Recent events have some saying it's time for tough conversations - KPTV - FOX 12

Recent events have some saying it's time for tough conversations about racism in Portland

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The issue of race and racial relations in Portland isn't something everyone is comfortable talking about, but recent events, coupled with the prominent Black Lives Matter movement, have brought the topic to the forefront.

"We're going through such troubled times right now, and people are very dissatisfied," said Donna Maxey, who founded a monthly forum called "Race Talks."

Maxey said the forum brings people from all walks of life together to talk frankly about racial justice, equality, and the legacy of racism in Portland.

"It's about education, and it's about people connecting, developing a relationship, being able to communicate cross-culturally," said Maxey.

Racial tensions have deep roots in Oregon history. The state passed a law in the late 1800s that prohibited free people of color from entering Oregon. That law wasn't overturned by voters until 1926.

In Portland, specifically, discriminatory housing policies known as "redlining," largely determined where people of color could live. In many cases, people of color were blocked from investing in their own neighborhoods, unable to secure loans to purchase devalued properties, which were instead bought up by investors or those able to pay for the homes with cash.

As more middle-class families moved into traditional black neighborhoods, the character of those neighborhoods changed, and in many cases, people of color and their families were displaced.

"I think here, like everywhere in America, there are unresolved, long-standing historical inequities that get passed down through generations," said Dr. Lisa Bates, a professor of urban studies at Portland State University.

Bates recently spoke at the Portland City Club about how housing policies are still working against people of color, who she says are disproportionately displaced due to rising rents, and still face barriers to home ownership.

Policies aside, racial tensions continue to exist in daily life, and can sometimes lead to very personal confrontations.

Lydia Jackson, who lives in northeast Portland, said her 8-year-old son recently came home and told her a fellow student shouted a racial slur at him.

"To have to explain to an 8-year-old and have to explain and break down the root of racism, the history of it, where it comes from, how it affects us, this word in particular how it affects us as a culture, that was hurtful," said Jackson.

Jackson said she had a conversation with school administrators, and believes conversations are the first step in acknowledging the problem, and trying to identify solutions.

Where those conversations ultimately lead remains to be seen.

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