Saturday, May 31, 2008

Racial understanding in Oregon

The Times has reported on the Restorative Listening Project in Portland, Oregon, which aims to increase understanding between the races on gentrification and other divisive issues. Looks like it's working already:

Last month, Joan Laufer, who is white and who moved into a house in Northeast in 2006, stood up to express gratitude to a black minister for describing how hard it was for blacks to get home improvement loans and for addressing some sensitive stereotypes.

“I’ve learned two things about all you guys already — why the houses aren’t fixed up and why you guys are riding around in all these big flashy cars,” Ms. Laufer, 55, a nurse practitioner, said.

At one point, she also asked blacks what she should call them — blacks or African-Americans.

An older black woman in the front replied, “People.”

1 comment:

Mashtali said...

Geoff; Two things, since you list Powell's books as an interest I wonder if you are in Portland and a descendant of Oregon settler Wisners. And to the point of your post about race relations; I want to perhaps make a clarification; the woman wasn't necessarily insensitive, but just awkwardly trying to show sensitivity. I am a native born Oregonian from a small town and my mother tried very hard to raise tolerant children, but of the "those people are just 'as good as is'" level of tolerance and not true color blindness. Since sunset laws were still on the books in my home town when I graduated from high school and the non Honky portion of the big town in Lane county might actually have been as much as ten percent then, I really didn't have much contact to form an opinion on. So to this very day I am a little uncomfortable in a mixed race situation, since I was raised in a time when ethnic jokes were perfectly acceptable I tend to put my foot in my mouth fairly often. And so my interactions probably will always have to be a little awkward. But given my background I still am a little amazed when I happen upon certain racial types in small out of the way places in Oregon. I suppose to a certain extent that is because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt they have neighbors who make the poor lady you mention in your blog look like a saint. Thank God we don't seem to hear much from them.