Portland, Portlandia, and Whiteness
September 27, 2014 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Portlandia is a white show for a white audience, and Portland is a very white place, by design. Kiran Herbert writes about the history of race in Portland and its depiction on Portlandia. Via
posted by Dip Flash (101 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
The comments are generally worth reading.
posted by nev at 6:53 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's a history that I hadn't heard before. Portland is a city that we've been wanting to visit for a while (not just because of the show), and I'll bear it in mind when we do get there.

That said, marginalised populations are getting shifted out of their neighbourhoods by developers all over; money being a tried and true method of getting rid of those troublesome demographics. It's a great shame, as history is lost in the process and communities broken up.
posted by arcticseal at 6:57 AM on September 27, 2014


Watched a few episodes of the first season and it generally seemed reasonably good until it had a really conspicuously out-of-place super-racist sketch about I-guess-Japanese tourists or something

It was baffling because, racism aside, it had nothing to do with the city and no actual jokes or punchlines or anything
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:13 AM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


The comments are generally worth reading.

Not the focus of the article, but one of the comments touched upon how there aren't Little Italy's on the west coast like there are on the east coast, and I was happy to have read that little tidbit. Great post.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:14 AM on September 27, 2014


So how does hipster Poetlands economy work, anyway? I see a lot of money on those streets with all the neat little resteraunts but I'm hazy on the industry that supports it - it can't all be trust fund people feeding off each other, can it?
posted by Artw at 7:18 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been consistently surprised by how this show seems to be well received despite being a huge pile of mean-spirited humor based almost entirely on treating marginalized groups as the butt of the jokes.

I couldn't stand it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2014 [16 favorites]


The comments are generally worth reading.

Not the focus of the article, but one of the comments touched upon how there aren't Little Italy's on the west coast like there are on the east coast, and I was happy to have read that little tidbit. Great post.


Yeah that comment by scola is really informative. It makes me want to find a book about the histories of cities and urbanization in the USA. I'm sure there are such books although I don't know them.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 7:27 AM on September 27, 2014


I've been consistently surprised by how this show seems to be well received despite being a huge pile of mean-spirited humor based almost entirely on treating marginalized groups as the butt of the jokes.

I've only seen a few Portlandia sketches—the show was really hard to watch in Canada for a while, and then I kind of stopped watching television so I haven't caught up on Netflix—and though I enjoy most of them, one or two gave me pause. Specifically, there was one about "fake girl geeks" (or maybe just fake geeks in general) where a "real geek" steps in and says how shitty it is that people glorify geeks because for decades it was a label used to shun people like him, and how dare you try to co-opt the label into a cool thing without having to suffer like he did.

And I thought, okay, I can sort of see the point, but holy shit, the identity politics on display here are really troubling to me, and CARRIE BROWNSTEIN is on the show—someone who's probably had to deal with tons of this kind of "you're not one of us" bullshit in the music scene. Like, really? I still like the concept of Portlandia, but I remember being put off a lot by that kind of thing.

Interesting, too, that one of my favourite sketches from the show—an admittedly goes-on-too-long sketch about Battlestar Galactica—is also highlighted in the article as a problematic sketch despite having a black couple in it, precisely because it presents this fiction of racial harmony that seems at odds with Portland's reality.
posted by chrominance at 7:37 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been consistently surprised by how this show seems to be well received despite being a huge pile of mean-spirited humor based almost entirely on treating marginalized groups as the butt of the jokes.

Really? I don't see that, and I'm interested in examples (on preview, like chrominance's). I'm not here to defend Portlandia, exactly, but... what marginalized groups appear in the show at all? There simply aren't marginalized groups depicted, generally. Almost all of the jokes are about middle class white straight couples who have to wait in line for brunch and get their toddler into preschool and run funky coffeehouses.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:47 AM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]






Portland is only a little bit whiter than the US population overall, yeah, but that's still pretty darn white for an American city proper. I expect that what the author should have pointed to is that Portland is very unblack. The city proper is only 6 percent black, under half the national proportion of 13 percent, and the MSA is only 3 percent black.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:06 AM on September 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


There's a non-white person in every single sketch.

His name is Fred Armisen.

He is of Venezuelan/German/Japanese descent.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:06 AM on September 27, 2014 [31 favorites]


Whites constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of 223,553,265 or 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census.

Highest of the West Coast's major cities (Seattle: 69%; San Francisco: 54%; LA: 41%; San Diego 42%). The piece is about Portland in the context of West Coast and PNW history specifically. For gods sake it's whiter than Boston.
posted by rtha at 8:10 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Whites constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of 223,553,265 or 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census.

Compare to other cities: Boston is 54% white. Chicago is about 1/3 white. Los Angeles is 40% white. San Francisco is 50% white. Portland is a demographic outlier of major American cities.
posted by deanc at 8:14 AM on September 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


I visited Portland from Los Angeles in the early 90s and was quite struck by how white it was then.
posted by Slothrup at 8:14 AM on September 27, 2014


for an American city proper

So, are there improper American cities? Which cities don't count as being fully American? If they're not American, what are they?

I'm totally kidding, I get your point.

I live in Seattle. This city had the exact same racist red-lining going on back in the day as Portland.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:15 AM on September 27, 2014


Whites constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of 223,553,265 or 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census.

The comparison is really with other US cities; as of 2009 Portland was fifth on the list of whitest cities:

The upshot is that the Portland metro area is startlingly white viewed against the national landscape -- even whiter than Salt Lake City, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates. ...

In today's America, people of color make up more than 40 percent of a typical metro area's population, an analysis by The Oregonian shows.

But in metro Portland, public policy still is controlled from a white point of view.


That Oregonian link also has another good capsule history of how the Northwest became and stayed predominantly white:

"Oregon was virulently racist for much of its history," says Bragdon, the Metro leader. "And if you don't have a large minority population, that becomes self-reinforcing over time."
posted by Dip Flash at 8:15 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


He is of Venezuelan/German/Japanese descent.

I think you may be underestimating the whiteness of Venezuela.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:18 AM on September 27, 2014 [14 favorites]


I love many aspects of Portland, from its nearby nature, to its underground and art scenes, to its bookstore. Several members of my family lived there for some time, and I will always love to visit, but the glaring whiteness of it is perhaps the one thing that most turns me off about the place.

There's lots to appreciate, but I get the real sense that if I scratched away the hipstery surface, I feel pretty certain I would find entirely too many crude white guys with muttonchops and offensively unenlightened attitudes staring back at me.
posted by markkraft at 8:29 AM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was curious and looked at data. The only large (1M+) metro areas whiter than Portland are, starting with the most honkie-laden, Pittsburgh, Grand Rapids, Cincinnati, and Providence. But the only large metro areas less black than Portland are SLC and San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara (which is also the second-least-whitest). The whiteness of smaller MSAs goes up to 95 percent in Bangor and the blackness of MSAs goes down to 0.16 percent in Missoula.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 AM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


The other thing about that metro area data is that if you look at the 'core city' numbers (which is what the hip part of Portland is), Portland is the whitest on that list.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:35 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I was actually surprised by the 72% number, having expected that Portland would be more like 95% white. At 72%, it's pretty close to the country at large, unlike most cities, which are much blacker than the country as a whole. I find myself wondering if The Great Re-migration will eventually make those numbers balance out, as the cities become whiter and the rural and suburban areas become blacker.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:43 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


...one of my favourite sketches from the show—an admittedly goes-on-too-long sketch about Battlestar Galactica—is also highlighted in the article as a problematic sketch despite having a black couple in it, precisely because it presents this fiction of racial harmony that seems at odds with Portland's reality.

I don't have strong feelings about Portlandia, but I don't really understand this argument. The article is simultaneously criticizing the show for including POC and criticizing them for not including POC.
posted by Librarypt at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Were there not ever any regular Army, AF, or Navy bases in Oregon? There was a time when military bases would bring in Black families who would often remain in the area after separation from service.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2014


I thought the point in the comments about ignoring Latino/Native American communities was well taken, but otherwise this article resonated based on what I know about the PNW. My ex was from Albany (his mom taught at the university in Corvallis) and he told me once that he'd never seen a black person in the flesh until he came to Texas to go to college. He wasn't in Portland, but the few times I visited, the places I saw--admittedly touristy--seemed very white.

Maybe I can't say anything because I live in Austin, which also deserves a lot of side-eye for its demographics and gentrification. But maybe that's why Portlandia never had enough appeal for me to check it out.
posted by immlass at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2014


Heh. I remember when I moved to Portland in 2001 and phoned my friend Patrick (black guy) back home (Mississippi) to tell him he'd love it and should visit. Beautiful country, young demographic, good music scene, good food. It's pretty white, though, I said. How white, he said. I haven't seen a black person yet, I said. Find out what they did with all the black people and get back to me, he said.

Eventually I did find out when I discovered North Portland, but Pat never did visit.

Portland's troubled racial history certainly played a role in its current demographic make up, but it's not like the city is hostile to diversity (what it lacks in actual diversity, it certainly tries to make up for in lipservice to). But if you were a minority, would you want to pack up and move to a place popularly referred to as one of the whitest cities in the U.S.? Especially when job prospects in general were uniformly glum?
posted by echocollate at 9:00 AM on September 27, 2014 [17 favorites]


Were there not ever any regular Army, AF, or Navy bases in Oregon?

There are no large military bases in Oregon currently to my knowledge. There were a large number of bases and training facilities constructed during WWII but those were just short term boom/bust cycles for the nearby towns, rather than permanent installations. As the articles note, a large percentage of the black workers who moved to Oregon during the war were encouraged to leave shortly after, limiting the transformative effect of the wartime boom.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I visited Portland from Los Angeles in the early 90s and was quite struck by how white it was then.

Americans, usually touring musicians, say the same thing about Victoria BC, which is sort of a mini-Portlandia (Victoria is essentially a retirement destination for twenty-somethings). I had the opportunity to meet Reggie Watts when he played a couple of gigs here, and first thing he said is "Man, this place is so white."

Anyway, I always enjoy watching Portlandia because it seems to me to be a parody of "alternative white" culture. My sense of humour may be a little too "meta" but I always thought the mean-spirited jokes were self-parody of white alterna-culture.
posted by Nevin at 9:03 AM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


The characters will interact, without hesitation, with a black family, or there will be brief glimpses of racial diversity as people wait in line for brunch, but a viewer wouldn’t have any reason to believe that these are black neighborhoods.
Residential neighborhoods don't display race as clearly as individuals do. They do display class clearly, but that's not the main thrust of this article.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:03 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not the focus of the article, but one of the comments touched upon how there aren't Little Italy's on the west coast like there are on the east coast, and I was happy to have read that little tidbit.

I'm still trying to decipher that commenter's point, but the allegation that there were no little Italy's on the West Coast is patently false.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Yeah, I was actually surprised by the 72% number, having expected that Portland would be more like 95% white."

What it is, is 85-90% white + Asian + multiracial. But as this article and the MetaFilter comments show, when we talk about race in the US we are talking about black vs. white by default. The word "Asian" doesn't appear in the article or any of the previous MetaFilter comments, and when Cool Papa Bell pointed out that Armisen is multiracial, this was basically dismissed. Some of the comments at Guernica do go into Portland's actual demographics.

(n.b. I'm a Japanese/German/Irish-American living in the Pacific Northwest.)
posted by mbrubeck at 9:09 AM on September 27, 2014 [18 favorites]


and when Cool Papa Bell pointed out that Armisen is multiracial, this was basically dismissed.

It's because he's not a visible minority per se (I wouldn't guess he was Japanese anyways) and he's skewering a visible minority in those Japanese schoolgirl sketches. It didn't really read as 'racist' for me so much as just weird and out of place. But, you're still in a position of privilege if you just read as 'white'. It's unfortunate but true.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:14 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I always enjoy watching Portlandia because it seems to me to be a parody of "alternative white" culture.

Funny, I've always read it as a criticism/comment/celebration of upper-middle-class Western existence inasmuch as the alternative has become the mainstream. Places like Portland have a lot of good, recent and absurd examples, but every single sketch in that show is about the frivolity of people living with an abundance of excess. They fret about largely inconsequential things.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:20 AM on September 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


They fret about largely inconsequential things.

Sounds like the show is ripe for a "very special episode".. Carrie becomes addicted to caffeine pills and has a breakdown.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 9:42 AM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


When we remodeled our upstairs (house in Seattle), we found some walls were lined with old newspapers from the twenties and thirties. One notable article described the woeful tale of a recently married mixed-race couple who had been turned out of Oregon, unable to find a place to settle because the locals would not tolerate them. They had just come to Seattle looking for more acceptance. They were not having an easy time of it here either.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:42 AM on September 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


Whenever someone asks me if I’m a “native Oregonian”, I reply “as native as any white person on this continent”, that gets some funny looks.

...from anyone hoping for a conversation rather than to be an audience for someone's performance of piety?

Seriously, one of the things Portlandia does so well is skewer the pretensions of sanctimonious white liberals in their Nerf battles against injustice. "Whiteness" and privilege are implicitly always in the show's satirical crosshairs. Somewhere in this essay there is a critique of the way one of the most self-congratulatingly "forward-thinking" cultural milieus in the world is also incredibly homogenous. And in fact Portlandia helps stage that critique. On the other hand, I don't have any sympathy with the complaint that the show is failing to live up to some didactic obligation on race/racism. The fact that the show is a beloved totem within the cultural space it satirizes doesn't make this line true or interesting...
posted by batfish at 9:44 AM on September 27, 2014 [44 favorites]


The word "Asian" doesn't appear in the article or any of the previous MetaFilter comments,

When I visit Portland from San Francisco, I notice the distinct lack of Asian people (7% Asian vs 34%; Seattle is 13%). When I ride the MAX in from the airport, I notice how nearly all the people of color get off the train long before we reach the heart of the city. I love Portland, but it is a noticeably and overwhelmingly White city. That Portland's Asian population is a whole 1% higher than its African American population is not something that leaps out when coming from other West Coast cities.
posted by rtha at 9:47 AM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm still trying to decipher that commenter's point, but the allegation that there were no little Italy's on the West Coast is patently false.

I'm not really sure how one would overlook North Beach.
posted by hoyland at 9:47 AM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


The author's summary is pretty clear for dissuasion, but also looks like a Goldilocks syndrome for its entitlement. If the white young adults moving there want a more open-minded place for their lifestyle, then appealing to their latent liberalism to scare them off would backfire as a message, dissuading some, attracting others for the wrong reason.

Ulltimately, what upsets me about Portlandia is really the larger problem of how Portland is perceived by the rest of the country. More people are moving there every day, ignorant of the large Mormon or fundamentalist populations, the meth problems, and, of course, Oregon’s very particular racial history: if you don’t know, it’s quite easy to believe that Portland is so white because it somehow just happens to be that way. Diversity can be found in north Portland, but property values—on Alberta and Mississippi, on Killingsworth and Fremont, and even in St. Johns—are rising and Portlandia is only encouraging the trend. That those who were forced to live there will no longer be able to, seems only a matter of time.
posted by Brian B. at 9:49 AM on September 27, 2014


FWIW, MetaFilter reminds me a lot of the Portlandia TV show, and vice versa.
posted by Nevin at 9:54 AM on September 27, 2014 [56 favorites]


hey, i meant to post this in the other portland thread (but never did!) so fwiw here's stephen malkmus on marc maron on why he moved to portland: "drinking strong coffee in the rain" :P
posted by kliuless at 9:54 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


"The fact remains that the city is around 76 percent white."

The United States is 72% white. Washington is 77% white.
posted by koavf at 9:59 AM on September 27, 2014


I've often wondered how Portlandia could reflect on the city's troubled racial history, but it's some rough chuckles to make a sketch about the police department's tendency to shoot people for driving/standing while black.

Portland did have Italian district, but it no longer exists--it used to be near east Belmont and the last remnant burned down several years ago. That vacant lot is the home of the Belmont Goats, at least until they move to the Lents neighborhood next month.

The most diverse part of Portland was probably the Kaiser shipyards and the town of Vanport that built up around them. Vanport was the site of Portland's first state college, later renamed Portland State University as Vanport itself was destroyed by flooding in 1948. The subsequent redlining of NE Portland as that multiracial community tried to find new homes is yet another stain on the city.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's because he's not a visible minority per se (I wouldn't guess he was Japanese anyways) and he's skewering a visible minority in those Japanese schoolgirl sketches.

I actually always thought Armisen was either non-white or mixed race because of his facial features and skin tone. I would have guessed South American, but never the Japanese part (though yes, I'm aware of the Japanese infusion in South America).

So, yeah, although Portlandia isn't black, I always thought it was commenting on the mixed-race nature of the Pacific Northwest.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:25 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


On the bright side, an overwhelmingly white city should have less white people complaining about:

[minority group - poor] bringing filth/crime and wrecking the neighborhood (lowering property values)
[minority group - working class] stealing jobs
[minority group - middle class] stealing good jobs
[minority group - rich] flaunting wealth, buying houses and wrecking the neighborhood (raising property values)

In a multicultural city like Vancouver, a minority group with a strong presence can easily be accused of three or four sins from the list above.
posted by fatehunter at 10:30 AM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


"When I visit Portland from San Francisco, I notice the distinct lack of Asian people (7% Asian vs 34%; Seattle is 13%)."

That's not really a fair comparison, since every major US city except Honolulu has a lack of Asian people compared to San Francisco. Outside of Hawaii and California, few places even come close.

Also, Portland has nearly 5% identifying as "two or more races," which is higher than Seattle, higher than Oregon as a whole, and equal to San Francisco.

"But, you're still in a position of privilege if you just read as 'white'. It's unfortunate but true."

This is something I think about a lot. I have 50% Japanese ancestry, so visually I "read" as Asian to most people in the US. But I also have a "white" name, an American accent, and other markers of privilege. My daughter has 75% European ancestry, which will probably put her in the borderline zone where some people will assume she's "Asian" and some will assume she's "white." These assumptions skew even further for people like Armisen, just based on skin color.

But it's still wrong to lump all non-black people into a "white" bucket or all non-white people into a "POC" bucket. You can't take a city with a 28% minority population (more than one in four people!) and ignore those minorities because they don't look like you expect minorities to look.

Yes, I know my family's experience of race is very different from black families', and I don't want to steal the focus from that. Certainly I enjoy much more privilege today. But I also remember that the Japanese-American internment laws, for example, applied to people with as little as 1/16 Japanese ancestry. Those, and immigration quotas, and other racist laws were also a major force in shaping the racial makeup of west coast cities.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:33 AM on September 27, 2014 [17 favorites]


FWIW, MetaFilter reminds me a lot of the Portlandia TV show, and vice versa.

In what way? Has Metafilter ever done anything to discourage non-White members or readers? Is Metafilter quietly proud of its presumed lack of non-White members or readers? Is it even known what Metafilter's racial demographics are, or are they generally being assumed based on the types of posts that appear here?
posted by fuse theorem at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, MetaFilter is hand-made by local Portland artisans. And it is obsessed with Battlestar Galactica.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


it presents this fiction of racial harmony that seems at odds with Portland's reality.

I feel like the article sort of points this way without really showing the work. Are relations between races in Portland really tense or something? Is it unlikely or something that black people would be in a line with white people for a restaurant like the show portrayed? That's inaccurate I gather? I don't think the fact the city is 76% white leads to any of these conclusions and unless I missed something it's not really elaborated on.
posted by Hoopo at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


batfish: Seriously, one of the things Portlandia does so well is skewer the pretensions of sanctimonious white liberals in their Nerf battles against injustice. "Whiteness" and privilege are implicitly always in the show's satirical crosshairs. Somewhere in this essay there is a critique of the way one of the most self-congratulatingly "forward-thinking" cultural milieus in the world is also incredibly homogenous. And in fact Portlandia helps stage that critique. On the other hand, I don't have any sympathy with the complaint that the show is failing to live up to some didactic obligation on race/racism. The fact that the show is a beloved totem within the cultural space it satirizes doesn't make this line true or interesting...

This. Calling the show "a huge pile of mean-spirited humor based almost entirely on treating marginalized groups as the butt of the jokes" makes me wonder if there's some kind of bizarro-world version of Portlandia that's airing on another channel.

I'll grant that the "fake geek girl" sketch was problematic -- that's one sketch in four seasons. The Battlestar Galactica sketch -- what exactly is the problem there? Even granting for the sake of argument that something about that sketch was offensive -- is that it?

Or is this just a "missed opportunities" critique where the author is basically wishing it was a completely different show with a different focus?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:55 AM on September 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


On the other hand, I don't have any sympathy with the complaint that the show is failing to live up to some didactic obligation on race/racism.

Thank you, batfish, for putting it so succinctly.

Portlandia generally succeeds in its mission (for me anyway) in that it usually gets me to laugh, or at least smile. And for what it's worth, I think I'm usually very quick to switch something off that's getting laughs out of bullying and/or xenophobia.

and no, I didn't laugh at the young Japanese tourist bit, which isn't really defensible in any way. But that really is just one exception ... out of how many seasons, how many skits/sketches whatever. So I guess I'm willing to take it in exchange for the Allergy Pride Parade. The perfect being the enemy of the good and all that ...
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I get the real sense that if I scratched away the hipstery surface, I feel pretty certain I would find entirely too many crude white guys with muttonchops and offensively unenlightened attitudes staring back at me.

Well, not exactly. Not inside the Portland city limits. The "offensively unenlightened" attitudes are around the edges of the city, where campaigns to "stop Portland creep" are overtly racist and bigoted, and where people are actively fighting the expansion of light rail (or "the crime train" among a certain set that almost defies parody in its chickenshit, pants-wetting terror of Portland as some sort of urban crime nexus).

Inside the Portland city limits, you'd scratch away the hipstery surface and find ... not-so-crude white folks with muttonchops and unoffensively enlightened attitudes who are almost completely blind to their privilege and the racist heritage of the neighborhoods they're gentrifying. They don't perform racism in the mode of crude Archie Bunkerisms or whatever, they perform it in the mode of knowing they'll just die if they can't outbid everyone else for that adorable craftsman near all the awesome little restaurants and bars, which got there owing to mechanisms they're not particularly interested in learning about or stopping if it's going to get between them and a new Trader Joes or New Seasons.

That's functionally not any better than the crude guys with muttonchops and offensive attitudes, because there's no will or interest to do anything to stop the more actively shitty cogs in the gentrification machine, which is the developers and their abettors in city hall. Why should they? After a brief break for the downturn, it's time to start laddering again. Most folks who remember that $150,000 house across the street that sold for $500,000 four years later aren't thinking about the human cost of that kind of appreciation. They're too busy making signs protesting new construction or density, while vast stretches of the city's east side, where all the poor and people of color are being pushed, go miles without so much as a fucking sidewalk on some major streets.

So, unless I'm misreading "offensively unenlightened" attitudes -- and I apologize if I am -- I think you're wrong. Most of the folks in Portland are amazingly nice, pretty liberal and not particularly bigoted. It's possible to be all of those things and still be racist (and classist) as fuck, which they are.
posted by mph at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2014 [18 favorites]


To speak of how white it is, honestly, I wouldn't put it past that in another half-dozen years a majority of the African-Americans in Portland proper will Ethiopian immigrants and their descendants.
posted by wcfields at 11:11 AM on September 27, 2014


Somewhere in this essay there is a critique of the way one of the most self-congratulatingly "forward-thinking" cultural milieus in the world is also incredibly homogenous.

I was at a 4th of July BBQ party at a friend's house a couple of years ago. I don't remember the discussion that led up to it, but at one point, sort of in conclusion, one guy stated very loudly: "Man, white people SUCK!" and there was a hubbub of agreement and nodding heads. I looked around. There were about 30 people, so fairly large gathering. Every single one of them white. I mean, there were no Asians or Latinos even - this in Los Angeles, where Latinos are everywhere, and where whites are in the minority. There were Europeans though - both living here, and FOB, Scandinavians, a couple of Germans, some French, a few Brits. I just marvelled at the incongruity of that enthusiastic signalling "we are so progressive, we are not afraid to condemn our own!", while not a single POC was in view.

It was just pitiful, but then, I continued thinking, and didn't like where it led me one bit, because while I have close Asian friends, I have no *close* black or even Latino friends - and I've lived in LA for well over 20 years. I mean, I don't think the racial composition of the city is the main problem. LA is diverse as hell... on the street. But in people's more intimate circles, it's as homogenous as Portland, or more so. I have black and Latino acquaintances, but *close* friends - I tried to analyze why - you have so many hours in a day. You spend a certain number at work - for me, it's overwhelmingly white with some sprinkling of Asian, and Latino and virtually no black. Then you go to events and if those are not sufficiently diverse, where are you getting even a chance to meet - and speaking of hours in a day spent:

FWIW, MetaFilter reminds me a lot of the Portlandia TV show, and vice versa.

I went to a couple of MeFi meets here in LA a few years ago. Not. A. Single. Black person. How's them apples? This is in Los Angeles, not Portland. I really wonder how Metafilter skews racially - a place where I spend considerable (too much) amount of time. And so for all walks of life - somehow it all turns out that way. Absolutely not by design, but so what - and you start appreciating how deep and subtle and insidious these structural barriers can be.

I don't doubt that there is a history of racism behind the homogeneity of Portland. But the problem is much deeper seems to me. What do we do? Screaming out "white people SUCK!" has so far not helped. People say "give it time", and maybe that's true, but sometimes it seems time is moving very, very slowly, and I for one am running out of it. Maybe the new generations can do a better job of it.
posted by VikingSword at 11:15 AM on September 27, 2014 [16 favorites]


That's not really a fair comparison, since every major US city except Honolulu has a lack of Asian people compared to San Francisco.

I think it's a fair comparison to other West Coast cities (the difference is not as stark in Seattle), and anyway was an attempt to address your point that a discussion about racial and ethnic diversity in Portland shouldn't be limited just to blacks and whites (I agree), because there is also an Asian population there. My point is that Portland is not particularly Asian; it is not remarkably more Asian than African American. That's noticeable, to me.

But it's still wrong to lump all non-black people into a "white" bucket or all non-white people into a "POC" bucket. You can't take a city with a 28% minority population (more than one in four people!) and ignore those minorities because they don't look like you expect minorities to look.

This is definitely not something I'm trying to do. But I also think that swerving from Portland's atyplical racial and ethnic makeup (again, for those in the back, for cities on the West Coast, not in comparison to the country as a whole) isn't that constructive in trying to engage with its legacy as a sundown town, or with its projected image as a hip and cool place to be.
posted by rtha at 11:19 AM on September 27, 2014


in another half-dozen years a majority of the African-Americans in Portland proper will Ethiopian immigrants and their descendants.

I suspect it's similar to Vancouver (Canada), which in my youth was pretty much mostly white (though significantly east Asian as well), but over the years has just kept adding to the "visible" mix. But that said, most of the "visible" Africans we now have are not African American, they're recent immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon, wherever. Which is great I guess, if all you're looking for is some kind visible representation of plurality.

But from strictly North American perspective where, for very many years, "black" equaled "former slave" -- this doesn't even begin to address the complexity of the history of the "race issue".

I mean, even half a glance at the make up of Vancouver's "Chinese community" reveals all manner of complicated history -- there immediately being at least two distinct communities. The first are those whose blood goes back to the 19th Century, the building of the railroads etc (and the continuing trickle of immigration over the ensuing century of mostly poor/working class arrivals). The second are those who have arrived much more recently, the 1990s onward, and have generally brought considerable wealth with them.

Thinking of these communities as in anyway "same" is the definition of a kind of blindness.
posted by philip-random at 11:36 AM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


comparing the "whiteness" of portland to cities in the southwest is a bogus exercise due to the powerful hispanic/mexican cultural and physical presence throughout the ceded guadalupe hidalgo territories. there are things i grew up with in los angeles that never existed in portland.
posted by bruce at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, even half a glance at the make up of Vancouver's "Chinese community" reveals all manner of complicated history -- there immediately being at least two distinct communities.

Oh yes, yes, a thousand times. I mentioned above, how I have no close Latino friends - meanwhile, I do have a dear Spanish friend, who has immigrated to the U.S. over 30 years ago. You really cannot judge the diversity of a community by ethnic lines alone. It is the same with the long time Chinese community with roots in Taiwan or Canton/Hong Kong etc., vs the more recent wave of mainlanders. Couldn't be more different.
posted by VikingSword at 11:45 AM on September 27, 2014


Very good and valid points, rtha.

I guess what I'm trying to figure out is why the >20% non-white population in Portland seems so... invisible. The "I would have guessed 95%" phenomenon. Maybe there's a threshold effect: once a minority is below about 10%, they don't have critical mass to be noticeable as a population of their own. Below that threshold, a gathering drawn from the general population might include one or two individuals of X heritage, but rarely a enough to be visible as a group.

That would explain why the Asian population is "visible" in Seattle but not Portland, while the Black population in both cities is "invisible" in many settings. And it means that we see Portland as exceedingly white not just because it's more white than other cities (it is, but only by a few percent in some cases) but also because no other ethnic group has even a particularly significant minority. The minority population is there, but it's both small and fractured.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:54 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'm trying to figure out is why the >20% non-white population in Portland seems so... invisible. The "I would have guessed 95%" phenomenon

Because people see what they want to see, and when white privilege is involved, that's amplified. It's like if there's a small minority of minorities/nonwhite people, some white people don't even SEE it. I remember visiting my friend in Sydney, Australia and she was going on and on about how there wasn't a single black person in Sydney, and I was like "really? I see five right now." Like if there isn't a certain percentage of a population as x visible minority it's "all white, SO white."

Also, when I went to Portland I found a lot of it sort of threatening and seedy. In NYC I get catcalled mostly by black/Hispanic men, but in Portland it was all white guys, even in the nicer areas near the Ace and Powell's. Sometimes it happened right in front of my white friends, or generally people who were all "Portland problems! No sprinkles on my donut! OMG white people, so comfortable haha."

I'm Indian American and no I wasn't there more than a few days, but I didn't find it so comfortable and cuddly and haha so white. Some of the white people there were plenty scary and I saw a lot of desperation, drug addiction and homelessness. I saw the bikey, donuty, composty parts too.
posted by sweetkid at 12:05 PM on September 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Seattle's current situation and its history run parallel to Portland's. I'm white; I grew up here and I've never had a black friend. I can count on one hand the number of peers in my social circles who have been black. I work in tech and the only black people I've ever seen in my building are working in security or janitorial capacities. I pass black people on the street every day, but we live in separate worlds.
I don't think all of this makes me a racist (but, then, that's what a racist would say). Even so, my very presence squeezes the African-American community (and the Hispanic, Vietnamese, Laotian, Ethiopian, Somalian communities) as gentrification reforges this city into a playground for the affluent with no place for the poor (or even, really, the middle class).
That's the really insidious thing about this: There's no George Wallace standing on the capitol steps proclaiming "segregation now, segregation forever!"; there doesn't need to be. This segregation has its own inertia, and so many well-meaning people are complicit in it without even realizing it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:33 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Having watched Portlandia a fair bit I'm struck by how it manages to make fun of privilege while reenforcing it at the same time. It wryly makes fun of pretension, and by doing so absolves itself and its viewers of their own pretensions. It doesn't address race, much less any social issues, mainly because there isn't a way to do so and still make its largely privileged audience feel good about themselves.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:42 PM on September 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


I guess what I'm trying to figure out is why the >20% non-white population in Portland seems so... invisible.

Speaking as a visitor, it's got to do with the experience I mentioned above of riding into the city on the train from the airport - it seems like the communities where many people of color live are outside the center part of the city where the visitors go and are promoted as the hip and cool parts. That combined with the overall relatively low percentage for people of color makes it more more invisible.
posted by rtha at 12:44 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


elwoodwiles: It wryly makes fun of pretension, and by doing so absolves itself and its viewers of their own pretensions.

60+ comments in and we're still waiting for actual examples of this outside of the fake geek girls sketch, which there seems to be wide agreement on.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:45 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu: I'm not sure what you'd qualify as evidence here. For me it's pretty self evident in nearly every sketch. The whole show is about white people having first world problems, living in abundance and obsessing over frivolous things.

I could point to the sketch about the cops gettings new uniforms in order to bolster their image. Portland has a real issue with the police force being heavy handed with minorities. The closest Portlandia could come to commenting on this reality was to dress up like fashion-police and harass skateboarders. It had this tone of "look, we're making fun of the police! And now we can just move on..."

Not sure if that's what you're looking for though.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Man, white people SUCK!"

Why is this OK?
posted by rr at 2:40 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although it is somewhat innovative to build an article almost entirely out of unsupported assertions, I feel like another way of addressing the "problems" with Portlandia would be for Kiran Herbert to make her own comedy show.
posted by snofoam at 2:46 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess what I'm trying to figure out is why the >20% non-white population in Portland seems so... invisible.

I think because the Portland MSA is not "Portland" to a lot of people.
When people think of Portland, they think of downtown, the Pearl District, the Alphabet District, etc.
These are the places shown on Portlandia and in the tourist guides.

They don't think of North/Northeast Portland or Jumptown , which is where a lot of the black population was historically located. Or the Vietnamese neighborhoods in SE Portland, etc.
posted by madajb at 2:59 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Man, white people SUCK!"

Why is this OK?


who are you asking? who said it was ok?
posted by sweetkid at 3:07 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I stopped watching after the sketch about the women's bookstore in the first season.
posted by winna at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


who said it was ok?

By inference, all the white people at the party who nodded and didn't object to being insulted en masse.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm white; I grew up here and I've never had a black friend. I can count on one hand the number of peers in my social circles who have been black.

It sounds like this is pretty common and it's kind of shocking to my east coast ears. I grew up outside of Boston, which obviously has its own racial issues, but I can say in its favor that I grew up alongside and was friends with people of all different colors and religions from a very young age.

Somewhat related, I knew a (white) guy who grew up in the PNW who was always very offended when people on the east coast asked him his (European ancestors') ethnicity, which is a pretty common question in the Northeast. I hadn't known that was peculiar to the region until he pointed it out. Is "whiteness" more monolithic a concept on the west coast? Does that affect how white people see race?
posted by oinopaponton at 3:44 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Gotta say, the notion that mefi/portlandia style upscale white culture is now the mainstream shows a laughable naivete. 50% of the country -give or take- outright despise it, and a goodly percentage of the rest find it nonsense, at best. Seriously. Travel somewhere that's not just like you sometime.
posted by umberto at 3:53 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


You do realize the show itself is making fun of the extremes of that culture, right? It's not a celebration of putting a bird on it.
posted by the jam at 3:55 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not a celebration of putting a bird on it.

For the most part. I'm pretty sure the pickling thing was serious.
posted by snofoam at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2014


Is "whiteness" more monolithic a concept on the west coast? Does that affect how white people see race?

Ethnic whiteness (eg Irish, Italian, etc) as a primary identification isn't nearly as big a thing in the west in my experience. You get asked about family background but as an idle conversation thing, not with the sense of identity that I've seen in the east and Midwest. (There are exceptions to this of course, I'm generalizing extremely broadly, and individual experience is going vary tremendously.)
posted by Dip Flash at 4:00 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


elwoodwiles: The whole show is about white people having first world problems, living in abundance and obsessing over frivolous things.

Yes, this demonstrates the first half of your statement, that it makes fun of pretension. The part I dispute is that it "absolves itself and its viewers of their own pretensions", because no absolution is expressed or implied. Lampooning a serious topic in the hopes of highlighting the contradictions is a very effective way of sneaking a message in without beating the viewer over the head with it, and does not in any way purport to have done anything substantive in fixing the problem. Sometimes a comedy sketch is just a comedy sketch, not a call to action, and doing it poorly doesn't dissuade people from taking action on their own.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:26 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hadn't known that was peculiar to the region until he pointed it out. Is "whiteness" more monolithic a concept on the west coast?

There is much less "Proud to be Italian" or "Kiss me, I'm Irish" out here.
I'm not sure I've ever gone into a house and been able to identify someone's ancestral nationality, whereas growing up back east, there would be a Polish flag somewhere in the house, or German bier stein on the mantle, or what have you.

About the only thing ancestry-wise that people will bring up is how many generations their family is "native", especially if the family came out on the Oregon Trail.

(Also, if they came up from California, it will be mentioned, but always with assurances that they aren't "those kind of Californians".)
posted by madajb at 5:15 PM on September 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is much less "Proud to be Italian" or "Kiss me, I'm Irish" out here.

Less of that in Northern Virginia where I grew up than in Boston/NYC where I have also lived.
posted by sweetkid at 5:21 PM on September 27, 2014


Travel somewhere that's not just like you sometime.

The funny thing is that most "hipsters" of the stereotypical variety I know all grew up in what we would call "flyover country" and moved to their particularly "hip" enclaves specifically because they knew what places that are "not just like you" are like, and they don't want to be there.

Somewhat related, I knew a (white) guy who grew up in the PNW who was always very offended when people on the east coast asked him his (European ancestors') ethnicity, which is a pretty common question in the Northeast.

Now I know where a lot of (especialy Asian) PoCs are coming from when they regard those, "where are you really from" questions as particularly offensive-- since where they live, it's considered gauche to ask white people this question. Whereas it's the norm in, say, Chicago.
posted by deanc at 5:23 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sometimes a comedy sketch is just a comedy sketch, not a call to action, and doing it poorly doesn't dissuade people from taking action on their own.

No! Artists must be the vanguard of The Revolution™!
posted by deanc at 5:25 PM on September 27, 2014


"but I didn't find it so comfortable and cuddly and haha so white. Some of the white people there were plenty scary and I saw a lot of desperation, drug addiction and homelessness."

Me too! My wife's family is from Portland, and we keep visiting from Mexico. The only time we have had drug related problems was in Portland when our car got broken into by junkies.
posted by dhruva at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like the article sort of points this way without really showing the work.

Welcome to the world of pop-modern criticism.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:35 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really wonder how Metafilter skews racially - a place where I spend considerable (too much) amount of time

This is one thing I really treasure about MeFi punching bag Reddit. Although it skews way, way, way male, it's used by almost the same percentage of people of color as white people, something I can say about almost no other institution, hell not even a restaurant, in America. It's also much more diverse in terms of class, income, and education. Sometimes I wonder if an institution can only be diverse along so many axes at a time.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:49 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't know if I'm misunderstanding, but it seems like your link is saying that 5% of white internet users use reddit and 4% of black internet users use reddit; that's in raw number something like for every eight-to-ten white redditors, there is one black redditor. Which I don't know what to do with particularly, but it seems necessary if that is the case to establish the difference between "white and black participants are proportionately roughly equally represented within their cohorts" and the notion that "there are an equal number of white and black participants" that I honestly can't tell if you're implying or just not disambiguating clearly.
posted by cortex at 10:15 PM on September 27, 2014


There is much less "Proud to be Italian" or "Kiss me, I'm Irish" out here.

How about "Fuck you, I'm French"?

*hugs French Mefites*
posted by taz at 10:27 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really did quite like the Portlandia pilot, and probably would have been much fonder of it if it'd just been a one-off short film making fun of fussy upper-middle-class white people. I remember being really disappointed at finding that some of the sketches were actually recurring characters (like Women & Women First)

The show can be pretty funny when it's "punching up," but it doesn't even have the self-awareness to actually punch down when it does — it more so just kind of gets sloppy drunk and leans over too hard, rather than having any sort of potential point, or joke.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:29 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Other Portland.
posted by retrograde at 10:47 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have a bunch of friends who've moved to Portland or raved about their visits (which tells you about who I'm friends with) but I suspect if I ever went I would feel the same way I did about Lancaster when I went to school there, which was a vague sense of creeping unease that increased the longer I went without interacting with anyone who wasn't white. Charleston-- at least the peninsula-- had a little of that too, the times I've visited, but there it was mostly just the sense of being inside the world's largest J. Crew ad. And both those cities are waaaaaay less white than Portland.

Like, honestly? I've lived in the DC area my whole life, and on the PG county side for most of the last decade. I don't think I could tell you the last time I went a day without at least talking to a black person, unless you count days when I didn't leave the house. (I mean, also because I don't really... keep track of that, obviously, but still.) I would feel incredibly weird (I HAVE felt incredibly weird) at an all-white social gathering-- hell, when I realized there was one black dude at my cousin's wedding I was pretty bewildered.

And that's with my two main social circles being the DC punk/DIY community and also fandom, which are not notoriously diverse. Sorry Portland, it would be nice to meet more people who like zines and knitting, but nope.
posted by nonasuch at 11:51 PM on September 27, 2014


my very presence squeezes the African-American community (and the Hispanic, Vietnamese, Laotian, Ethiopian, Somalian communities) as gentrification reforges this city into a playground for the affluent with no place for the poor (or even, really, the middle class)

This isn't really true for King County (Seattle, proper) or Bellevueor even Washington State as a whole — regions which have become increasingly diverse.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:56 AM on September 28, 2014


Cortex: I'm not disambiguating, apparently. Yes, there are a lot more white redditors, but there are equal percentages of white and black people using Reddit, something I can't say about many other things in the world.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:57 AM on September 28, 2014


my very presence squeezes the African-American community (and the Hispanic, Vietnamese, Laotian, Ethiopian, Somalian communities) as gentrification reforges this city into a playground for the affluent with no place for the poor (or even, really, the middle class)

This is related to the zero-sum fallacy (or lump of labor scarcity). Even if one assumes that the amount of living space is fixed, better wages and jobs depend on demand. Expanding living spaces is ultimately a democratic process.
posted by Brian B. at 7:08 AM on September 28, 2014


ThatFuzzyBastard: Cortex: I'm not disambiguating, apparently. Yes, there are a lot more white redditors, but there are equal percentages of white and black people using Reddit, something I can't say about many other things in the world.

I guess my problem with this line of reasoning, particularly in response to someone wondering how MeFi skews racially, is that nearly every time someone here takes a shot at Reddit's culture and demographic makeup, Reddit fans respond by saying that there is no one Reddit, instead, there are a bunch of very loosely-federated subreddits that happen to coexist on the same site. To talk about Reddit's culture (often perceived here to be MRA-friendly, racist-friendly, etc.), these people say, is painting with too broad a brush.

How, then, is a survey like this making any kind of substantive point in response to a contention that MetaFilter is too white/Portlandia-esque? Presumably, the same self-selection (intentional or not) that VikingSword contends has led to MeFi becoming a monoculture could be occurring when people visit Reddit, and the subreddits folks are spending their time in may be just as homogeneous as MeFi is perceived to be. Perhaps the white folks are spending most of their Reddit time talking with other white folks in mostly-white subreddits, while the PoC are talking mostly with other PoC.

Now, of course when people are under the same virtual roof, even if they're in different virtual rooms, there are more opportnities for serendipitous interactions between people who might not be communicating much if they were isolated on different sites, but I don't see a site-wide demographic survey as a very reliable data point in making the case that this is actually happening.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:09 AM on September 28, 2014


third comment:

“Oregon’s very particular racial history” doesn’t sound very particular at all. In fact it sounds extremely, mundanely, typical of what happened throughout the US.

that's what I was gonna say.

Is there anything specifically unique to Portland as far as using HOAs and other stuff to prevent racial integration?

Growing up in Detroit and Louisville, I gotta say it seems a lot worse there. Or Cincinnati. Or St. Louis. Or Columbus. ETC.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:36 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


And I thought, okay, I can sort of see the point, but holy shit, the identity politics on display here are really troubling to me, and CARRIE BROWNSTEIN is on the show—someone who's probably had to deal with tons of this kind of "you're not one of us" bullshit in the music scene. Like, really? I still like the concept of Portlandia, but I remember being put off a lot by that kind of thing.

People always bring up that sketch but I'm pretty sure that it's supposed to be skewering the "actual nerd" -- you know, the asshole who goes "eventing" -- and not the geek girl, and I think it's weird that even people who know all about Carrie Brownstein's cred automatically assume the worst. Then again, I once linked to that sketch in a old post here and someone called me out and said I couldn't imagine what it's like for women going to cons and stuff. ಠ_ಠ

LA is diverse as hell... on the street. But in people's more intimate circles, it's as homogenous as Portland, or more so. I have black and Latino acquaintances, but *close* friends - I tried to analyze why - you have so many hours in a day.


I'm also in LA but I think this is usually a red herring; once you hit your 30s, people settle down, have a career, and move, and your circle of friends shrinks considerably as does your world. If your three closest friends look like you, that alone won't raise a red flag for me. But I will notice if your second and third circles also look like you. One of my two or three BFFs is a lesbian Latina. This has nothing to do with diversity and everything to do with her moving in next door to me and a chance meeting that led to an hour-long conversation about Quincy and serial killers. I do think it's more telling when you're in your 20s, though.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:44 AM on September 29, 2014


This isn't really true for King County (Seattle, proper) orBellevue — or even Washington State as a whole — regions which have become increasingly diverse.

So this is the problem with trying to distill diversity down into a single number. Seattle is a very diverse place in some ways; the tech industry has attracted large populations of highly educated, well paid employees who are not white, mainly Indian and Chinese. But it's specious to point in that direction and say that the African American community must be doing well.

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:10 PM on September 29, 2014


But it's specious to point in that direction and say that the African American community must be doing well.

If you take the time to read the links, you'll find that it breaks down numbers by ethnicity, including a 6.2% increase in African American population between 2010 and 2014, which is about as high as the increases in other ethnicities of color.

The idea that white people should feel guilty about taking away living space and resources from other ethnicities might make an interesting Portlandia sketch, but it doesn't seem to reflect actual reality in the PNW as measured by census takers.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:12 PM on September 30, 2014


I don't have any numbers handy but I could produce a group of seventy year olds that have lived in Seattle for most of their life and could give first hand experience of the past racial climate here. Of which is apparently in opposition to many Mefites' ideas of how racist Seattle is. I also find it hard to believe someone grew up in Seattle and never had a non-white friend, but then again I grew up south of the city. I also have a fairly nuanced opinion about the gentrification that's happening around Seattle, but that's maybe because I've spent a fair amount of time in the Rainier Valley.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2014


A friend of mine pointed out this interesting article about upcoming Portland development.

OF COURSE we're going to have a building named The Fair-Haired Dumbbell. That's so Portland.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:58 PM on September 30, 2014


This is one thing I really treasure about MeFi punching bag Reddit. Although it skews way, way, way male, it's used by almost the same percentage of people of color as white people, something I can say about almost no other institution, hell not even a restaurant, in America. It's also much more diverse in terms of class, income, and education. Sometimes I wonder if an institution can only be diverse along so many axes at a time.

Apology for being days late to the discussion I was going through my comments and just saw this.

Every major social network in the US has comparable representation of POC. All but Pinterest have more balanced gender representation. Facebook and Twitter have better or comparable representation than Reddit along every single axis measured.

In the case of socially-oriented websites, balanced representation is the natural result of large user bases. Instead of lauding them for reflecting reality, look into the areas where they don't.
posted by fatehunter at 9:22 AM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


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