Outing #30: Racing to Change Oregon
Oregon Historical Society, Portland, OR &
Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Eugene, OR
This week was supposed to be "Island Adventures" for the Adventure Whales. But with all of the turmoil in the country right now, our virtual vacation had to wait. At my younger child’s suggestion, this week will be "Social Justice Sheroes and Heroes: Part 2."
To help our virtual adventurers understand the context for the protests here in Portland and beyond, we decided to start with some history. Many people, especially white people, think of the South when they think about racist history. But, racism is embedded in the history of every place in the US, especially Oregon.
Thankfully, the Oregon Black Pioneers (OBP) (and others) have done great work collaborating with Oregon museums to highlight the experience of Black Oregonians in exhibits and programs around the state.
To start the journey, explore OBP's Racing to Change exhibition hosted by both the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) in Portland and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene. I visited the exhibit a few months ago in Eugene—browse my photos here—and it was so good. In these two videos, you can listen to the OBP creators and the OHS director discuss the themes of the exhibit. Then, explore OHS’s Oregon Encyclopedia to learn more about the topics brought up in the videos.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg on the subjects of race, racism, and Black communities in Oregon and beyond. Here are a few more resources to explore with your family:
Oregon Black History Timeline by Walidah Imarisha (This is not aimed at children, but provides a great introduction to Oregon history for adults and older kids. It would need to be adapted for younger children.)
Who, Me? Biased? A series from the New York Times that introduces key concepts of bias and racism in easy to understand, engaging short videos.
Conversation About Growing Up Black from the New York Times allows Black boys to share their experiences directly—it is especially powerful for kids to see other children their own age talk about what they face and fear.
Something Happened In Our Town uses story to help kids understand police violence and parents know how to talk about it with their children in productive ways. This video story time is produced by the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
Remember, we ALL, especially white families, have to talk about race and social justice with our kids if we want to end racism. Thankfully there are lots of great resources to help parents and educators know how to navigate these complex conversations. Here are a few to start with, but there are a lot more:
Learning for Justice (used to be Teaching Tolerance)
Please, share resources that you find useful in the comments.
Have you heard about the protests that are happening right now? What have you heard?
How do you think the people protesting are feeling? Do you know why they are upset?
What do you do when you feel like something is unfair?
One of the key themes of the Racing to Change exhibition is that Civil Rights activists today are fighting the same injustices that people were protesting in the 1960-1970’s. To explore this idea, use these two photos (or find your own) of people in Oregon protesting violence against Black communities in 1965 and 2020. Ask your kids:
What are the similarities in the photos?
What are the differences?
The exhibit also talks about the many racially motivated laws and practices that limited where Black people in Oregon could live, work, and shop. One important policy that restricted Black people's ability to own homes was called “redlining.” To learn more about redlining and to see if your neighborhood was “redlined,” visit this great interactive map.
Finally, to process what you’ve been learning and thinking about, use this Learning for Justice activity to create a “collage of concern.” We adapted the activity to include things that concerned us related to racial injustice and things that gave us hope related to social justice.