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The White State

How does Oregon’s lack of diversity affect our state?

During today’s show about the next generation of African-American leaders in Oregon, one of our guests, Cyreena Boston, touched on the subject of Thursday’s show:

In a place like Portland, which statistically is proven to be the whitest major city in America, having a conversation about race sometimes is very limiting just because numerically speaking there are not a lot of people who I think — and I don’t necessarily use the word qualified, but could come and have a very well-rounded conversation about race.

(You can listen to an MP3 of the clip here.)

While we may indeed be home to the whitest major city in America, we’re not the whitest state in the country.

In 2006, the US Census Bureau ranked Oregon as the 16th whitest state in the country, with 86% of our population identifying as only white. While we’re nowhere near the top (Vermont earns that distinction with a 96% white population), we’re still well above the country as whole, which is only about 74% percent white.

With Cyreena’s warning in mind, we’ll be talking about race in Oregon this Thursday. We’ll be taking a look at the history of the state, and what factors have contributed to our state’s relatively homogeneous racial makeup. And we’ll be asking what effect our relative lack of diversity has on the lives of Oregonians — white and non-white alike.

What is your own daily experience of Oregon’s particular racial makeup? How does being a part of a relatively homogeneous majority — or a relatively small minority — affect your life?

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