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Nonprofit leaders say Portland streets aren’t ‘open’ for all

Posted by on May 19th, 2020 at 10:30 am

Seen in north Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

While some Portlanders ride bikes and walk around their neighborhoods with relative ease, that ostensibly simple act isn’t so easy for many others. Local nonprofit leaders who work with immigrants, people of color, and families that rely on social services, paint a much different picture of neighborhood mobility.

In the case of Oregon Walks, Executive Director Jess Thompson said in a recent member newsletter that many people they serve, “Are not feeling safe leaving home during the pandemic.” “Too many folks do not have enough (or any) access to face coverings or reliable information about how to walk ‘Covid-aware’ and more safely when they walk out the door.”

Think about that the next time you head outside for a run or a bike ride: There are people who feel trapped inside their homes because of fear of the virus, fear of authorities, fear of the unknown.

To help ease anxieties, Oregon Walks has created “walking kits” they’ll distribute via partners in food boxes, at health clinics, and homeless shelters. According to Thompson, each kit has a face covering, safety light, literature on public health and walking safety guidelines, and links to local services and resources.

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“They’re struggling with economic fallout and don’t want to engage on this topic because we’re trying to survive.”
— Duncan Hwang, APANO

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Duncan Hwang is associate director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon and transportation justice is one of his priority policy areas.

I spoke to Hwang earlier this month. While we hosted a debate about open streets and pushed the city to move forward with them, Hwang said the community he serves was reeling. Unemployment, xenophobia directed at Asian-owned businesses, health fears, the digital divide that impacts families with schoolkids and adults who don’t have reliable access to news and other information — those are the issues faced by many Portlanders whose voices are underrepresented here and in other local media outlets.

“No one’s really going anywhere, so it’s hard to have transportation conversations,” Hwang said when I asked him for his thoughts on open streets. “Vulnerable communities are suffering right now, they’re struggling with economic fallout and don’t want to engage on this topic because we’re trying to survive.”

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“No walking kit can erase the terrorism white supremacy culture inflicts.”
— Jess Thompson, Oregon Walks

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

For Oregon Walks, Jess Thompson says the murder of Ahmaud Arbery helped crystalize their mission. “[News of his murder] shook us to the core,” Thompson wrote in a newsletter this week. “It was a stark organizational reminder that no walking kit can erase the terrorism white supremacy culture inflicts. This, along with the anti-Asian racism many of our community members are experiencing in the public right of way, give us deep pause as an organization and make us more committed than ever to engage mainstream active transportation professionals and public planners in expanding the focus of our work to create a more broad understanding of ‘safety’.”

For Thompson, safety isn’t just about infrastructure or lower speed limits or sidewalks. “Safety is uprooting white supremacy culture that permeates every system in the US.”

Thompson says Oregon Walks is planning a series of virtual conversations in late June dubbed “Talk the Walk, Walk the Talk” that will be about equity and safety in the public right-of-way. If you’d like to get involved contact her at jess@oregonwalks[dot]org.

———

CORRECTION: I regret that I didn’t accurately relay Jess Thompson’s statement. It’s important to note she wrote in her newsletter that safety is not just about infrastructure. I unintentionally left out the “just” part and that omits a very important nuance. I’m very sorry for the misunderstanding my mistake caused.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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hickeymadMiddle of the Road GuySteve ScarichChuck DToby Keith Recent comment authors
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Hello, Kitty
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Hello, Kitty

For those who are still having trouble with face coverings, try this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1FHPI4XpRs

It’s easy, it works, and the components should be nearly universally available.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Keep telling people they are victims and they will continue to be victims. You aren’t helping them.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I’m not sure who this comment is directed at since the only people calling somebody a victim are the ones being victimized.

dwk
Guest
dwk

This is so condescending, minorities not intelligent enough to deal with Covid?
Do they think they are all children?
Amazing article.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Could you point to the part of the article that claims minorities aren’t intelligent enough to deal with COVID? I must have missed it.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Paragraph #2 states that they do not know how to walk Covid-aware. This is information that is repeated on the media of all types literally thousands of times. The article implies that minorities do not know how to access mass media. That is both not true, and insulting. That said, I think if you stopped 100 minority folks, 99 would say that this Thompson person does not speak for them. So, this is essentially Mr Maus trying to create tension that does not, in fact, exist, out on the street. It is easy to go to a aggrieved talking head and come up with a great sound bite.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

This is information that is repeated on the media of all types literally thousands of times.

In what language? 99% of the media on COVID is in Engish. What if you don’t speak English? What if you don’t speak Spanish or Russian?

People who speak English as as first language get shit tons of misinformation. I’m sure its difficult to get accurate information in languages that are not widely spoken in Oregon.

I know bikeportland is generally oblivious wealthy white people, but this privilege display is extra special.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

Where do we draw the line? Must things be printed in every language, like Navajo?

If we can reach 98% of the population fairly easily and it takes 50% more effort to reach the last 2%, that’s not efficient.

And at some point, there is an onus on the person to learn how to navigate the country they’ve chosen to live in?

JM, why are your articles not written in Sanskrit?

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

OREGON
ENGLISH PLUS RESOLUTION
Senate Joint Resolution 16 (1989)

Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

That the use of diverse languages in business, government and private affairs, and the presence of diverse cultures is welcomed, encouraged, and protected in Oregon.

Oregon does not draw lines. So yes, if you need it in Navajo then Oregon will translate it for you.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

So will Google Translate.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

It comes down to personal opinion I guess. I personally believe that Oregon should be translating and broadcasting high quality, vital public health information in every single language that is spoken in Oregon.

Some other folks might believe that its not necessary to communicated high-quality, vital public health information to some groups of people based on an off-the-cuff cost-benefit analysis.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> For Thompson, safety isn’t about infrastructure or lower speed limits or sidewalks. “Safety is uprooting white supremacy culture that permeates every system in the US.” <<<

This is a surprising statement for an organization nominally dedicated to walking. Does this mean that Oregon Walks thinks we should not lower speed limits or build sidewalks?

Are there any Portland-area organizations still focused primarily on pedestrian safety and access?

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

I can think of no better way to win people over to your cause than to suggest they are part of White Supremacist culture.

alex
Guest
alex

It would seem this conversation is always dominated by one white voice.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

In the part of Washington County where I live the Asian folks all have the good masks (N95) while the white supremacist looking folks don’t wear masks or wear bandana’s with skulls and such on them. So perhaps this problem is self correcting in the long run.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

“white supremacist looking”….wow what does this even mean?!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Klan robes?

nerpaderp
Guest
nerpaderp

***Hi nerpaderp. You seem to be new here. Welcome! If you want to have your comments posted, you’ll have to be nicer and more productive. I don’t object to your points, I object to the way you are making them. Please don’t insult anyone. Thanks. – Jonathan***

casual observer
Guest
casual observer

It would be important to understand the % of the people they are interacting with that feel this way, is it 100%, or 10%? I have two kids in an outer NE high school with many friends and acquaintances from immigrant families (Vietnamese and Somalian mainly). What they are hearing, along from what I’m hearing from the school Principal is that the main concerns are about food, paying bills and internet for school work. No issues of fear and aggression have been reported as far as I know. I’m not saying that the quotes in the article aren’t true, but if the feedback is from a select few that would be important to understand. My point isn’t that this is terrible to hear about, but I just want to know if it is coming from one or two bad apples out there and not from an entire community of white supremacists which is how I read the article.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Your perception is correct. There is always someone looking to act aggrieved. They just need to find a mouthpiece to get their word out. Mr. Maus is happy to indulge.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Hi Steve, you seem to have a lot of insight into the immigrant communities of Portland.

Where did you get this special understanding?

Or are you just a white guy who feels empowered to speak for them?

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

You have a point. I am an older, not rich, white guy. So, of course, I cannot directly know the experience of minorities. I never claimed to be doing any more than giving my own personal opinion. The best I can give you (and I know many will roll their eyes) is my relationships with my Korean next door neighbor, my Haitan/American on the other side, my good friend Korean/American, several African/American cyclist friends, and several Hispanic friends. We actually never talk about race. I feel no need to bring it up, and they don’t either. But, most of them are the kinds of people who, if they had a grievance, would be glad to share it with me. I would love to hear more input from folks of color, not affiliated with a ‘non-profit’, a term that the owner of this website uses for some unknown reason. As if your tax status gives you some kind of special status.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I would love to hear more input from folks of color, not affiliated with a ‘non-profit’, a term that the owner of this website uses for some unknown reason.

What for-profit companies are making an effort to gather the opinions of underrepresented minorities? And why would you believe them more over companies who are not doing it for money?

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

As if your tax status gives you some kind of special status.

Yes, that’s exactly what your tax status gives you.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Cool, it sounds like you don’t have any insight then. I’m not sure what value your opinion on experiences you’ve never, and will never, have are.

if they had a grievance, would be glad to share it with me.

I bet

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

Is it any different than Jess Thompson (a white woman), feeling empowered to speak for them?

Rod B
Guest
Rod B

I sure hope Oregon Walks is not just focusing on undoing White Supremacy Culture and is still working toward advocating for safer pedestrian infrastructure, as this is a critical issue that needs advocacy and especially impacts communities of color in places like East Portland. As a son of an immigrant from Asia and as a human, I am totally for working against White supremacy, when this is defined as a belief in the supremacy of the “White race” over all others and actions to continue this. However, some activists have defined White Supremacy very broadly, equating it with actions that promote or continue “White culture,” which some equate with Western culture or “White settler culture.” This can be seen as including most everything about the way we live – industrialized society, the education system, speaking English (or Spanish – another colonialist language), or even riding bikes. Sorry folks, but due to a history we cannot undo, we will for the foreseeable future have a society with a strong Western basis, although I think our society can become much more inclusive and will be shaped by other cultural traditions. In a global world, we are all becoming hybrid cultures. Go to Japan or Korea and you will see vibrant Asian cultures, but you will also see many things with origins in the West, like industrialized economies, universities, rail systems, steel and concrete high rises. They are hybrid cultures. Nothing inherently bad about taking on some aspects of other cultures. It’s a human thing. My basic point is that there is nothing wrong with having our society permeated with Western cultural traditions, as long as it is inclusive of a diversity of people and we are open to its continuing evolution as a hybrid culture. So, don’t worry about whether your bike is a product of White Settler Culture. Just ride.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Comment of the week

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

Comment of the week!

Any racial theory, including more modern ones, like POC/white, all fail for a simple reason: race doesn’t exist. It never did. We (humans) created it, and to be specific, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach codified the modern concept of races. We constructed it and we can deconstruct it. But to deconstruct it, we can’t keep relying on it as crutch and try to flip the hierarchy of races we created. Oh, you were born here, well you have X social privileges, so your now three pegs down the hierarchy. Oh you were born here, well Y group treated you bad, so you go to the top of the hierarchy. The very idea that a person’s concepts, ideas, or day-to-day living is tied into a race is exactly the idea of racial responsibility, an “original sin” argument made by very specific group of people in the early-to-mid 20th century. (Hint: not the Girl Scouts.)

We can address the inequalities of the past without making sweeping generalizations of the children of those that created those inequalities.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

I think there are some less enlightened members of society that are angry that this Corona Virus outbreak has been something of a Suez moment for white male leadership. The UK, NYC,Brazil, Italy and the U.S. government are seen by all as the losers in Pandemic leadership race, while the stars have been led by women ( New Zealand) or women of color ( San Francisco, Hong Kong, Taiwan ). I think the time for settler culture has passed and the Virus is making that abundantly clear to all.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Do you suppose Prime Minister Adern (of NZ) is not of “settler culture”? Or that the government of Taiwan somehow consists of indigenous people, and not “settlers”? And calling the leaders of Hong Kong and Taiwan “people of color” demonstrates a rather ethno-centric view of the world.

Good leadership and the ability to make wise decisions are not gender-based or ethnic traits. And while I give you credit for the “Suez moment” reference, the rest just doesn’t hold together. Who, exactly, is angry about the so-called “pandemic leadership race”?

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

How about the no-mask guy from the viral video at New Seasons now featured on Oregon Live. He seems pretty angry as he rants about masks and women.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Ah, my bad. I hadn’t seen that video, and didn’t realize he was making a geopolitical argument about gender and the quality of leadership.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

The positive response varies widely based on a lot of factors, generally not just race or gender. Tim Waltz, Governor of MN has gotten praise for his response while next door, the Governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, has still refused to do anything, turning South Dakota in hot spot nationally. Governor Noem as even had quite the back-and-forth with First Nations who have wanted to impose their own shelter in place orders. Yet, not that far away, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is having a hell of a time with protesters. So its more of a “stupid is ans stupid does” than color of someone’s skin and or their genitals.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

“less enlightened members of society” = anyone with a different opinion than mine.

Noel
Guest
Noel

I highly, highly recommend that folks read this article: A Tale of Two Truths: Transportation and Nuance in the time of COVID-19.

https://medium.com/at-the-intersections/a-tale-of-two-truths-transportation-and-nuance-in-the-time-of-covid-19-9bc99ff8c005

It is possible to hold multiple truths, multiple perspectives, and multiple approaches to safety at once. To say that Oregon Walks is no longer working on pedestrian issues because they are holding space for safety concerns that go beyond pavement is really limiting for our collective efforts to advocate and build meaningful change for all people in public space. And I’ll add that Jess’s newsletter did not say ‘safety isn’t about infrastructure or sidewalks’. She said it isn’t JUST about that. Nuance is important!

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I live two blocks west of 82nd in the Jade district. We never walk east. Narrow sidewalks, no ADA ramps for strollers, lots of weeds and gravel along sidewalks, limited crosswalks, you run into I205, abundant campers, etc.; it’s just not inviting. I don’t doubt anyone for not wanting to go for walks if you live around 92nd and Division. The I205 path should be a wonderful asset to the neighborhood, but we all know the current condition the trails in, unfortunately.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

So according to bourgeois white leftists, black and brown people are too stupid to WALK without their help? Nice.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

I think that quite frequently, white leftists (or Progressives in my parlance) believe they know what is best for others and are obligated to speak and make decisions for others. I read this earlier on WW and I wonder if it also sums up how many minorities think about white leftists.

“Liberal progressives are incurious people who are incapable of self reflection. They confuse academic qualifications for intelligence and believe they are morally and intellectually superior to the deplorable. The mix of arrogance & elitism is toxic and one of their greatest weaknesses.”

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

white leftists (or Progressives in my parlance) believe they know what is best for others and are obligated to speak and make decisions for others.

I find it odd that you’re not familiar with the term “don’t shoot the messenger”. Because it’s not the white voices you’re hearing in this article.

What I brought away from this is that white rightists (or Conservatives [am I getting my parlance right? I don’t do politics]) believe they know what is best so much more than the law that minorities are so afraid of them they don’t want to leave the house.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

So according to bourgeois white leftists

I’m not sure who you’re referring to here since according to the article the people reporting the issues are the “black and brown” people themselves.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

That’s just not true. One need only look at the About -> Our Team link on Oregon Walk’s website to see that its not true.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The article quoted two people, neither were “black or brown”. I didn’t see mention of either of those two colors, in any context, anywhere in the article at all.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

“No walking kit can erase the terrorism white supremacy culture inflicts.”
— Jess Thompson, Oregon Walks

Is that really true? It’s an open carry state. I can pretty quickly design a “walking kit” that can erase the terrorism white supremacy culture inflicts.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

An armed society is a polite society?

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Do you think minorities don’t suffer enough? Do you realize how many more would be dead if they were legally carrying a gun? There’s a high profile case in the news right now where a black guy is in jail for attempted murder because white guys broke into his house and killed his EMT girlfriend and he shot back. This is a best case scenario because it involves police. You think if a minority tried to legally defend themselves on the street using a gun that it would turn out well for them? They don’t need more reasons for people to want to kill them.

Chuck D
Guest
Chuck D

Racism is now ascribed as the root cause of all adverse social interaction confrontations and conflicts among diverse Americans, but other culturally homogeneous countries also deal with the same type of adverse social interaction confrontation and conflict scenarios within their populations. Is the foundation unequivocal racism or more so a negative byproduct of human interaction.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Chuck D: Did you or did you not fire Flava Flav from Public Enemy?

Chuck D
Guest
Chuck D

Everyone is a comedian these days. It’s easier to travel the path of least resistance by making a joke for ego and instant gratification than it is to take the time to reflect on a topic and produce a cognitive response to the best of one’s ability.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

There is humor in just about everything.

But I think I understand the point you are making. What amount of negative interaction is simply human conflict? It’s sure easy to blame things like racism and sexism, but sometimes it is just people.

I have a female acquaintance with whom I frequently get into debates with. Any disagreement with her is labeled “sexism”, when it really is “you just said some really dumb things and I’d say the same thing to a guy”.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

He showed up late for work because he forgot “What Time is it?”

Hickeymad
Guest
Hickeymad

This is by far the most ridiculously social justicey article I’ve seen on bike portland. How embarrassing for this site.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

For those confused about what whiteness (And “white supremacy”) has to do with transportation, walking and cycling there is a wonderful Critical social justice dictionary being compiled that can help one understand the perspective of the critical theorists and activists who use these terms.

I think it’s important that we understand how these terms are being used if we are to counter their inherent illiberalism. This dictionary is a fantastic resource because the language of the critical theorists from which these concepts arise Is sometimes hard to understand from a laypersons perspective. There are many linguistic traps set in these theorists redefinition of language to suit their ends. It is exceedingly difficult to counter these trends without being branded and dismissed as a “white Supremacist” or some other such nonsense. These are dangerous labels in these time to be stuck with.

Here’s a link to the definition of “whiteness”; https://newdiscourses.com/tftw-whiteness/

Here is a link to the definition of “white supremacy”;

Critical theory has been saturating many of our institutions and is have extremely deleterious effects. I am heartened to see so many people here on bike portland starting to push back. Critical social justice is NOT liberalism. It is a radical way of viewing the world with end goals of tearing society apart such that it can be rebuilt along utopian lines; with utopian being defined by the critical theorists. I myself see this as a very dangerous phenomena.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

Oops, here’s the second link; https://newdiscourses.com/tftw-white-supremacy/