Comment of the week: Biking with color in a country with history

Posted by on June 17th, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Prospect Park-6

There are as many ways to be a person who bikes as there are ways to be a person, and just as many ways to be a person of color.

That was part of the thinking shared by BikePortland reader Clement in a comment on yesterday’s post by Taz Loomans about how to get more racial and ethnic diversity into organized bike fun.

Here’s what Clement said:

I appreciate the suggestions for diversifying Portland’s bike events. I happen to be a person of color who bikes on a daily basis, but I have never been drawn to the Keep Portland Weird, circus-y aspects of what some see as Portland’s bike culture. Not doing the bike culture thing or cycling for sport, but just biking to get around (though I love my bikes!), I sometimes feel that I am not a legitimate part of Portland’s bike scene. That being said, I don’t think that it is a fair characterization when people equate Portland’s having a high portion of white people with meaning Portland is inherently racist. Having lived in the Detroit area and spent time in the South, I find that Portland’s history is not exceptionally racist. Pretty much all of the United States had a white supremacist history. Portland was never a major port of entry for immigrants, did not have a plantation economy, wasn’t a big part of the African-American migration north to the Northeast and Midwest, and was not a major economic engine that attracted people from all over the world like New York, Chicago, or LA. Its not surprising Portland isn’t very diverse – it’s kind of been a small, provincial city way out in the Northwest. But, it is growing, opening up more to the world – and isn’t without its growing pains. It’s my city. I like it.

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As other comments in the (generally constructive and thoughtful!) thread pointed out, reasonable people can probably differ over the depth of Portland’s historical and/or current racism compared to elsewhere. But our metro area is indeed getting gradually less homogeneous. Let’s hope we can also make it a city where all of us can build the lives we like.

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61 Comments
  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I would also add there are many ways to do “bike culture,” or have “bike fun,” only some of which are represented by Pedalpalooza. And that’s fine — we have the Portland Blues Festival, which likewise does not represent all ways of making music.

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    Spiffy June 17, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    it’s good that we have some non-bike-culture bike things going on, such as the Ride More Challenge (for people that simply ride) and Sunday Parkways (for people, walk/bike/skate whatever you want)…

    I think those events are the best because there’s no pressure to fit into the cliques that form at bike-culture events, just ride your bike…

    although I think that Pedalpalooza isn’t so much about bikes as it is about people with common interests coming together, with bikes as the excuse and not the focus… maybe I don’t like bike-culture cliques but I like sunsets, or bombing down steep hills… there’s a ride for your interest, even if you’re not that interested in the ride…

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      andrew June 17, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      I wonder how much impact, if any, the perceived idea of cliqueiness has on would-be new riders.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        I’ll bet for some riders, quite a lot.

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        Teddy June 17, 2016 at 10:47 pm

        I do not worry about it too much since I know my slow Mountain Bike with a basket and lights does not fit in with the typical city bike.

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        Spiffy June 18, 2016 at 9:29 pm

        there have been several groups/rides that I didn’t give a second chance because of it…

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    Tom Hardy June 17, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    In My Opinion! Cliqueiness attracts riders. Likes attract likes, and so many more situations.
    For instance! Those primarily concerned with safety, have a tendency to wear helmets.
    Those that wish to be seen on their bikes to be avoided by cars, wear bright clothing. This whether it is spandex Team togs or fluorescent jackets.
    Others wear black clothing including hoods (black) with dark pants and no helmets but wear ear buds. These try to dodge other road users and complain when they are injured.
    Myself, I wear bright spandex togs because they are comfortable in a wide range of weather. I have a bright yellow bike with red tires and chrome, with lights. I am still alive and riding since 1953.
    I ride the road from the Zoo at least twice a week year around on skinny tires. I also do Council Crest and Vista. Love it!!!
    I also never shun other riders and if a rider from out of town asks for directions I lead them the way, usually to their destination.
    I have ridden group riders with riders of nearly all races as members of the same team.

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      andrew June 17, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      I wear whatever I happen to have on on a given day! Usually jeans and a t-shirt. Keeping it casual and sitting up tall; almost awkwardly tall, like taller than a lot of cars. And I don’t ride a velocipede 🙂

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      Spiffy June 18, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      “These try to dodge other road users and complain when they are injured.”

      this applies to the public in general…

      “I also never shun other riders”

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    Clark in Vancouver June 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    In my experience there tend to be people who are coming from a place of insecurity and are looking for somewhere to belong. They find something they like. Those who are already in that scene are having a good time and encounter a new face. They treat that person in a neutral way or less than friendly way compared to those they already know and then that person because of their own baggage interprets it as rejection and declares the scene to be a clique.

    Just a theory.

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      JeffS June 18, 2016 at 12:03 am

      You’re right, and you’re describing humanity, not just cyclists.

      This is another instance of some people trying to tack their agenda onto that of others. Some people just want to ride their bikes. Some want to ride through the hills as fast as possible. Some want to ride dressed as Bowie. Some want to ride to a bar. Some want to talk about skin color, or net worth.

      Most people who throw a leg over the saddle are not advocates and never will be.

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    Taz Loomans June 18, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    “The privilege of being white and part of the dominant culture is that your experience is considered the norm which allows you the option of ignoring culture and race. That’s not true for everyone.” – More here: https://www.netimpact.org/blog/what-do-you-like-about-being-white-reflections-on-racial-equity

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 18, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      I (almost) totally agree with this statement, but think it would be more powerful if the “being white” were omitted; there are many whites who are not part of the dominant culture (and will never gain entrance), and there is a growing number of blacks and other minority groups who are full fledged members, even leaders, of the dominant culture. What constitutes the “dominant culture” is always changing (and is becoming more racially inclusive), and varies from place to place, but the underlying statement, that the dominant culture defines the “norm,” and gives members the ability to ignore culture, will probably always remain true.

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        meh June 20, 2016 at 7:24 am

        By definition if it is dominant it is not inclusive, but truly it is changing.

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          soren June 20, 2016 at 11:51 am

          yeah…for the worse.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty June 20, 2016 at 11:57 am

            I disagree. I think in most cases, we are more accepting of people who are different than we used to be.

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. June 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm

              Sure doesn’t seem that way if you’ve been following national news. Xenophobia seems to be on the rise.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm

                On the rise, or just more in the open? I definitely find Trump’s rhetoric disturbing, but I don’t know that he’s converting people to his way of thinking.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 20, 2016 at 12:23 pm

                Even if rates of racism and xenophibia are remaining constant, I think we can all agree that it becomes far scarier when those people feel like they have a safe channel to openly express their hate.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 20, 2016 at 12:43 pm

                I don’t know… sometimes it’s better to know where people stand. I suspect that we will see a strong repudiation of Trump and his ideas, and it may be more jolting to people to have ideas they’ve publicly supported repudiated compared to beliefs you had inside but never really articulated.

                On the opposite side of the coin, acceptance of gay and transgender people among youth has increased at an astounding rate, which seems to signal a permanent shift in attitude towards those once highly reviled communities.

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                Taz Loomans June 21, 2016 at 9:32 am

                The fact that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee on a very racist platform is not only disturbing, it’s downright terrifying for people of color in this country. Whether he is “converting” people or not, he is certainly validating those who have racist tendencies. Unfortunately, given the enormous crowds he attracts, his ever-strong popularity and the fact that he will win the Republican nomination is a very real sign that we do not live in a post-racial world and in fact that racism has a stronghold in this country.

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              Taz Loomans June 21, 2016 at 9:41 am

              Er, tell that to the multitude of unarmed black men who get shot by police every month. And tell that to my Muslim niece who wears a head scarf and is harassed on the street because of it. And tell that to the mosques that are having to clean up graffiti that calls their congregants “sand niggers”. And tell that to the Mexican immigrants who have to show their papers just because they are Mexican. I’m glad you have the luxury of feeling so good about the racial acceptance in our country right now. A whole lot of people don’t have that luxury.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 21, 2016 at 9:56 am

                What I said was things were improving, not that the current situation was acceptable. Is there a reason to believe that, for example, police harassment of minority groups is worse now than in the past? More visible, for sure, but worse? I see police being held accountable for crimes that in the past would have gone unpunished. That has to mark an improvement.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 21, 2016 at 10:46 am

                Actually, police harassment of any group is deplorable.

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                Taz Loomans June 21, 2016 at 2:24 pm

                I just don’t appreciate that a white person can tout that things are better than they used to be for people of color in this country. Yes, you’re technically right. We no longer live under Jim Crow. But when you say that things are improving, it’s a way to whitewash the very very bad things that happen to people of color because of their race all the time, not to mention the institutional and structural racism that exists in this country. So no, you don’t get to say that things are improving and rest on your laurels. You don’t get to say we are doing fine, we are improving, what do you have to complain about? You don’t get to define the problem because you are not living the problem. You don’t get to dismiss or diminish or even frame the lived experiences of people of color for them. What would be awesomer is if you listened to those experiences instead.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 21, 2016 at 3:14 pm

                It is my perspective that we as a nation are more tolerant than we used to be; that, in this regard, things are changing, and, overall, we are moving in a positive direction. I do not say this to whitewash anything, or to say that the way things are fine; but it’s what I see.

                Where I see things improving more slowly, if at all, is in areas of social mobility, access to education, and the ability of people to escape poverty. I see this primarily as an issue of culture and class, and while there is a certainly a racial component, I don’t see that as the driving factor in these problems. The “white vs. non-white” narrative, lumping people with hugely different experiences together based on apparent “whiteness”, is such an oversimplification that I think it does not advance the discussion; if anything, it frames the issues in an “us vs. them” mode which hiders communication. I don’t deny a problem; but I do question whether a primarily racial lens is the best way to view it.

                I am not trying to define your experience, and I do not dismiss your perspective the way you dismiss mine. I am listening. I have read all the articles you linked to; I just do not see race as the primary reason large groups of people are having difficulty in today’s America.

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                JRB June 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm

                Taz, it seems to me that in this dialogue that you are the person not listening and that you seem intent on putting words in Kitty’s mouth. I didn’t read anywhere that he said we should rest on our laurels or that racial discrimination no longer exists in America. Nor did I read anything that suggested he was trying to frame other people’s experience for them. What I did read is that he thinks culture and class play larger roles than race in today’s America. You apparently disagree with that, but mischaracterizing his comments does not bolster your arguments.

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              37Dennis June 24, 2016 at 10:12 am

              Hello Kitty… did you read the linked story above? The first and primary question posed by the author is pretty telling.. I’d love your take on it, as I see your comments as a voice of reason whenever race issues show up on bikeportland.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 24, 2016 at 10:32 am

                I read all the linked stories… which one are you referring to?

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                37Dennis June 24, 2016 at 11:39 am

                The one presenting the question” What do you like about being white?”. I truly tried to read it entirety. I understand that it had been written stemming from a most horrific racially motivated tragedy, yet it simply comes across as a broader stroke of blame game. Comments here are often as narrowly focused around perceived absolutes in much the same manner one would read on a white supremacists site. Truth, individual agency and freedom of choice , are rarely discussed in depth. A young black women came into a bike shop I worked in 5 years ago. Her family said she was a ‘fool” to desire riding a bicycle. They proclaimed it a ‘white thing ” to do. I did my utmost best to show her options in which she could make it a thing for her to do. I hope she still is. Bicycles are for everyone. Peace. I’m out.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 24, 2016 at 12:10 pm

                There were two main points that struck me in that article — the “white people don’t think about their race” point, which I believe is largely true, and the Monopoly analogy, which I think is flawed. Yes, the properties and hotels were bought up long ago, but that limitation is not a racial problem, it is a class problem. It is becoming more difficult for individuals of any race to “buy Boardwalk” if they were not raised in an environment that prepared them to do that.

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    Taz Loomans June 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Here is another perspective Hello Kitty: “Obviously not all white people are wealthy, and yes, there are minorities who have achieved wealth and other marks of status. But white privilege is something specific and different – it’s the idea that just by virtue of being a white person of any kind, you’re part of the dominant group which tends to be respected, assumed the best of, and given the benefit of the doubt. That just isn’t the case for people of other races, no matter how wealthy, smart or hard-working they might be.” More here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/01/16/white-privilege-explained/

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 19, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      Ok, I thinking about something a little different. Do you think “white privilege” is only extended by whites to other whites or do people with other racial groups also give it to whites?

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      Lester Burnham June 20, 2016 at 8:01 am

      Once we have finally accepted that “white privilege” is real, then what’s next? How do we move on?

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty June 20, 2016 at 10:00 am

        I want to clarify that I think it is real. I’m less sure that we have the right name for it.

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        Taz Loomans June 21, 2016 at 9:26 am

        I think accepting that it is real is a huge step forward. How to move on is to use your privilege to uplift rather than to oppress. This can be done in a lot of ways, some small, some large. One way is to listen to people of color and hear their experiences without getting defensive or dismissing their issues because we supposedly live in a “post racial” world. Being able to have constructive dialogue with people of color about race is the place to begin.

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          Rob Chapman June 21, 2016 at 11:13 am

          Thanks for this statement Taz. I’ve learned a great deal from my African-American neighbors here in North Portland by shutting my mouth and listening to their experiences. You never know how someone feels about an issue until you ask. As it turns out, most of my assumptions have been wrong.

          Very soon I’ll be moving to a city with a white minority. I think it will be enlightening and I’m looking forward to stepping out of my Portland white guy bubble.

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    B. Carfree June 19, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Anyone who thinks the PNW, and PDX in particular, doesn’t have a deep racist history likely doesn’t have friends and family from Asia. The anti-Asian bias here is absurd (and extends on into British Columbia). When family visit from overseas, I always recommend they enter via San Francisco to avoid being needlessly harassed.

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      Lester Burnham June 20, 2016 at 7:59 am

      Care to back that up with any facts? Given the large Asian communities here I find that hard to believe.

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    rachel b June 20, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    The article Taz L posted the link for says it very well. White privilege is…

    “…a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious…..it’s also a term that many Americans “instinctively don’t trust or believe to be real,” despite reams of evidence to the contrary.” [read article for examples]

    “The thing about white privilege is that it tends to be unintentional, unconscious, uncomfortable to recognize but easy to take for granted. But it’s that very invisibility that makes it that much more important to understand: Without confronting what exists, there’s no chance of leveling the field.”

    “Acknowledging that you might benefit from such privilege isn’t equivalent to self-hatred…”

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    rachel b June 22, 2016 at 1:05 am

    There are huge differences of experiences among white people, of course–that’s true for any population. But one key experience all whites hold in common is our blithe, unquestioned ability to move through the world in a way that’s generally easier, superior to and vastly different from the way other ethnicities are forced to move through the World-With-Whites–right?

    Even the trashiest of white trash (and those are my roots, so don’t dog me, now!) get a pass in the basic gettin’ around and going about your day life situations, simply based on appearance (pastiness). And that alone saves us from a whole passel of exhaustion and grief others aren’t spared–the kind that drags you down and wears you out, pecked to death by ducks. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s of course next to impossible to fathom this quiet, better “normal” (to us) when you’re pasty.

    In an age where true empathy is going the way of the dodo, it’s worth commending anyone on attempting to elicit understanding for a situation few want to understand. Things have generally improved over time, sure. But whether things have improved over time or not, racism remains a HUGE issue, it’s still demonstrably bad bad bad, and people who are experiencing the bad bad bad daily are saying it–it’s acute, it’s what they’re actually forced to live, nonstop, all the time–no choice about it, no breaks. It’s not abstract or hypothetical in actual experience. It’s serious, and excruciating. It’s just a fact that that kind of longstanding, systematically-reinforced daily diminishment and real pain–painfully (and often reluctantly) shared–renders subsequent semantic discussions perhaps a little tone deaf, even if well meant (which I don’t doubt). 🙂

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 22, 2016 at 11:16 am

      There’s a lot here, but maybe I can simplify the conversation by clarifying what I am trying to say. I am NOT saying that the “pecked to death by ducks” (great imagery, btw) feeling that many in our country feel is not real, it obviously is, and that experience is clearly felt disproportionately by some groups, and a great many white people are spared this. I am NOT saying we live in a “post-prejudice” society (whatever that means), nor that racial prejudice/discrimination has somehow magically been banished. I am NOT “whitewashing” our problems, nor trying to tell people what their experiences should mean to them.

      If I were pulled over by a racist policeman who was having a bad day, would I rather be a middle class white person than a middle class black person? You bet I would. It is clear that racism exists and can manifest itself in some very scary and dangerous ways, as well as plenty of more mundane ways. I don’t think it is inconsistent to say this and also say that, overall, I feel our society is becoming more tolerant.

      What I AM saying is that there are very real barriers to some groups of people in our society, but that I those barriers are better explained by factors such as class rather than by race. These are not entirely unrelated factors, of course, and race and class are clearly correlated. I am also saying that even if the problems are better explained by race, framing them as a “whites vs. non-whites” problem is not a productive way to advance the conversation. I think a middle class person of Polish descent and a middle class person of Chinese descent will have far more in common in terms of values, prospects, and barriers than a poor black person who grew up in a rougher area of N Portland in a dysfunctional family compared to someone raised in a comfortable middle-class black family. And would a white man from Syria, even one who may have lived here for a decade, enjoy the same access to American society, the same treatment by others, as a similarly-hued white man from Lebanon, Oregon? (And would that Syrian have a pleasant chat with the policeman I described above, let off with a warning, perhaps?)

      Race is clearly important, but I don’t think it plays a role that dominates over all other factors. I think class (which may be even more complex to unpack than race) weighs more heavily.

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        rachel b June 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

        I understand what you’re saying, Kitty, but how are you supposed to address racism without framing it as, well, racism? Which inherently IS “whites vs. non-whites”? I can understand the frustration of Taz and others trying to have this conversation with whites because the quick response from whites, more often than not, does seem to reflect less empathy (even if felt) than a desire to parse and qualify. It comes off as defensive. And when any person is laying out a (well documented) history of pain and persecution, parsing is the last reaction you hope to evince.

        It simply has been “whites vs. non-whites.” That’s the fact! Acknowledging that fact is not akin to framing the conversation in a way that is deliberately uncomfortable to whites. I also don’t think it’s up to oppressed populations to make us (whites) feel more comfortable about this stuff. We should feel uncomfortable–that’s a key part of coming to true understanding and empathy. But I think you understand that and that you’re pointing out that it may simply be counterproductive (off-putting) in edumacating the majority of whites. I just think that’s our (whites’) problem–not non-whites. They’ve been plenty sensitive to our fragile little egos for eons–I’d be tearing my hair out by now if I’d been that damned patient and STILL was being called upon to be yet more sensitive, to make the (unappealing) subject more appealing.

        Any white person, including the white man from Syria, will get the same treatment, BETTER treatment (short of speaking) than any person of color, in white-dominant societies. Any white person can pass, at least until closer examination. That built-in leg up can be crucial! All it takes in many situations is to achieve that initial pass or nod, and you’re in. That’s just not possible if your skin’s dark. That’s not a class issue–that’s a color issue. Class issues are serious, especially now, but I disagree that they dwarf race issues at present. You’re right that it’s all very complex.

        We’ve become more tolerant in many ways, yes, but as regards the ways in which we haven’t, the onus is on whites to get it in gear–not on oppressed populations to make it easier on us (not that anything Taz had to say was in any way “hard,” by the way. She was admirably patient). My main point, though, was that a conversation between whites and non-whites is most often thwarted not by a lack of sensitivity on the part of non-white people, but usually by a kind of automatic self-protective defensiveness on the part of whites. I’ve certainly witnessed it EVERY time race conversations arise, and I’m sure I’m only seeing a glimpse of what non-whites deal with every single exasperating day.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty June 22, 2016 at 2:35 pm

          I’m not trying to frame racism as “not racism”, but I don’t accept that racism inherently divides America into two groups, white and non-white. One example is the tensions between the Korean and black communities in Los Angeles and other places. That racism (in both communities) is as real as any other, and is probably far more deeply felt than that between whites and Asians anywhere in the US.

          We’ve framed this conversation as a black vs white one for generations, and I don’t think we have much to show for it. I think that viewing the problem as primarily one of culture and class can help see the barriers people face in a different way, and might lead to more productive ideas on how to remove them. Starting the conversation with the idea that if your skin is white, then you are part of the problem, might evoke empathy in some, but of course it will make most white people defensive — how could it not?

          Why not, instead, start from the premise that there are structural barriers people who come from certain backgrounds face, and look for ways to remove those? One example might be that children from families/cultures that do not value education tend to have poorer prospects than those from families/cultures that do. How can we help young kids learn the values and skills that will let them do well in our society?

          This might not help with the racist cop (but nor will dividing the country into camps), but it might give some better prospects in life than they otherwise would have, and might help them have the confidence and resilience to better handle setbacks of a racial or non-racial nature that we all inevitably face.

          As more people of different complexions and backgrounds become part of, and help define, the dominant culture (a process that has been underway for a long time), and more people see that “they” are a lot like “us”, racism and intolerance will naturally recede.

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            rachel b June 22, 2016 at 6:56 pm

            I like your idealism, Kitty. But the experience of non-whites would seem to belie the very idea of a “natural” receding of racism. And the prickliness of whites (to which you refer) does not bode well for achieving anything like that ideal. And–again–I don’t think oppressed parties need to be in the business of making whites feel ok or not defensive…about racism. I’m as skeptical of political correctness as the next guy. But I don’t see anything resembling that here, in the story above or in Taz’s responses. If we’re reframing the discussion about racism to suit the comfort levels of defensive whites, then that (in my opinion) isn’t a very good reason to reframe the discussion–esp. when you’re dealing w/a population that’s suffered a whole lot more than hurt feelings.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty June 23, 2016 at 12:34 am

              When you start a “conversation” with an accusation, people tend to get defensive an prickly. How else would they react?

              What kind of solutions does the white privilege framing of the problem suggest?

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                rachel b June 23, 2016 at 1:50 am

                Hello Hello Kitty 🙂 I didn’t feel Taz was accusatory. I think she was showing restraint in handling probably the thousandth racism conversation that put HER in a defensive position, despite her taking care to be gentle. The inability to have the conversation, historically, with whites falls squarely on whites choosing not to listen–not on a lack of tact on the part of the oppressed parties. There are some things you just can’t get people to hear or see through reason and politeness–the history of racism against blacks in this country shows this better than anything. Protests, resistance, civil disobedience were all necessary to hammer the message home and get real results, and I’m sure the people participating (and suffering) through all that would much rather have had a civil conversation, and that they tried. Over and over again. Didn’t work.

                To answer you, I honestly don’t believe you’ll get anywhere trying not to offend whites who are (many of us) so ready to be offended. I wouldn’t try, personally. I’m impressed by those who do try! It would be crazy-making. I’d concentrate on legislation and continuing infiltrating white enclaves, though that sounds like no fun at all to me and I wouldn’t want to be that pioneer. I don’t think you’re going to win hearts and minds when no amount of explaining seems to be enough, though. Not in this case.

                Forgive me for a digression, here….it’s nothing to what nonwhites experience, but I know that feeling of walking on eggshells, trying to remain neutral and nonthreatening, for example, when talking to most men about sexism and my personal experiences with it. It’s not a conversation most women will enter into happily, because we know what’s coming, 9 times out of 10, and that’s…the defensiveness! And the debating, diverting, parsing and explaining (to us). The minimizing. Then there’s the inevitable doubt expressed that it’s “that bad,” or that you actually experienced what you said you’ve experienced, and skepticism about the harm done, or the impacts in general. From the ‘nicest’ of men, mind you! It’s never a surprise but it’s always exhausting.

                Nobody who’s got perks EVER willingly gives up perks (with rare exception). The unpleasantness and discomfort–the defensiveness–just has to be felt and dealt with, I think. Going through, not around or under, gets the job done. There’s no way to avoid it. I think reminding whites of that, and urging them to gird loins and resist the defensive reaction and listen instead, is the best idea.

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            Taz Loomans June 23, 2016 at 8:54 am

            Wow. “Some kids come from families that don’t value education..” Way to blame the minority for being systematically oppressed. I don’t know what group precisely you were accusing of not valuing education like they should, but consider that a person grows up in a reservation and that they can’t go to college because no one goes to college there and there is just a culture of staying on the reservation and getting into trouble that was begun by the very very bad treatment of indigenous people by none other than white people. So for a white person to go around and say – ‘these people don’t VALUE education as much as we do, why don’t we rescue them? We, the faultless, education-valuing, good white people?’ without acknowledging the role whites played in the situation of indigenous people is frankly disgusting. All I am asking you to do is to acknowledge the historic oppression of white people over indigenous people, African Americans, Chinese, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, you name it! Yes there is racism that exists between other cultures. But in America, the dominant culture is white, the culture that has dominated from the birth of this nation til today. And that is the culture that has actively oppressed non whites and now passively too. When a group or neighborhood or city is overwhelmingly white, such as Portland, there are underlying passive aggressive racism issues at play. When I’m consistently the only person of color who shows up at everything I go to, including restaurants, events, and even walking up and down the street, somewhere down the line something went wrong in that city and it needs to be addressed or people of color will continue to be driven out.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty June 23, 2016 at 11:15 am

              As it happens, the families I know well enough to describe as “not valuing education” and “facing barriers” are white. I believe that situation applies to people in other cultures/races/communities, as you yourself suggest.

              It is very difficult to have a conversation about these issues when you keep putting words in my mouth and accusing me of racism. It is true that I see class and culture as having more explaining power than race (especially your whites vs. the world viewpoint) in terms of describing the state of America today (and suggesting solutions), but just because we disagree on that point does not mean I am a racist. Please dial back your rhetoric a little, and try assuming good intentions.

              >> All I am asking you to do is to acknowledge the historic oppression of white people over indigenous people, African Americans, Chinese, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, you name it!

              Acknowledged! I’d add Irish, gays, Japanese, and Catholics to your list.

              And I ask you to acknowledge that what constitutes the “dominant culture” is ever-changing, and is not defined solely in terms of race.

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                Taz Loomans June 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

                Currently the people in power are predominantly white. The day that our leadership – congress people, governors, mayors and council people reflect the racial demographics of this country and the CEOs, CFOs and COOs of major businesses in the US reflect the racial demographics of this country, I will acknowledge that statement.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 23, 2016 at 3:12 pm

                Whether you acknowledge it or not, the evidence suggests it is true. Some groups that were once oppressed are now part of the dominant culture. Not all, not enough certainly, but the culture has changed, and is changing, and will continue to change.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

                I’ll also add this somewhat ironic thought… if we met in person, I would probably consider you to be my social and societal peer. I don’t know your background, but we probably have much more in common than we have different, and this conversation aside, I suspect we have a similar outlook in life, the same values, etc. In other words, I see you as “like me” even if you would likely see us as separated by a racial chasm.

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                Taz Loomans June 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm

                And the day the racial demographics of our prisons and people in poverty and college graduates reflects the demographics of the general public, I will acknowledge your statement. Cause guess what Kitty? You can’t talk about class without talking about race! They are intimately connected.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 23, 2016 at 4:08 pm

                They absolutely are, a notion I affirmed earlier.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

                I did some research last night, and, in terms of education, prison population, and professional achievement, Asians are doing better than one would expect from their demographics, and, in some cases, better than whites. Some Asian populations experienced severe racism, much of it right here in Oregon.

                Class is a very strong predictor who will be in prison. I haven’t seen data on this, but I am confident the same can be said for educational and professional achievement.

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              37Dennis June 24, 2016 at 10:40 am

              @ Taz…. I’ll refrain from dissecting this lengthy comment in it entirety, and just provided one anecdotal for the very first sentence…. Participation in school PTAs, and other issues with parents in my North Portland neighborhood is blatantly obvious. Teachers quietly talk around the issue in hushed tones, so as not to come off as racist…( because they are not), but the truth remains that many low income kids parents simply don’t care to invoke themselves. As I have often observed at my child’s school, if the parents are people of color, and even moderately financially affluent they move out of the neighborhood, or move their child to a different school. All that aside, there are always some involved parents. I hope you will understand that I say this all with a large sigh of complete sadness.

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    soren June 22, 2016 at 8:55 am

    renders subsequent semantic discussions perhaps a little tone deaf, even if well meant (which I don’t doubt). 🙂

    i don’t think skepticism of so-called “political correctness” or the desire by people of white european descent to believe this nation is post-prejudice comes from a good place.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

      Though I haven’t done either of these things, to declare anyone who expresses skepticism over “political correctness” is “not coming from a good place” is a bit extreme, don’t you think?

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        rachel b June 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

        Kitty’s clearly no racism pooh-pooher. But I guess I’m confused–given this particular story and Taz’s reasonable comments–about where the feeling for a need to address or quash political correctness plays here at all.

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    TRACY June 27, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Who do you contact to get a bike lock

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