Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile

2014 CCC Unsettling Profiles.jpg
2014 CCC Unsettling Profiles.jpg

Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile

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This report centers the experiences of communities of color in Multnomah county, and the disparities that exist for our people. As a result, the text centers issues of inequality, inequity and injustice. For many people, this will be a tough read. Most of us would rather avoid this topic. While this may be an unsettling read, we believe that it offers a unique set of insights into one of the most devastating social dynamics in US history and into the present-day. It is intended to be a catalyst for action – to build far-reaching durable solutions that will provide our communities and our children the hope of a better future.

Many living in the USA today think the problem of racism is over. While progress has been made, most people overestimate the impact of this progress on the lives of people of color. The sad reality is that people of color continue to hold second-class status, resulting in lesser quality of life and reduced chances for success.

Discrimination is not an act reserved for people of color. Many people who are White have experienced injustices as Italian, Portuguese or Irish immigrants to the USA. Serious injustice was done to Eastern European immigrants in their settlement. Grave injustices have also been enacted through anti-Semitism. Our record of providing refuge for Jews persecuted around the world has been inadequate.

Injustice also exists for women or from having a disability or having survived child abuse or mistreatment in one’s family. Many didn’t have families and faced a life of foster homes. All of these life experiences are unfair and unjust. Life generates hardship in many shapes and forms.

Today in Multnomah county, people of color experience overwhelming hardship. As a group of people, too many people of color face severe social and economic exclusion. This report articulates these experiences.

One of the key research tools used in this research is to compare the experiences of communities of color with White communities. This reveals a set of differences in experience (called “disparities”). This selected methodology serves to highlight not only race, but also “whiteness” and doing so draws our attention to the privileges associated with being White. We are aware that this choice may bring discomfort for some – but know that racism does not exist without its corollary of White privilege.

It is difficult to alter racism and racial disparities. And yet, failure to do so means that the promise of equality and the promise that we might cross racial divides and “walk together as sisters and brothers” are shut down. We must offer all our communities real prospects for a positive future, well-being and community empowerment.