps finding ways to perform during contract years and/or each time he is traded mid-season.
This is part of the reason for the current lockout. Many NBA teams are losing money and don’t want to pay players if they aren’t guaranteed a return on their investment. Although I’d like to feel sorry for NBA owners, who could really benefit from revenue sharing throughout the league, I don’t see them in bankruptcy nearly as much as former players (*cough* Antoine Walker *cough*).
The NBA, like other major professional sports, is an entertainment business. It’s ridiculous to ask a player to make a number of concessions while the owner continues to make just as much, if not more money off of his labor. For a player, loyalty to anyone above yourself is practically suicidal.
I had the privilege of spending most of my high school years in the Hoop Dreams basketball program. It allowed me to work with high school, college and professional players while witnessing just how much work it took to succeed at each level. Fans may only see the games but the fact is that players work too hard to risk their livelihood on the fickleness of fans and the will of cutthroat business owners.
For this reason I can’t help but support the NBA Players’ Union during the current lockout. Many NBA players come from less privileged backgrounds and colleges do very little to prepare them for life outside of basketball.
Professional basketball won’t solve these problems but as long as it provides an avenue for success and supporting families, then the players should get the league for every penny. If the NBA owners won’t pay then ones in Europe or elsewhere around the globe will because there will always be a market for watching the world’s top athletes.
If you could stop murders before they happened, would you? What about job loss and increased poverty?
With the Colombian Free Trade Agreement (FTA) still pending you can. According to Arthur Stamoulis, of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, there is still a week to urge your representatives to vote against the passage of FTA.
70,000 people have died in Colombia over the last 20 years, which has the largest internal displacement in the world. Many of these people were innocent civilians, victimized by paramilitary violence funded by billions of dollars in US aid.
Over the years, US tax dollars as well as money from corporations like Coca-Cola and Chiquita have gone into the hands of anti-union businessmen and paramilitary groups. Despite the violence, these entities have continued to pump aid money into Colombia and are now pushing for a FTA that will further erode the human rights of the Colombian people.
Stamoulis spoke on a panel for the opening night of “Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced in Colombia Art Exhibition,” being held at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland. “Remember Me” is presented by Witness for Peace Northwest, Lutheran World Relief and the Latin America Working Group.
The collection of artwork comes from family and friends of those slain in Colombia. It includes quilts with the faces of slain union workers and wooden guns crafted by children.
If you’ve only heard politicians’ rhetoric about the FTA, these images might come as a shock. President Obama, who opposed the deal during his campaign, now claims it will create jobs by loosening trade restrictions and allowing private enterprises to hire Colombians with their expansive wealth.
Anyone familiar with past free trade agreements should know they are characterized by outsourcing and privatization, both recipes for job loss. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which established a partnership between Canada, Mexico and the US, has resulted in the outsourcing of American jobs and the loss of indigenous Mexican workers’ land to private businesses.
Private businesses are loyal to their bottom line first and foremost, which means they cut as many workers as possible to achieve maximum efficiency. This has produced some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs around the world as well as some of the largest wealth gaps.
One unintended (at least I’d like to hope so) consequence of NAFTA was a more empowered drug industry. When Mexicans lost their jobs, a number of people were forced to turn to the drug industry to feed their families. Similarly, Americans, especially in low-income neighborhoods, suffered a similar fate. While this has boosted the prison and defense industry, it’s been catastrophic for countless communities as evidenced by the 40,000 speculated dead in the Mexican Drug War and the millions dead or in prison in the US.
According to the Colombian Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs, full liberalization (proposed by the FTA) would lead to the loss of 35 percent of agricultural employment. In a country like Colombia that is known for its large cocaine industry, it doesn’t take a psychic to see what massive job loss will lead to.
“There’s always someone willing to help you with coke,” says Stamoulis. “If you buy the premise that we’re trying to eradicate drugs the FTA flies in the face of it.”
The US presence in Colombia has been far from helpful for some time now. In 2000, the US launched an aid package called Plan Colombia. According to Vanessa Kritzer of the Latin America Working Group, 80 percent of this package went to military aid, which supported Colombian paramilitary groups.
In addition to supplying more weapons to a country plagued by violence, the US also deployed aerial sprays to supposedly kill coca plants. Over a decade and $8 billion later, Kritzer says the levels of cocaine are the same and in fact, coca plants have become resistant. To add insult to injury she notes that small scale farmers have lost 50-70 percent of their income due to the spraying of legitimate agriculture and some children were born with defects directly related to the chemicals.
Even though a 1991 agreement guaranteed Afro-Colombians the right to their lands, there has been little to stop the right wing, anti-union backlash.
Subsidized grain from the US continues to put small scale Colombian farmers out of work. As a result of being displaced from their land, most often violently, refugees make up ten percent of the population.
Colombia leads the world in trade unionists murdered. If often accounts for more than all other countries combined. 51 were killed in 2010. There are no measures preventing anti-union violence in the FTA.
As the opening night of the “Remember Me” exhibit closed, panelists urged audience members to sign 51 small crosses with the names of slain union members. These crosses will be hung outside the office of Representative Earl Blumenauer, who supports the FTA, during a demonstration on Friday July 15th at 12:30 pm.
The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign also encourages anyone to call Blumenauer and persuade him to vote against the FTA. His office can be reached at (503)-231-2300.
The “Remember Me” exhibit is open from 10 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday and by appointment at First Congrational United Church of Christ, which is located on 1126 SW Park Avenue in downtown Portland.