Painter: John Mix Stanley, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

Oregon's heavily white racial present owes much to Oregon's heavily white past.  The territory, then the state, chose to avoid completely the whole slave-vs-free issue by just barring all black people from living here. 

It didn't work.  Some people of African descent lived in Oregon anyway, including the focus of the book Dangerous Subjects: James D. Saules and the Rise of Black Exclusion in Oregon

The book, from Oregon State University Press, shines light on an obscure corner of Oregon history, as little is known about Saules. 

Chris English, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58015463

Historical markers dot the landscape of the United States.  At best, they can give only about a paragraph of information about significant events at their locations. 

At worst, they tell a story at odds with the full history; stories of "pioneers" settling in a place may omit any mention of Native Americans who were expelled or killed to allow white settlement. 

Laura Pulido at the University of Oregon works to connect geography with ethnic studies and correct the historial record. 

Trougnouf, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70137941

Concerns about offensive place names arise from time to time, mostly because the names persist.  Oregon has a long list of places with "squaw" in their names. 

Netflix star Hasan Minhaj put out a video a few months ago questioning the persistence of racist place names, and renewed the focus.  The Oregon Geographic Names Board is an advisory group for the naming of geographic features within the state of Oregon. 

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. 

John T. Bledsoe/Library of Congress

More than one political scientist has observed that American voters often vote for candidates who work against the voters' economic interests. 

Jonathan Metzl is a physician, and comes at the issue from another angle: he says voters' decisions can actually shorten their lives.  He gives examples of policies implemented by anti-government politicians, like denying Medicaid expansions, cuts to social services, and looser gun restrictions. 

These are among the cases Dr. Metzl cites in his book Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland


Are you completely free of any preconceived notions of the characteristics of groups of people, even groups you belong to?  Few of us are. 

Maybe we all want a better country, but our ideas for building one differ greatly.  And our ability to work as one people is hindered by our notions of who the "other people" are. 

Max Klau, a developmental psychologist, explores these concepts in his book Race and Social Change: A Quest, A Study, A Call to Action.  The book centers on a "separation" exercise used at leadership conferences for young people. 

Library of Congress/Wikimedia

"Separate but equal" was the doctrine underpinning segregation of the races in America until the civil rights rulings and laws of the mid-1900s.  Accomodations for black and white people may have been separate, but they were not even close to equal. 

That's no surprise, but the story of the Supreme Court case that allowed segregation is full of twists and turns.  Steve Luxenberg follows them in his book Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation

An example of some of the surprises: people who were anti-slavery but pro-segregation. 


More than a few people have thought that racism might eventually die out in our country.  But new racists are made all the time. 

Jennifer Harvey says we could bring up future generations of non-racist white children if we wanted to. But she says both current paradigms, color blindness and diversity training, are failures.

Thomas J. O'Halloran/Library of Congress

Have you heard the stories of "segregation academies?"  Those are the private schools that sprang up in the South after the Supreme Court ruled that public schools must integrate. 

Jim Grimsley's family kept him in public school, and his white life got quite an awakening when the first black students showed up. 

He tells the story in How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

Evan Nesterak, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61723987

We've come a long way in a short time on the issue of race in America, and it's been an ugly journey.  It was a surprisingly short journey from thinking of ourselves as a "post-racial" country to the calls of "Jews will not replace us" in Charlottesville in 2017. 

None of this surprised the writer Vegas Tenold, because he spent years buddying up to white supremacists and their fellow travelers. 

It resulted in a book, Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America


The dead are buried from the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, but they are not forgotten.  Eleven Jews shot down because of their religion is an enormous wound in the American body politic. 

The wound is felt most dearly in other Jewish congregations. 

Rabbi David Zaslow presides over Ashland's Havurah Shir Hadash.  Rabbi Debra Kolodny leads Portland's UnShul and offers training in "Interrupting Hate in Public Spaces." 

Jessie Eastland, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49866394

Racism is alive and well in America.  Which should not surprise us, given its long history in the country. 

Few places would admit to being "sundown towns" now, but many once bore that moniker; they were places where African-Americans were expected to be out of town by sundown, at the risk of limb or life. 

James Loewen began researching sundown towns, expecting to find maybe 50 across the country.  He found thousands, including Grants Pass and others in our region. 

Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61769434

People have always harassed other people in the United States for being different. 

But the numbers of incidents seemed to climb after Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. 

Activist Arjun Singh Sethi, himself the target of hate speech and actions, collects stories from people who've been harassed and worse in the book American Hate

David Eskenazi Collection

Jackie Robinson is celebrated every year for a major first: the first African-American player in major league baseball. 

But other black players were breaking into pro baseball around the same time, just not in the majors.  Artie Wilson, one of the best shortstops in pro baseball, played minor league ball in Oakland (California) starting in 1948. 

He is the subject of Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier.  Gaylon Wilson is the author and our guest. 

argument, disagreement, feud

The running joke about the Trump years is that families avoid discussing politics when they gather for Thanksgiving. 

Now imagine the scene at Josh Damigo's family gatherings: his brother started a white supremacist group and helped organized the Charlottesville rallies in the summer of 2017. 

Josh Damigo told the story to Gabriel Thompson for a piece in Pacific Standard magazine. 

Warren K. Leffler / Library of Congress, ID ppmsca.04301.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A nor

Many authors have written about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his impact on civil rights and the country. 

Jason Sokol chose to focus his latest work on the aftermath of King's assassination in 1968.  There were decidedly mixed feelings about King abroad in the land at the time of his murder. 

And the expression of those feelings in the days and weeks that followed the murder forms the core of Sokol's book, The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61769434

White supremacist groups seemed far from the American mainstream when Vegas Tenold embedded himself in the groups six years ago. 

The country changed a bit since then, with far-right and alt-right groups feeling emboldened, coming into the sunlight.  The tactics have changed, but the views have not: the groups still believe the white race is under attack. 

Vegas Tenold wrote a book,  Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America