race

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It's hard for most residents of the region to imagine what it's like to live as a person of color.  Because there are so very few. 

And the overwhelming whiteness of the population has produced some regrettable events and periods in the region's history, like the rise of the Ku Klux KIan in the 1920s. 

People of color still experience discrimination today.  We assembled an all non-white panel and host to explore the issues. 

Robert Goodwin of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival hosts the discussion. 

Penguin Random House

Apartheid ended in South Africa, but it did not end quietly.  Violence marked the drawing down of the strict separation of the races that had existed for decades. 

And the violence included the murder of a white American woman by a mob of young black men.  The parents of Amy Biehl forgave her killers.  But when writer Justine van der Leun investigated the case, the details only got more convoluted... leading to a wholesale reconsideration of crime and punishment, transgression and reconciliation. 

Her book We Are Not Such Things gets into the points of the murder and its much larger significance. 

Southern Oregon University

  Aja Monet is probably pleased to know that she is difficult to categorize. 

She is a poet, songwriter, singer, activist, and much more.  And she arrives in Southern Oregon for the Youth Artists Institute in Ashland, at a time when issues she holds dear are very much in the news. 

Juvenile justice, police violence, and race relations continue to trouble the country, and they are of concern to her. 

Viking Press

In theory, America is the land of opportunity: anyone can do anything, and we are not a country of strong class lines.  That's the theory. 

The recent debates about inequality remind us that people who don't make much money have a hard time getting to a position to make more. 

Historian and author Nancy Isenberg says it's not a new situation.  She is the author of the newly released White Trash

The book tracks the accomplishments and abuses of (and on) poor white people since colonial days. 

Julie Cortez/OSF

Abraham Lincoln made his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but the Civil War and slavery dragged on for two more years.  It was not until June 19, 1865, that former slaves in Texas finally got word of their freedom. 

The date is now remembered as "Juneteenth."  The Oregon Shakepeare Festival observes Juneteenth every year, and this year the celebration is Monday, June 27th (an off-day for festival performers). 

HarperCollins

Civil rights legislation passed in the mid-60s, but attitudes took longer to change. 

And the institutions of racism linger to this day.  Those include the continued presence of the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists, albeit far weaker than in its heyday. 

One contributing factor: a successful lawsuit against the United Klans of America by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Morris Dees.  Laurence Leamer's book The Lynching tells the story of the horrific crime that led to the lawsuit, and the suit's lingering impact. 

KLCC

Donnell Alexander only gets 90 minutes to speak at the Eugene Library Thursday Night (June 2). 

And that's a shame, because he has a lot to say about a lot of things.  Like what it's like to be an African-American in Portland, which he described as feeling like "a sitting black duck." 

Like his visit with the extremists who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, or his documentary on the only (known) major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter while tripping on LSD (Dock Ellis). 

Alexander is journalist, writer, film producer, radio producer... that's just the short list. 

Wikimedia

Decisions made back when Oregon became a state had a long-lasting impact. 

Like the relative paucity of African-Americans in the state.  "Exclusion laws" forbidding black people from living in all or part of the state existed from statehood's dawn into the 20th century. 

Oregon Humanities' "Conversation Project" offers an traveling presentation called "Why Aren't There More Black People In Oregon?" 

It is in Cave Junction Thursday (April 7) and Cottage Grove on Friday (April 8).  Scholar/poet/writer Walidah Imarisha leads the discussion. 

Algonquin Books

Novelist Jim Grimsley was a public school student when public schools integrated in North Carolina. 

The black students he met were the first black people he'd ever known. 

He has the benefit of hindsight as he looks on back on that time now, 50 years later, and comes to grips with his racist upbringing.  How I Shed My Skin is the story of his experiences. 

JPR News

Telling and hearing experiences that acknowledge real cases of bias in our communities, both contemporary and historical, can feel at once empowering and uncomfortable.

How do we talk about personal experiences and learned stories in ways that emphasize individual empowerment and collective progress? What role may those stories serve for personal growth, shared justice, and societal advancement? 

Bias and its undoing is a theme running through this weekend's Social Justice Conference at Southern Oregon University. 

Professor and award-winning writer Robert Arellano and students Ahsante Foree (SOU) and Grace Pruitt (Ashland High School) take up the story task in a session called "Telling Stories to Transform Communities." 

Christian LInder/Wikimedia

  We try and try to be as fair as possible to our fellow humans, but darn it, our primitive brains continue to hold onto some biases. 

Law professor Erik Girvan at the University of Oregon says implicit biases are nothing to be ashamed of, but certainly to be aware of. 

He plans a pair of workshops this week on the role of implicit bias in decision making. 

Southern Oregon University

A presidential candidate calls for excluding people of one religion from entering the country.  College students insist on greater attention to minority needs, and succeed in convincing top campus leaders to resign. 

Diversity, or at least efforts to secure it, has been in the news a lot of late. 

Southern Oregon University President Roy Saigo took note.  Saigo was on the receiving end of racial exclusion in his own life, spending time in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans as a child. 

Now he urges non-exclusion and tolerance from his perch atop a college administration. 

Wikimedia

It's been a tough couple of years for race relations in America. 

So there's really no better time to bring the subject up and spend several days talking about it. 

That is the approach at Southern Oregon University, which observes Race Awareness Week November 2nd through 6th. 

Speakers from on and off campus are involved in the project, including Claudia Alick of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Multicultural Resource Center director Marvin Woodard. 

Simon & Schuster

Race relations and police interactions can be hard enough for mature people to understand. 

How do we explain it to younger people? 

Co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely give the explanation a try in their YA novel All American Boys

They alternate chapters in the voices of two teens, one black and one white, as they respond to the beating of the black teen by a white cop. 

Wikimedia

"Driving while hispanic" is not an official term, but it's one that surfaces from time to time in our region, indicating issues even here with law enforcement and race. 

And while much of the country is focused on those issues, Oregon Action and other groups want changes. 

OA is pushing for state laws that would curtail or end racial profiling by police. 

Race Awareness Week At Southern Oregon U.

Feb 23, 2015
Wikimedia

Black History Month and Race Awareness Week overlap this year at Southern Oregon University. 

SOU established a Multicultural Resource Center more than a decade ago, and continues to promote diversity on campus. 

A series of events on Race Awareness Week highlight the efforts. 

Recognizing Racism--And Correcting

Nov 18, 2014
abetterworld.me

Oregon's history with people of color is a bumpy one. 

Laws excluding African-Americans from living in the state stayed on the books until well into the 20th century, and even modern-day liberal towns like Ashland were Ku Klux Klan strongholds. 

That was then.  But even now, there are efforts to recognize and respond to racism. 

Author and organizer Ahjamu Umi embraces those efforts. 

Why African-Americans Are Rare In Oregon

Aug 28, 2014
Public Domain

About 13 percent of the American population is African-American.  In Oregon, 2 percent.  Yes, TWO. 

A law excluding black people from Oregon stayed on the books until 1926. 

That is one of many startling facts in the Oregon Humanities program "Why Aren't There More Black People in Oregon?  A Hidden History." 

Doctor/Poet Neal Hall

Aug 4, 2014
surgeon-poet.com

The title of Neal Hall's book alone will make some people flinch: "Nigger For Life." 

But the book of poetry lays out Dr. Hall's feelings about his hard work to get into and through medical school, and his feelings about how society rewarded him--or not--for his work. 

His perception: de facto slavery still exists in America.

Race On The Stage

May 9, 2014
Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Can you imagine a white actor playing a part in blackface in today's world? 

That change is one example of the evolution of attitudes toward race in America. 

And entertainment has been part of the change. 

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