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Oregon Racism: a Deeply Rooted ProblemTim King Salem-News.com
"It is especially important that we recognize the value of our Civil Rights laws and principles, because I think in a very literal sense, no one is truly free unless everyone is." - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
(SALEM) - Fighting racism in Oregon as a reporter is a lonely job. The subject seems to hold little appeal for Oregon journalists by and large. As reporters sleep on the job with these stories burning and begging for fair attention, we note that there are even fewer people battling racism from the ranks of law enforcement. Former Oregon prison guard William Coleman, pictured on the right, is one of the few who has stayed true to what he knows to be right, based on his moral code and federal law. He has been battling racial injustice on his own behalf and that of others, for nearly a decade.
Most people in the state know racism persists so many years after the Civil Rights movement, but few, very few, are willing to take a stand against it. Oregon's racism is almost totally unknown in the rest of the country. Most see Oregon as a land of loggers and hippies and rain and little else.
Yet there is so much more...
There are many reasons and many victims. Places like eastern Oregon are just plain scary for people of color. In areas noted for being more progressive, like Eugene, Oregon, the problems are prominent yet rarely make the cut on TV or in the area's newspapers. Oregon's racism isn't always in our face, but it is in everyone's lives.
Case at hand... Oregon's two biggest newspapers; The Oregonian and the Statesman Journal, have both dropped stories about serious Civil Rights violations of African-American people in Oregon. The two papers are known for dismissing stories about racism.
Right now we're covering these stories about racism:
Oregon Media Ignores Racism
The second and third items listed above were both on the desks of reporters at the Oregonian in an extremely disappointing turn of events. Investigative reporter Les Zaitz, dismissed the story about the wrongful conviction of Kimble. (see: The Oregonian's Sense of 'News Judgment' - Deaf, Dumb and Indifferent to Racism)
It is even easier apparently, for reporters from Oregon's premiere newspaper to turn down those who are Black and Handicapped. In the case of Kim Petitt, who has been living through a series of racial acts, and failures of the state of Oregon to protect her, The Oregonian's Rebecca Woolington dropped the story like a hot rock. She told Kim Petitt she was going to do a story, but Woolington covers the Washington County Courts and Sheriff office, and apparently does not wish to print something non-favorable to them. Although she showed interest initially according to Ms. Petitt, she has stopped responding to her contact.
But no newspaper's racism can top Salem's Statesman Journal. Their former employee, Alan Gustafson, outwardly refused to investigate Civil Rights violations against African-American inmates and a former corrections officer, William Coleman. Coleman was a direct eyewitness and he was an active law enforcement officer when he first brought his allegations to the newspaper.
His attempts to report crimes against Black inmates in the prison went nowhere.
Coleman thought at first, that the Statesman Journal would help; he mistakenly assumed there was an unspoken obligation to cover severe crimes like Murder, Attempted Murder and serious corruption costing the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. Coleman says it seemed as though the newspaper was taking orders from the Oregon Dept. of Corrections.
Skip Osborne, former NAACP President in Portland, joined Coleman in leading a public demonstration against the Statesman Journal's failure to cover grave crimes involving race. (see: Demonstrators Protest Local Newspaper Over Racism)
When these media employees are simply allowed to dismiss these critical stories, the real truth is that they are aiding and abetting a system that stands clearly outside of the law.
Encouraging Words from Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden talked to Salem-News.com yesterday in regard to our coverage of racism in the Oregon Dept. of Corrections.
I said to Sen. Wyden, "We've been following a series of stories about race issues in the DOC; to a reporter, do you have any advice, for a reporter who feels like they aren't getting anywhere in Oregon, in the state of Oregon, what would they do?"
Wyden replied, "I can't make any recommendations with respect to the state legislature, but I think it is particularly fitting to be pursuing issues of justice and economic opportunity with Dr. King's birthday coming up here within the next 24 hours. This is an ideal time to be focused on these issues; to talk about what his (MLK) vision was, so it's very appropriate that you are exploring them"
Wyden says Civil Rights must exist in conjunction with Oregon law, "It is especially important that we recognize the value of our Civil Rights laws and principles, because I think in a very literal sense, no one is truly free unless everyone is." (see video below)
Logging Community Ties with Georgia
Oregon and Georgia have close ties due to the fact that many logging families are based in both locations. The name "Georgia-Pacific" is quite literal.
In fact, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, Georgia forests, "...cover some 24.8 million acres. In the past 10 years, total forest land has been gradually increasing. Forests now cover 67 percent of the land area statewide, making Georgia the largest timber-producing state in the southeastern U.S."
With major operations in Oregon and Washington, the company now known as Georgia-Pacific was founded in Augusta, Ga., by Owen R. Cheatham as the Georgia Hardwood Lumber Co., a wholesaler of hardwood lumber. By the late 1940's the company was thriving in the Northwest and the Southeast U.S.
What is the problem with this interstate commerce you ask? Simply, according to The Top Tens' Most Racist States In the U.S., there are only four U.S. states that are more racist than Georgia. Oregon Whistleblower William Coleman, who grew up in Georgia, remembers segregation continuing in some places into the late 1980's and early 1990's and beyond. This is part of what fuels Coleman's desire to see Oregon stamp out this very serious problem, or at least stop being part of it. The migration factor of logging families between these two states has inevitably perpetuated a racist White culture.
Oregon Commission on Black Affairs Officers Terminated
One of the most amazing stories that failed to make headlines in Oregon, was the dismissal of two senior members of the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs.
Clifford Walker of Portland, and Willie Woolfolk of Medford, Oregon, received termination notices in June 2012 from the Office of Oregon State Governor, John Kitzhaber. Both were willing to speak out, and both were muted by the actions of Oregon's Governor. Because of their unprecedented terminations, these two esteemed Black political leaders from separate regions of Oregon, no longer have a vocal public role in the future toward improving the lives of Oregon's African-American community.
One thing we do know, is that both of these Commissioners made inquiries about activities in the government that questioned the integrity of other state agencies. This led to an interesting set of responses, all preceding their unexplained termination. (see: Message from the Former Chairman of Oregon Commission on Black Affairs)
Oregon's Historic Close Ties With Anti-Black Racism
A Salem-News.com researcher compiled the information below about Oregon's deeply rooted racism as a state. Relying on documented information, the undisclosed writer relates an astounding story of bigotry in Oregon that has rarely been exposed.
Oregon has a long way to go and will have to address this problem sooner or later.
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
You can write to Tim at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
Tim's Afghanistan War Coverage
Tim King has more than twenty five years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.
He holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.
Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu, India.
The notorious list comprising Tim's ancestors includes Pedro de Alvarado, the lieutenant of Hernando Cortez of Spain; King Phillip IV, Eleanor of Aquitaine and William the Conqueror. Perhaps most interestingly, King John; the dark force in the story Robin Hood, as well as the last Spanish governor of California, a real person fictionalized as the arch rival of the character in Zorro, are in reality both Tim's multiple-great grandfathers.
Others include a Confederate officer and a Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War, and also a decorated 'hero' of the Mexican-American War and the so-called 'Indian Wars'. In fact on the east coast, Tim's lineage with the Slaughter and King families, pre-dates the Mayflower and several members of his family were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. He says his family's past; some of which is very dark; some quite chivalrous, presents a certain responsibility, and that in part drives his desire to see that people in today's world are not exploited or allowed to suffer in silence as victims of Human Rights violations, as people of previous times were.
In a personal capacity, Tim has written and produced more than 2,400 articles for Salem-News.com, as of January 2014, since the launch of our new format, designed by Matt Lintz, in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.
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