When my wife and I moved to Oregon from California three years ago, one of the first things we noticed was the lack of African-Americans.
(Ken Webber of Medford, Oregon wears a confederate flag hat and shows the Confederate flag that got him fired as a school bus driver in 2012 (AP)
At first we just thought it was Medford where we live. But, as we explored the state, it became increasingly clear that Oregon was Whitopia.
Did some research. Here's why there's still so few African- Americans in Oregon today:
When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there.
It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926.
Oregon has had more than its fair share of utopia community experiments. The definitive book on the topic is Eden Within Eden: Oregon’s Utopia Heritage, where you’ll find plenty of those utopian communities catalogued.
While 13 percent of Americans are African-American, just 2 percent of Oregon’s population is African-American.
Oregon today still exists as a white utopia in some respects.
The state, much like so many others, is haunted by the residue of experiments in whitopia. These experiments form the basis of Rich Benjamin’s 2009 book Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America.
The thing is, we never dreamed we were moving into Whitopia. We thought Oregon was like California in it's racial diversity.
I still can't get use to seeing Confederate flags flying from the back of pickup trucks (see photo at top of page) with rifles in the rear window. Apparently, Oregon's lack of gun laws is very attractive to rednecks from throughout the south and midwest.
I want to say in all fairness, we have been treated GREAT since we moved here. Almost everyone we've run across has been nice. We've made a lot of new friends too.
I've learned something new. It's not a pretty picture, but at least it explains why I seldom see people of African-American descent here.
Time for me to walk on down the road...