INS District Director David Beebe resigned recently after months of criticism (including a Mercury story about the INS locking away immigrants indefinitely). Beebe has also been slammed for his agency's rough handling of a Chinese businesswoman. The following commentary was sent by a reader. We invite you to send your 400-word submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Crow A-Knocking
Before we celebrate the firing of Beebe and pat ourselves on the back, we should take a long pause to look at our state's own racist tendencies. Although the climate may be Northwest rainforest, many of the people here--yes, in Portland--are hillbilly sunbelt. It may be subtle, but trust me, it is here.
You don't know what racism is until you've relaxed on a downtown bench after work, only to be interrogated by the police: "Where do you live? Where are you coming from? Where are you going?...Hey, I just need to write this down because, well, you never know what might come up."
I, for one, have been a victim of racism in this cloudy city many times over--be it in our stores, restaurants, on Tri-Met, or just walking along the sidewalk downtown. I really don't think that the guys who leaned out of their jeep to call me a "fucking spic cocksucker" were saying, hey, welcome to Portland.
No, it is rarely that blatant; but, it is everywhere. When I tried to buy a pair of pants at Columbia Sportswear, I was ignored for a half hour. The salespeople flocked around every other guy who walked in after me--difference being, they were Caucasian. Sure, you may say, it is a fine line between bad service and perceived racism, but when it happens routinely, it is hard to dismiss so easily.
You may be sitting in a cozy coffee shop thinking, "If we're so racist, why haven't I heard of this before?" Because that's modern-day racism: It is subtle and easily dismissed as whiny political correctness. But, rather than sitting in your ivory loft reading about it, I suggest that you venture outside and go to the source; ask minorities to describe their own experiences in our fair, liberal city. You're sure to hear worse tales than mine.
The firing of David Beebe was just a small step towards ridding our beautiful state of the thousands of hoodless racists. It will take more. Open your eyes and ears. BRIAN VARKEVISSER