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Jan-20-2014 19:24printcommentsVideo

Oregon Racism: a Deeply Rooted Problem

"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

Former Oregon Corrections Officer William Coleman
Former Oregon Corrections Officer William Coleman became a whistleblower against racism and official misconduct in the Oregon State Prison. After he blew the whistle, Oregon retaliated against Coleman by charging him with "cigarette smuggling" but Coleman took it to trial and was found not guilty by a unanimous jury verdict. His struggle against racism in Oregon continues.

(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.

Dr. Martin Luther King

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.

Protest of Statesman Journal Reporting Practices from Tim King on Vimeo.

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

Sign prominently placed in a North Portland
restaurant. Courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society.

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

Former Black Affairs Chair, Clifford Walker

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.

Ku Klux Klan March in Ashland. Oregon Historical
Society Research Library. Courtesy:
Oregon Encyclopedia

    Oregon and its entrenched institutionalized racism at Oregon Corrections goes back to NEPOTISM and the state's ORIGINAL provisional government and its Constitution to enter the Union. "NO BLACKS ALLOWED" was the decision of the RACIST founding father's of OreWrong. That's a fact.

    Attempts to repeal that section of the state law took DECADES, efforts beginning in 1893, caused, finally, repeal of the RACIST LANGUAGE in 1927. The RACIST attitudes persisted however, inter-generationally, (especially around SALEM).

    Hate is learned. The white, good-ole boys in POWER IN STATE GOVERNMENT will take centuries to eradicate after decades of "state organized crime" government, which was eventually run by the likes of the "enlightened" GOLDSCHMIDT REGIME which devolved to Kitzhaber & Kulongowski et al the GREEDY-ARSE-DEMOCRATS of the GOLDEN CALF CLUB who still own the public employee union bosses.

    In 1844, Slavery was declared illegal in the Oregon Country, HOWEVER, the "COMPROMISE" was the infamous “Lash Law,” requiring that blacks in Oregon – be they free or slave – be whipped twice a year “until he or she shall quit the territory,” was passed in June 1844. It was soon deemed too harsh and its provisions for punishment are reduced to FORCED LABOR in December 1844. (What a JOKE in a so-called non-slavery state!!)

    NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED in 170 YEARS Oregon Corrections is rampant with generations of "WHO YOU KNOW" NEPOTISM and ENTRENCHED RACISM. Apparently, the 1844 "lash law" is alive and well in the Oregon Prisons anytime THE PRESENT, RACIST, corrupted union members/guards want to teach those black prisoners whose "BOSS". I'm six decades old, white, and female and I am not fooled by the excuses by some white girl-guard for the excluding Mr. Coleman from a union meeting as an observer, nor her hostility expressed as a union-sheeple due to Coleman's ACTIVISM & RIGHT TO LITIGATE. Hell, no doubt it was the RACIST union-whites and their appointed-keepers who tried to fry Coleman with FALSE CRIMINAL CHARGES (and a fake witness) because Coleman wouldn't walk their little BLUE-WHITE line of "silence". The Corrections Union is basically, well, DISGUSTING!

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

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You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com.

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Tim King's reports from the Iraq War

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Tim rode cross country in 2013 to raise awareness of
critical health issues impacting Veterans.

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.

Tim King reporting from the war in Iraq

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.

Betrayal: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines

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.


Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Kimberly March 3, 2017 2:18 am (Pacific time)

I believe only bigots and racists are in denial. Now that we have Erious Johnson, who is the Director of the Oregon Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, maybe there is some hope. He is Oregon's first Director for the Civil Rights Division. Now supposedly he is to see over Brad Avakian and the way his office and he [mis] handles numerous, legitimate civil rights discrimination cases that are submitted to his agency in good faith by victims of repetitive hateful acts carried out by property management companies (housing; they love to make victims homeless), Tri-met refusal to allow a Black, disabled woman to use the lift to board the bus (this one just drove away and left her sitting in her wheel chair at Beaverton Transit Center; the driver was a white male), and other egregious public accommodations entities that routinely harm and dehumanize esp. people of color. I pray that these stories continue to be disclosed for the betterment of all people, esp. the ones who continue to be harmed here in Oregon. The NAACP here in Oregon is in name only for they are truly despicable and seem to only "jump on board something" when it's a highlighted case in mainstream media; sellouts.

Oregonian July 18, 2016 11:46 am (Pacific time)

I have lived in Salem,Oregon my entire life I have seen one black officer I know first hand how racist it is here they burnt crosses on my grandmothers front yard when my parents stayed with her my mother is white my father is black I continue to feel the hate daily!!!!

Former Oregon police officer January 22, 2014 4:15 pm (Pacific time)

People just don't get it, This state is sold out when it come to helping Black officers expose corrupted white officials. Black groups like NAACP are sold out also. Coleman's only hope is for someone within the state system to wake up and do what's right. Coleman continues to expose them, change is coming...

Anonymous January 22, 2014 10:48 am (Pacific time)


What sense is there is stating, "racists are usually those who accuse others of racism"?  That is like saying people who report murders are murders, those who report sexual violence are sexually violent... You need to work on your excuse list because that is a total failure.  To assume that Black people who were enslaved less than 150 years ago in a nation founded on "freedom" should all be OK today is hogwash.  Of course they are challenged far beyond what White people are. Most Black conservatives are simply sellouts, we have one in Oregon named Jackie Winter, it is an easy path if the people are willing to walk on it, but most aren't.  Oregon's racism is absolutely ridiculous and the fact that in past comments you have described Black people as "animals" is all we ever need to know about you.  I will say that you are mostly an advocate for my point because your racism is so particularly pathetic.    

Beth January 22, 2014 10:40 am (Pacific time)

I feel sorry for those that just don't believe this is racism, I'm white and can clearly see this is hate!! The Statesman Journal just doesn't print the truth about black issues. From what I can see, Coleman has done a great job of exposing hate crimes and discrimination in Oregon.

Jeff January 22, 2014 5:34 am (Pacific time)

Wow!!!! I didn't know the statesman Journal ignores documented facts about state issues. They have printed white people's state issues. This a newspaper company that may have some racially biased staff, maybe Coleman just pissed them off by exposing them. This is clearly a lawsuit coming.

Richard January 22, 2014 5:16 am (Pacific time)

SEIU has always been good to me, I have nothing bad to say about SEIU, but if Randy Davis kicked Coleman when he permission from someone working there to attend, it becomes a different story. I came to an SEIU meeting with my kids before and a friend. Coleman who is Black and Yuri who is white are both ex-employees, they both should have been kicked out if one was. I have a problem with kicking Coleman out and allowing Yuri who was white to stay. clearly racism exists here without fail.

Nadia Sindi January 21, 2014 12:35 pm (Pacific time)


Anonymous January 21, 2014 12:25 pm (Pacific time)

What control do various state officials have over the media? Over national African American groups/individuals? Racist tradition in Oregon? I imagine in every state you will find historical examples of segregationist behavior. So what! It also happens in black communities keeping whites and other racial/ethnic groups out. Try going to a black nightclub in various urban areas as a white.

Well, I don't think you read the article, the media ignores stories and in turn no heat is brought upon the crooked officials, pretty easy to follow.   The groups that represent Black people are totally ineffective, the NAACP in Salem allows a Salem Police lieutenant to sit in the front row and automatically intimidate any person who might wish to communicate a problem to the group.  I don't experience racism from Black people, I would feel comfortable going to any nightclub that has a Black crowd. 

What you need to do is learn how to conquer the fears that obviously grip you.  As we have stated, racism is learned, not inherent.  You and others like you were raised by parents who were racist and you lacked the personal fortitude to rise above it.  As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, you are simply unable to understand that all people are the same regardless of color.  Of course the readers don't know that you are a serious dirty scumbag white racist but I checked your IP and I see you have a history of writing things like this, only much worse. Man what a sad life you must have. 

Perhaps you are paid, or maybe you are just a lowly wanker who truly believes the remarkably stupid things you write.  Well there isn't much hope for you, I'd wish you luck but then I wouldn't mean it.  

Gregory Smith January 21, 2014 9:47 am (Pacific time)

I am a corrections official in a SW state, we have problems but these people in Oregon actually seem helpless, spare this coverage they are receiving. I am going to take a guess and suggest that the newspapers mentioned in this article have huge ties with the area's police agencies, this is not uncommon, but outright refusal to publish information when it is having such a huge impact, that is a horse of a different color.

Anonymous January 21, 2014 9:04 am (Pacific time)

Why no mainstream organizations interested? Why no local or national black leaders involved? If Coleman has such a compelling story, why no interest?  In my opinion for an honest conversation on race, then all non-whites need to be honest about their incredibly violent behavior, for it's not the talking, it's the behavior. Mr. King do you really think you have the experience to understand exactly what is needed? Thanks

 I publish this as a very minor example of the racist comments that are mailed to our newsroom every day. The answer to the question this comment poses, is painfully obvious, and the article is not entirely about William Coleman.  There is no mainstream response for the cited, reasons of racist "tradition" in Oregon.  Coleman's compelling story is dismissed because it would land so many LE officials in the prisons they run today. They are scared of the honest revelations this man brought to light. They expected to be able to put Mr. Coleman away for many years, but he fought their retaliatory efforts and beat them hands down standing tall, while the Oregon State Police shuffled from the courtroom with their heads hung low.  It will only last so long, a new day is coming in Oregon. 

Nadia Sindi January 20, 2014 10:32 pm (Pacific time)



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