This morning's Think Out Loud on OPB gave a rundown on a depressing report with a timely MLK Jr. Day release date: A coalition of equity group in Oregon gave our legislature a racial equity report card... and the grade isn't good.
The groups gave the Oregon Senate a C for advancing racial equity and gave the Oregon House a D. To determined the grades, the groups noted that the state signed into law 10 bills that they believe will promote greater racial equity in the state, but that 11 other proactive measures died somewhere within the political machine.
For example, one of the equity promoting laws that passed is HB 2880, which makes it part of the mission of Oregon's Department of Motor Vehicles to provide voter registration materials. People of color are significantly less likely to register to vote, so handing out voter registration cards at public agencies like the DMV will (hopefully) encourage more people across the racial spectrum to vote.
One law that passed the Senate but died in a House committee is SB 612-A, a wage theft construction bill. Latino and black workers report way higher rates of wage theft than white workers and the bill would have broadened the definition of people who are punishable for wage theft to include people who "recruit, solicit, supply or employ workers."
Portland is still the whitest major city in America (and getting whiter at its core) but the non-white population of Oregon has grown from 16.5 percent of state residents in 2000 to 21.5 percent in 2010. Despite increased diversity, reports like this one and 2009's State of Black Oregon report show a damning slow rate of progress on improving racial equity in the state.