Black Lives Matter

At Workshop we believe in equal access to opportunities and freedom from racist thought and attitudes. We fully understand that as white people, and part of a racial majority, we have been afforded privileges that historically are not available to all people. We believe this must change. There is no defense for denying your privilege as a white person in this country, or in Oregon. Acknowledging this privilege does not discount the hard work you may have put in, or the good works you may have accomplished. It means that you can understand and appreciate that no matter how hard you worked to get where you’re at, if you were black or brown it would have been even harder, maybe even impossible. Don’t believe me? Read on. 

 

In Oregon, one of the whitest states in the country, I was taught in grade-school that we were an anti-slavery state. The story ended there; we were one of the “good” states according to this narrative. This is not the full story. The state was technically anti-slavery, that’s true, but it was only because white settlers weren’t allowed to bring their slaves with them. The truth is that Oregon established its statehood as a white-only state (the only state with this status). Black people were not allowed, whether they were settlers or slaves—full stop. After the Civil War this policy was repealed, but the anti-black sentiment didn’t just magically go away. Later, when black people were technically allowed to settle in Oregon, a system of sundown laws and district redlining were used to keep them from acquiring wealth, socio-economic status, and just generally competing with white people for jobs and housing. And we’re not talking about hundreds of years ago, either. Even Portland and Eugene, considered the liberal darlings of the state, had sundown laws and redlining policies well into the 20th century.

 

Now, you try and tell me that you would have gotten where you are if these hostile attitudes and racist policies had been at play on you. Systemic racism is a stain on this country’s history that we have not sufficiently addressed for far too long. Understanding this history is an important step toward working together to find real solutions. From the perspective of our shared history, it is easy to feel empathy for other races and to want to empower non-white people to achieve their goals. At Workshop, when we say ‘Black lives matter’ we damn well mean it. 

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