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  • Ugh. What a nasty experience. Unfortunately, the otherwise beautiful city that I live in, Portland, OR, also has the dubious distinction of being the whitest city in the United States (yes, we even beat Salt Lake City). I was walking down the street the other day wearing a black shirt with Celtic knots on the front and running down one of the sleeves and I was stopped by a guy telling me that he was proud that others were willing to celebrate their European heritage and not be driven underground. While I'm proud of my heritage, the suggestion of white supremecy in the man's conversation just gave me the creeps and I turned and walked away without saying anything else.

    Disclaimer: Being proud of my heritage does not mean that I am proud of everything that my ancestors have done. In fact, much of it is disgraceful, but I think I'll stop there as it's so easy to misunderstand conversation about this topic.

    Incidentally, it's not a coincidence that Portland is so white. Oregon used to work very hard to keep non-whites out of the state. We joined the union as an anti-slavery state in part because we thought that allowing slaves meant we had to allow black people. Further, we used to have the second largest Chinese population outside of San Francisco, but we drove them out, often at gunpoint.

    For an interesting read about our history, check out the story of Jacob Vanderpool [] (side note: I've held and read the original court documents, so I know this is a true story). He's the only person known to be forced out of Oregon, by the courts, because of his race. I wanted to write a screenplay about him but I couldn't find out where he came from or where he went. What's interesting about him is that he appeared to be rich, which was very unusual for a black person. I visited our historical society to try and track down more information but never got anywhere.