Over the course of the last week I’ve been thinking long and hard about George Floyd and the countless cases of police brutality towards African Americans. I’ve been on this earth nearly six decades, yet to me, I sometimes think very little has changed.
It’d be very hard to tell my thoughts in one posting, so I’m going to recount what I remember of my experiences through several posts.
I grew up with white privilege in Portland, Oregon, although it took me a long time to realize it. Right before I was born my parents bought a house on the west side of Portland in a semi-rural neighborhood. My dad was a real estate agent and had done a lot of research. He wanted to get out of the urban area and be in a good school district. We had a big house, big yard, and good neighbors. Most of the people were professionals – several attorneys, one judge, and my dentist lived next door. For the most part all white. One family was half-Persian (Iranian). But that was as exotic as we got.
But what was the real reason for our move to the west side, other than a larger house for our growing family? (I was the youngest of 4 kids.) My dad didn’t mince words. Portland was changing – specifically, the east side, or the Albina district where my dad had grown up and where he and my mom first lived after they got married in the late 50s. During WWII most of the black families lived near the shipyards in an area called Vanport, but after the flood in ’48, those families were only allowed to move to certain areas of NE Portland (Albina). Then with the construction of the Memorial Coliseum in ’59 and Interstate 5 in the early 60s, more black families were forced to relocate to predominantly white neighborhoods in Albina. The great white flight to the west side and suburbs had begun.
As a young child growing up in the West Hills of Portland, I was indeed very sheltered from what was happening over on the other side of the Willamette River. Rioting, looting, and arson took place, with many business boarding up permanently. In the early 70s my dad would take me over to the trendy new shopping center called Lloyd Center and we would pass by parts of Albina that were burned out or boarded up. My dad still knew people over in Albina and checked on them periodically. To me it was like a whole different world. I’m sure I realized I was lucky but I don’t think my dad said anything overtly racist. In fact, we had a couple fellowship activities with the Congregationalist Church over in Albina and I recall it as being fun. But beyond that, my interaction with black people was very limited.
That is, until Fourth Grade. That is when my new best friend was a girl named Monica.
To be continued . . .