INTENT AND BENIGN NEGLECT
RE: "How We Got Here" [Feature, Aug 5], an overview of Portland's history of planning decisions leading up to the current population influx and ensuing affordable housing crisis.
DEAR MERCURY—Is there a crisis? Certainly. Was it the result of poor leadership, inadequate resources, and out-of-whack policies by a generation of leaders at the city and state? Fuck yeah, it was. But intent and benign neglect are two different things. So if you want some real Portland history, here it is: A couple of decades ago, this community embraced a bold new strategy for urban living. We are national leaders in carbon reduction, car-free lifestyles, and natural protection. We all did that, not the developers or the landlords or the politicians, and it's not theirs to sell. It doesn't work if it's just something wealthy people can purchase while the poor and people of color get forced into something else. Longtime Portlanders who made this such a cool place invested their lives in doing so, and now they're getting shafted. Portland's in a major crisis right now, but instead of embracing a wish list of developer demands, the people of Portland and Oregon need to demand a serious housing program that serves all of us, one that includes real investment in affordable housing, and meaningful regulation of landlords, developers, and property flippers.
DEAR MERCURY—There is also a current limited supply of jobs, or at least jobs that would reasonably support a family. For all of its cool, its hype, and its livability, there are a lot of people in this town who are hanging by a thread.
RACE AND RACISM
RE: "Body Politic" [Books, Aug 5], a review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me.
DEAR MERCURY—In his review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, Santi Elijah Holley claims that, "racism and systemic violence against blacks... will endure as long as Americans continue to hold onto the concept of 'race.'" But in the very next paragraph of the review, Holley quotes Coates as saying that race "is the child of racism, not the father." There is a significant and consequential difference between these two views. To recognize, as Coates does, that race follows racism and not the other way around is to make clear that racism operates through concrete social and economic practices, and that race as an idea is the way we naturalize the inequalities produced by these practices. To claim, as Holley does, that racism will endure until Americans abandon the concept of race is more than just a misreading of Coates. This view reinforces the liberal political common sense that racism is an ideological problem and that the key to resolving it is to convince enough people that race doesn't exist. But we only need to look at the relative demise of biological theories of race, the prevalence of colorblind policy, and the persistence of racial inequality in almost every measurable aspect of American life to know that we cannot end racism and systemic violence by abandoning the idea of race. Rather, we can only abandon the idea of race through struggles against social and economic policy and practices that produce different life outcomes for different groups of people.
RE: "A Lone Driver, At Last?" [Hall Monitor, July 29], on the bedraggled state of the Portland street fee and its chief handler, City Commissioner Steve Novick.
DEAR MERCURY—My biggest problem is Portland trying to find creative ways to raise funds that don't relate to what they are paying for. I grew up on the East Coast and there, you have to register your vehicle every year and pay an ad valorem tax. It's fair and drivers pay for the road. I ran into Novick many months ago in New Seasons and voiced said opinion.
LET'S ALL TAKE a moment to think about how awesome it is that we can do our grocery shopping without having to talk about the street fee. Thanks, Steve Novick! Also awesome, winning the Mercury letter of the week, with two tickets to the Laurelhurst Theater, where a biopic of the Portland street fee is never gonna play.