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New Seasons on Chavez Blvd. and Grandpa Interstate Ave.

October 5th, 2007

Don’t you hate it when you leave a comment on a blog and it never shows up, for hours and hours, and you’re thinking, WTH? (I’d never have this problem on Rockstar Mommy’s blog because girl knows how to moderate.) Then you remember, I have my own blog! I’ll post it there.

Without further ado, my response to the Chavez Blvd. argument going on at the New Seasons blog. (Who knew New Seasons had a blog? They’re just handing ’em out like candy nowadays):

What gets me the most is that no one is admitting, yeah I’m being a racist. No one. Own up to it. If that’s what you are, I can’t change your mind, but I can hope you change your mind. And I can ask you to own up to it and stop pretending it’s something else.

The other thing that gets me is all the fuss about signs, stationery (hello? who writes letters anymore except me?), business cards, etc. You don’t have to change your name, Interstate Lanes, Interstate Dental, etc. Keep the name! Your grandma can write you letters from now on into infinity and address them “Portland Blvd.” or “Interstate Ave.” and your mail carrier will get them to you. How many people still say Union Ave. instead of MLK? Whatever.

Suzanne, of course it’s a race issue. I’m not saying everyone who opposes the name change is a racist, but I will say that anyone who calls an African-American a “coon” and a Cadillac a “Coonillac” is a racist, and that’s what I heard a couple of years ago from someone from my “non-racist” neighborhood. Lemme see — yeah, it was someone who posted an earlier comment on this site.

Own up to it, if that’s how you talk and that’s what you think of blacks.

I will say that anyone who says, “We already had Rosa Parks shoved down our throats” is being a racist.

I will say that the white moms I talked with who refused to send their kids to Ockley because, “We’d be in the minority!” are racists. I cannot believe the hideous things I’ve heard people say since we’ve lived over here. And I’m a girl who grew up in NE and heard plenty of racist talk her whole life.

Maybe you’re not a racist. Let’s say your great-great-great Grandpa was named “Mr. Interstate,” and darn it! You hate to see the family name disappear, then I will say, “That’s valid.” I have heard no valid reasons for *not* changing the name.

White people in my neighborhood (not all white people, dig? but many white people) don’t like or care about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Asians, anyone who’s not white. You caught it from the President, maybe, this sickness.

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” (Kanye West)

You feel that way? I can’t tell you how to feel. But I can ask that you admit it.


  1. Marissa says

    AMEN, Wacky Mommy. This whole thing has made me sick for weeks. What kills me is that even though people point out left and right the racist things that are being said, the only response back is, “Why do you have to play the race card?” “How can you say that?” “what good is calling people racist going to do?” Arrrrgggggakkkkk!

    October 5th, 2007 | #

  2. Michelle at Scribbit says

    I completely agree, my only addition is that it works both ways. It seems okay nowadays to be racist against whites but not against established minorities. My husband works for an Alaska-Native owned corporation and it continually astounds him the racism he sees among the Native people towards the white culture. They’d never admit it though. Until people are honest though nothing will ever improve.

    October 5th, 2007 | #

  3. Mallory says

    Ok you keep hitting on the Ockley thing. There were MANY reasons to not want your kid to go to Ockley Green, (although they have done wonders with the place lately, VERY lately and I have to give them props) How about there is a porn store about 200 feet away from the front door and all manner of creepy men hang around it? How about that they get all the kids from “above average” test score elementaries and then they get there and suddenly these same kids do sucktastic? My friends believed in neighborhood schools so they decided to support the school and send their son there and get really involved. This was like, 5-6 years ago. They finally ended up giving up because it took 15 minutes of every class just to get everyone seated and orderly etc, ready to learn, and not much learning was going on. That was their experience, but I took it seriously. Ockley just had too much stacked against them, including having more than 20 languages spoken by kids there. Any school would struggle in that circumstance, especially since Portland won’t fucking fund their schools properly. I will say that while my reasons were not around race, I do think about what it felt like to be the one of the only white kids in my school in Hayward, CA where I got beat up all the damned time for being white, or being a pain in the ass, I don’t know, I only know they were calling me honkey and cracker as they hit and kicked me. I think it is a legit consideration and I am so fucking not a racist. If I am anything, it is an intellectual snob who doesn’t want her kid to be the sacrificial lamb. I think the system is broken, and I support fixing it, but I don’t want MY kids to be the ones who bear the lousy education because of it. We ARE poor, and it is their fucking ticket out, so hell yeah if there is somewhere they can go where the odds are better, we are so going. And we did.

    Also, no one seems to want to answer this for me: why is all the re-naming happening in NoPo? THAT is racist. Believe me, we support Labor in SE too, I would be proud to have Ceasar Chavez Blvd on my side of town. I love and respect Rosa Parks and MLK, but they never even consider locations outside of North Portland. I love my new neighborhood’s Asian flavor. It gets it organically from having the shops and restaurants and beautiful faces of the people who live there. No one feels the need to rename the streets to honor Maxine Hong Kingston or Amy Tan.

    October 6th, 2007 | #

  4. nan says

    Unfortunately, it is still mildly fashionable to make racist jokes. To pigeonhole car brands as being “coon” or “coolie” or “white”. To refer to oneself and others as being of a certain race, as if that is what matters most. We use these racist terms, tongue-in-cheek, because it’s still okay. If we were digging in our butt, people would look the other way in disgust, but make a blonde/black/Irish/Asian joke? Oh, funnee!

    Racism, like ultra-perky boobs and wrinkle-free skin on a 50-year-old, is in fashion. Our job as cool chicks is to come up with a new trend, which will make racism look like, SO 1990.

    October 6th, 2007 | #

  5. daisy says

    About the Ockley issue:

    I send my kids to Ockley, and yes, there are many students who speak other languages. There are also students from poor backgrounds. I consider this a huge PLUS. My kids are learning how to work together with an incredible variety of people. When they go out into the workplace that is a huge asset.

    As far as “fucktastic” test scores, I have found that Ockley is less hell-bent on achievement scores as some other schools. To me, another plus. Instead of teaching to the test and sucking the life out of education by drilling the kids nonstop, they have dance. And art! And music! And choir!

    I find it ironic that some progressive liberal types are so down on testing in general, and then when they are searching for an excuse not to send their kids to a heavily minority school like Ockley, they condemn them for having low test scores. There are parents in our neighborhood who send their kids to magnet schools, bragging how they don’t teach to the test, and when you ask them why not Ockley, they cite the test scores! Does this make sense to anyone?

    And PS: my daughter scored higher on her tests her first year at Ockley then she ever has before.

    October 6th, 2007 | #

  6. BlackFriend says

    I am glad SOME parents have the option of going to whiter magnet schools. Those environments don’t really work for my black self nor my AfroLatina child. She has experienced racism in the 2 “white” magnet schools she attended. That wonderful Portland racism with the code words and all. I’m an active parent I’ve volunteered at her schools, always remember teacher appreciation week, blah-blah. We were always made to feel “tolerated”, not welcomed or included. Since we’re not from here, I had no tools to deal with grin in your face, stab your kid in the back racism.

    So we are at Ockley Green with a staff that loves and respects all of our children. Wants the best for them. Gives them the benefit of the doubt. For children of color that’s not guarantee or even expected in some PPS schools. Yep, we’ve got some old textbooks, and no we don’t enjoy the community support that majority white PPS schools get. I can’t imagine having my child go anyplace else in PPS. And I will cry like a baby when she graduates. For a broke ass single parent who spent two years paying for parochial school for her child to have a culturally competent environment, it is unconscionable to me that “fair-minded” parents continue to use their privilege in this system at the expense of so many other children.

    The whole “sucks to be you colored lady, but my kids are going reap the benefits of this system that caters to families that look like mine” philosophy it hard for me to abide anymore.

    FWIW, I was beat up by kids of all races in SF growing up. Sometimes they called me “white girl”. I’m now and have always been pretty chocolate colored. It had mostly to do with my smart mouth and inability to fight.

    I’m one of those militants that thinks that folks without power can’t be racist. They can be prejudiced and biased, hurtful and violent, but not racist.

    October 7th, 2007 | #

  7. nan says

    BlackFriend, I also know “chocolate” friends who were accused of being white. My brother, the whitest boy around, was beaten up badly when he was 13 in the UK, for “sounding black.” I think that racists are bullies, and if it wasn’t about race maybe it would be something else? I am not saying that racism isn’t a problem, but could it be linked to a larger problem of intolerance, aggression, mis-education? I have experienced racism (in the West Indies) from teachers and peers, as the only “whitey cockroach” in school, and would love to see that racist attitude squashed forever. There has to be a way!

    October 8th, 2007 | #

  8. daisy says

    Nan, personally I think that racism will only be squashed fwhen blacks, whites and everyone lives, works and goes to school together. That can’t happen in a situation of tax-payer funded segregation like we have with PPS. I agree with Blackfriend that it is unconscionable that some parents use the transfer policy at the expense of other kids.

    Like Blackfriend, we have also seen a lot of the subtle, covert and pervasive racism of Portland as a mixed family. I have seen white parents refuse to use the local library because black teens are there. Cross the street when they see my big, black brother. Heard a white teacher say of her black students, “oh, well, you know they are all crack babies.” The worst part is how everyone alway dismisses it, just like with all the racism over the Chavez debate. It won’t change until we at least admit it exists, which for me it is so nice to see a blog like this where the discussion is at least happening.

    October 8th, 2007 | #

  9. Mallory says

    I think it is awesome that Ockley has improved. And yes, it has great programs now because the district is finally pouring some resources into it. I wish that this had happened 5 years ago, because it would have saved me a heck of a lot of driving to a magnet school. I have friends now who send their son to Ockley and he loves it there. I do think most schools are waaaaay too focused on test-scores, and if it isn’t, it has a lot more going for it than I knew. All of the improvements are great news and I am thrilled to hear them.

    I do value diversity, btw. I speak two languages fluently, so that I can communicate and understand another culture more, have diverse friends, have always chosen to live in North Portland because I love living with so many different languages, races, creeds and cultures, and even now that I moved to SE to be closer to school, I see lots of people of color and recent immigrants and it makes me smile.

    I was kind of having a pissy day and I had been getting criticism for sending my kids to their magnet school. Sorry I flipped, Ockley people.

    October 9th, 2007 | #

  10. laurie says

    The street name change thing is bullshit. I don’t give a shit if someone is black or gay or Mexican or white OR short. I do give a shit about money being spent on renaming streets when it could be going towards safe after school programs for black or gay or Mexican or white short kids. Or money for libraries, or librarians, or new educational materials for ALL North Portland schools, etc. Or, it could even go towards impeaching George Bush, because he really doesn’t like black people. Thank you Kanye. I guess it may be my age, or that I was not raised here, but what’s with all of the racism shit talk? I have never in my life heard of a Coonillac. That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Oh, BTW, you wanna talk racist bullshit? The lady at downtown Nordstrom’s asking for reparations. It’s not making me go home and talk with my family about racism, it’s making me think about what challenges American women face in education, job markets, child bearing (and rearing), etc., and yet she can’t see past color to think about the struggles that we have shared. Wacky girl’s best friends comment, “why would I give her money? I didn’t do anything to black people.” Okay, I’m done.

    October 13th, 2007 | #

  11. BlackFriend says

    Laurie, your denying racism is like men denying sexism. The suffragettes had a habit of selling out women of color so that white women could access the vote. Read Paula Giddings book “When and When I enter” if you’re interested in learing why some black, latina, native american and asian women “can’t see past color”.
    If you really don’t know that color is an additional barrier for some women, then you’re not listening, hearing, reading or watching.

    asking people targeted by any ism to “see past it” translates to “let’s ignore it, so I don’t have to think about it” to me. I think it’s unfortunate that you decided not to listen.

    October 14th, 2007 | #

  12. laurie says

    I don’t recall saying that color is not an additional barrier. Nor do I recall denying racism. I always thought that everyone else had it better than me. As I grew older, I began to speak to others, and actually listen to their stories, and realize how similar we were. Asking for reparations or calling someone racist for not wanting a street name changed is NOT creating open dialogue. Neither is attacking area school leaders for racist comments they’ve made. It would just be nice to see some Portlanders talk about their similarities instead of their differences for a change. I’m listening, I just don’t agree with everything I’m hearing.

    October 17th, 2007 | #

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