The Green Family

Conversations about race are not always comfortable in America, but it's clearly necessary to have them. 

Rogue Valley residents Mike and Emily Green really have to talk about race, as a biracial couple with a blended family.  And they hold public sessions to help members of the community talk to their own children about race. 

Portland was a gritty place growing up, from the perspective of Mitchell S. Jackson.  He was constantly calculating what it would take for him to get out of the city and on with the rest of his life, relatively unscathed. 

Those calculations provided the title for his book, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family.  We welcome Mitchell Jackson to the Exchange on our regular segment The Keenest Observers. 

Yoichi Okamoto, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28360320

For a "post-racial" society, we sure talk about race a lot.  And not for the first time. 

50 years ago, a commission appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the 1967 race riots issued a report that shocked just about everyone and produced little to no action. 

Historian Steven Gillon pulls off that scab in his book  Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism


The images are seared into the American consciousness: fire hoses in Birmingham, nightsticks in Selma.  The South was the center of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. 

But it was not the only place in the country where people worked to end segregation; cities far to the north also maintained "separate but equal" facilities that were seldom equal. 

Jason Sokol wrote about it in All Eyes are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn

A special edition of our "Curious" segment is geared to the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. 

University of Oregon associate professor Curtis Austin has researched the civil rights and black power movements extensively. 

He tracks the rise of the movements and the responses to them... from the public, the government, and police, among others. 

Dr. Austin visits with some insights into the history of the struggle for equality in America. 

Nicolas Vigier/Wikimedia

Racism has flared anew in our country in recent years. 

Parts of our region were hospitable to racists, including Klan members, nearly a century ago.  But white supremacist recruiting posters have shown up in recent months in Grants Pass and other communities. 

Yes, there is free speech, but police also have some tools, in particular if it is hate speech. 


Sharon Draper inherited the last of her grandmother's journals from her own childhood. 

And what Sharon read in that journal became a central part of her novel Stella By Starlight

It's about a girl entering her teen years, in a North Carolina not terribly friendly to people with skin as dark as hers. 

Sharon Draper joined us in January 2015. 

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53574398

Medicine is a science... a body is a body, and approaches to treatment are supposed to be roughly the same from patient to patient.  But bias creeps into medicine, as in many other fields. 

Dayna Bowen Matthew, a lawyer who works in a medical school, tracks the thousands of people of color who get sub-standard medical care in America in her book Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care

And she visits Ashland for a speech on the subject tonight (November 6). 

TKO: Racial Tension Spurs Ashland School Board Candidate

Jun 26, 2017
Eric E. Johnson/Flickr

Ashland takes pride in thinking of itself as an open, caring, multicultural community. 

But comments and threats to people of color roiled the city in recent years, and it has produced some community-wide soul-searching.  And a candidate for a vacant seat on the Ashland School Board. 

Kamilah Long works for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and wants the spot, saying she could be an effective voice for students of color.  Long reports an increase in hate speech in the schools as well as on the streets. 

Her candidacy and the factors that led to it are this month's topic on The Keenest Observers, hosted by Robert Goodwin. 

Resolutions Northwest

The recent murders of two men defending people from racial harassment in Portland made us think instantly of Rabbi Debra Kolodny at Resolutions Northwest

She teaches workshops on defusing such situations, and lives in the Portland area. 

We talked to Kolodny not long ago, before she taught one of her workshops in the Rogue Valley. 

She returns with her thoughts on the double murder (and wounding of a third man),


"American Exceptionalism" is a phrase that floats through the body politic from time to time, usually in election years. 

Yet despite many Americans thinking our country is the envy of the world, we fight a lot with each other. 

Mugambi Jouet brings up many examples in his book Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other

Robert Goodwin hosts the author in the return of our "The Keenest Observers" segment. 

Con-struct, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18807661

If someone displays racist behavior in front of you, do you know what to do?  The question gets asked more frequently these days, given the rise in bias incidents since the last election. 

Workshops coming to Medford and Ashland next week (May 8 and 9, respectively; arranged by Resolve Center in Medford) will give attendees tools to interrupt hate in public spaces. 

Rabbi Debra Kolodny of Resolutions Northwest leads the workshops and joins us with details. 

Jan Wright

John Beeson benefitted from the removal of Native Americans from the Rogue Valley, like many white settlers in the mid-19th century. 

What he did next makes him a bit different: Beeson took up a second career as an advocate for Native Americans, leaving his Talent farm and family behind to push for better treatment for indigenous people. 

Historian Jan Wright is working on a book about Beeson and trying to crowdfund it

TKO: Racial Histories Of Oregon

Jan 30, 2017
An Oregon Canyon / Donnell Alexander

The Keenest Observers is an occasional segment dealing with difference and inclusion in a place where the vast majority of people are white.

This month we look at how race is inscribed on Oregon geography.  Donnell Alexander is a filmmaker and writer, whose recent work documents place names and early African-American homesteaders. Randy Blazak is Chair of the Portland-based Coalition Against Hate Crimes (CAHC). He speaks to the history of the KKK in Oregon, and the perennial re-emergence of white supremacist messaging through fliers, websites and radio programs.

Documenting The School-To-Prison Pipeline

Nov 1, 2016

From the slave trade to legal segregation, many public policies throughout American history have harmed Black communities.

These days African-Americans make up more than a third of the prisoner population in the U.S., despite their being just 12 percent of the general population.

Filmmaker and activist Raheim Shabazz says this skew begins in public schools, which have become one end of the school-to-prison pipeline. His films, "Elementary Genocide," parts one and two, screen at Southern Oregon University this week. 

Remembering The Days Of Lynching In America

Oct 13, 2016
Public Domain/Wikimedia

The recent flaring of concern over racism in our country reminds us that bad days are not that far behind us. 

Lynchings of black men took place well into the middle of the 20th century. 

Karlos K. Hill is an expert on the history of lynching and the author of Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory.  

The Keenest Observers: LGBTQ Concerns Explored

Sep 19, 2016

The Keenest Observers are often the people who stand outside a group or situation.  So that's the name we've given to our occasional explorations of conditions and experiences of minority communities within our region. 

Robert Goodwin returns to host The Keenest Observers with members of the LGBTQ community; there's never a shortage of topics, from "bathroom bills" to the coming SO PRIDE festival (October 1-9). 

Guests include Southern Oregon University Queer Resource Center coordinator Thomas Arce and Evan Mouldeoux of Lotus Rising.   

The Hidden "Human Computers" Of NASA

Sep 9, 2016
NASA/Public Domain

The images of the control rooms in the early days of American space flight--in real life and in the movies--are images of lots of white men. 

But it took more than the people in those images to put people on the moon for the first time.  Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures introduces us to people very much behind the scenes yet very important to success in the space race: African-American women who functioned as something like human computers. 

The book is also a movie in the making, due in January.

Shetterly herself is the daughter of one of NASA's first black engineers, who worked for a still-segregated agency in the civil rights era. 

The Keenest Observers: Immigration

Aug 29, 2016
JPR News

A presidential candidate or two may have whipped up a bit of a frenzy on immigration this year, but it's always a hot topic in America.

And it is the focus of the latest installment of our perusal of issues facing non-white people in a region where whites are the overwhelming majority. 

We're calling these sessions "The Keenest Observers," because often the keenest observer is the outsider. 

Robert Goodwin of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is back to host this hour, with JPR News staffer Jessica De Nova--about to become a U.S. citizen--among the guests.  Also on the panel: Carlo Alban and Ricardo Lujan Flores. 

U Of Oregon Considers De-Naming Buildings

Aug 22, 2016
Gary Halvorsen/Oregon State Archives

College campuses are filled with buildings named for pillars of the community in times past.  And as times change, so do attitudes about the people once considered pillars. 

Matthew Deady and Frederick Dunn were important people in the history of the University of Oregon; both have buildings named for them.  Both also held views of non-white people not considered appropriate in our time. 

UO President Michael Schill wants input on removing one or both names from the buildings.