Problems of Racial Justice in Portland, 1968-­2008: Revisiting the City’s “Kerner Report”

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Reinventing Race: Reinventing Racism

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Book Chapter

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Social justice, Segregation, Racial equity, Racism, Race relations


The City Club of Portland, a group of civic-minded citizens, commissioned its own study about the causes of civil unrest during the summer of 1967 in the Albina District, where black people had been segregated follo-wing World War II. Modeled after the Kerner Report, the “Report on Problems of Racial Justice in Portland” documented pervasive racial discrimination.

"The range of deficiencies and grievances in Portland is similar to that found by the Kerner Commission to exist in large cities in general. It includes dis-crimination or inadequacies in many areas—police attitudes and practices, unemployment, consumer treatment, education, recreation, welfare, health, housing, municipal services—and the underlying behavior and attitudes of the white community. To the extent that its problems differ from those of Watts, Newark, or Detroit, the differences are of degree, not of cause and effect, or of urgency.”
-- City Club of Portland, June 14, 1968

The report concluded that there was a “common denominator” across all areas which aggravated the situation of racial injustice: governmental neglect of citizen involvement. The main complaints of the rebellious youth concerned education, employment, housing, and police. This chap-ter analyzes how the relations between the black community and institu-tions such as city redevelopment agencies, the school district, and the police have changed over the past forty years.

Reinventing Race, Reinventing Racism not only provides fresh theoretical insights into the new forms of race and racism, it also provides evidence of and policy solutions to address these seemingly intractable forms of discrimination and racial disparities. These issues are tackled by some of the nation’s most prominent race and public policy scholars. In addition, the volume has contributions by some of the most innovative up-and-coming voices that are often neglected in such volumes. Reinventing Race, Reinventing Racism is an accessible book written on an important and timely subject that continues to affect the lives of Americans of all shades and ethnicities.


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