Portland so progressive that it ignores issues of race?

A sociologist who teaches about race at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon suggests the city is comfortable discussing and dealing with a lot of issues but not so much when it comes to race:

Miller, who is writing a book tentatively titled “Blacklandia” about the racial awkwardness she’s observed in Portland, says the small black population in Multnomah County (5.7 percent) has made it too easy for white people to avoid ever having to mix with blacks, much less become comfortable with them…

Miller’s point isn’t that Portland is a particularly racist city. In fact, she doesn’t think that at all. But people here are so satisfied with their progressive self-images, she says, that they are neglecting issues that affect the black community. As a result, she says, Portland becomes a less livable city for everybody.

Miller says she’s constantly being reminded that whites here have a lot of bottled up feelings about race they’d like to get out of their system. But they don’t know how.

She spends a lot of time alone at local bars. Miller says they are great places to do sociological research. Often, white people in Portland who start chatting with her in bars learn she has a Ph.D. Invariably after that, Miller says, all they want to talk about is race, as if after a lifetime of searching they’ve finally found an educated black person to whom they can talk.

“I feel like Oprah,” Miller says. “I can’t even sit there and have a cocktail.”

I don’t think Portland, Oregon is the only place where it is difficult to have conversations about race. This is an American issue not just limited to places with relatively lower percentages of minorities.

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