Portland: Even Whiter Than Salt Lake City
On this eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, more importantly, Obama’s ground-breaking inauguration, I was saddened (but not surprised) to read Portland remains the whitest city center in the nation.
College-educated Americans are overwhelmingly white, and those who migrate to Portland are disproportionately so — the “beer, bikes and Birkenstock” crowd, in the words of Portland economist Joe Cortright.
Portland-area employers competing for top talent have a hard time retaining African American hires, who often can’t bear the social and cultural isolation of a metro area that is less than 3 percent black.
First visiting Oregon in May to look for housing, I was shocked to read the front-page New York Times story on the state’s virulently racist history. The state officially barred blacks from establishing residency here until the 1920s. I hope to write more about this tension in an otherwise politically liberal state with this torrid racial past many progressives still don’t want to confront. The experiences of black and other minority college students in Oregon are especially poignant. There was a probing discussion and documentary on “Being Black” at Oregon State shown on campus here last week.