Fair Housing Council of Oregon’s “Bumpy Ride” bus tour – a member’s view

by Paul Brown

 

I moved to Portland almost 20 years ago. While not actually a native, I’ve been here long enough to remember when the Pearl was uninhabitable, good restaurants were sparse, and flannel was a sign of “grunge chic.” Like many people who have moved to Portland over the years, I was originally attracted to what I saw as a progressive, inclusive, and welcoming culture. Where else could you find baristas, loggers, CEOs and extreme mountain bikers living together harmoniously? I have long assumed that this mindset was hardwired into Portland’s DNA and have proudly shared this view with friends living in more traditional cities elsewhere.

However, I recently had the opportunity to experience the Fair Housing Council of Oregon’s “Bumpy Ride” Bus Tour with the staff from The Oregon Community Foundation and my eyes were opened to the history of a much less inclusive Portland. Unfortunately, lost in our dog‐friendly offices and artisanal ice cream is a sordid history of racism, segregation, and housing discrimination. From the tragedy of the Vanport flood to Japanese‐American internment camps, to the community displacement of many urban renewal efforts, there are numerous examples of harmful policies and practices in Portland’s recent past. The bus tour also exposed us to many more historically insidious policies. For example, African Americans were prohibited from living in the state until 1926 and Portland realtors and lenders used tools like redlining to prevent people of color from moving into most Portland neighborhoods well into the middle of the 20th century.

The bus tour was led by knowledgeable guides that provided a clear picture, especially of the difficulties faced by African Americans and other people of color living in (or considering moving to) Portland. It has opened my eyes to equity, diversity, and inclusiveness (EDI) in a whole new way. After all of these years of discriminatory practices in our community, applying an “EDI lens” to our work is required in order to more effectively work with and serve communities of color.

I would encourage anyone reading this to seek out the Fair Housing Bus Tour and experience it first-°©‐hand. Many funders are now using an EDI lens to consider how funding priorities address these historic disparities. It is clear to me now that we must also help educate both donors and grantees on the complexities of the problems funders are trying to address. As funders, we need to make these stories personal and find ways to influence donors and grantees to better address the inequities created by this history. This unfortunate history is not something many Oregonians are aware of or good at talking about, but it is definitely important that we educate ourselves so that we do not repeat the disastrous and inequitable results of the past.

 

Paul Brown is a donor and volunteer with The Oregon Community Foundation