The African American Community in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile

2014 CCC Profile - African American Report.jpg
2014 CCC Profile - African American Report.jpg

The African American Community in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile

0.00
Download

African-Americans have been present in Multnomah County and have made significant contributions to the life, culture, and development of the county since before the Oregon territory was established. Our legacy is interwoven with the state’s own history of racialized discrimination and exclusion. It is also a legacy of resistance to social and economic inequity.

The struggles of African-Americans in Oregon have been a powerful agent of social change and progress. But as this report confirms, there is much to do to eliminate institutional structures that perpetuate racial injustice, poverty and disparities in opportunity for our community.

Oregon has been slow to dismantle overtly racist policies, such as mortgage lenders’ redlining practices that continued into the 1990s, long after they were prohibited through the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. These local practices deepened the well-recognized discrimination faced by African-Americans when they were denied access to both low-interest mortgages and free tuition supports after World War II.

Discriminatory policies in employment, education, housing, the criminal justice system, policing, and in economic development have had the effect of limiting the ways our community has been able to advance and thrive. Historic barriers to quality education and homeownership have resulted in few opportunities to generate and sustain wealth and economic stability. Today, the African-American community nationally holds 5 cents in wealth for every $1 in wealth held by Whites. This disparity narrows our ability to develop resources for our community and its future generations. It impedes our capacity to withstand stress, and to weather crises and economic recessions. Communities that are denied access to critical opportunity structures become more dependent on social services and social programs, which often perpetuate the status quo, and are subject to shrinking budgets and shifts in political priorities. Many services do not meet the cultural needs of our communities.

Ongoing discrimination in housing, in lending practices, in school discipline and racial profiling with police, draw us more heavily into punitive systems like juvenile justice and child welfare, and away from systems that would benefit us like higher education, economic opportunity, protected contracting practices, private sector and civil service employment.

African-Americans in Multnomah County continue to live with the effects of racialized policies, practices, and decision-making. The stress of racism has a profound impact on health and wellness, as do other social determinants of health, such as ongoing discrimination in housing, school discipline, and racial profiling by police. Multiple systems of inequity and institutional racism results in over-representation in punitive systems like juvenile justice and child welfare, and underrepresentation in systems that advance opportunities, like higher education and civil services employment.