Copyright © 2019 Respond to Racism in LO

#Notanisolatedincident: The Nextdoor Chronicles

September 14, 2018

Editor's Note: As part of our efforts to educate the Lake Oswego community about race and racism, Respond to Racism is launching a multi-platform storytelling campaign focused on the experiences of people of color called #notanisolatedincident. This project will utilize everything from personal essays to interviews to photos of graffiti and social media screenshots to capture the pervasiveness of racist incidents in this town. Some stories may be familiar because they made the news at some point, but more often than not, these incidents go unreported, giving those who seek to discredit any anti-racist efforts the excuse to pretend LO's racism doesn't exist, or, as is often the case, dismiss any story that makes headlines as an "isolated incident." Our hope is to build such a large database of stories, photos, interviews, and any other form of effective storytelling that we can move beyond the denial and actually make the changes that ensure all members of our community have the opportunity to thrive. If you are interested in submitting your own stories, please reach out to us via direct message on either FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

 

In this installment, we look at the evolution of community gossip, namely Nextdoor. For some, it's a social network that allows people to connect better with those in their respective neighborhoods, or so I've heard. Others say it's the latest "safe space" for people to let their microaggressions and sometimes even overt bigotry roam free. Admittedly, as someone who has resisted getting a Nextdoor account, I can't call it either way. That said, I'm a believer that tools, much like systems and programs, are more a reflection of those operating them than anything else. To highlight that, I present a Nextdoor thread in response to a Black teen selling magazines in LO:

Naturally, this starts with an allegation of the most horrid crime of our time, insinuating a white person could be racist.

As someone who grew up in LO, I honestly wasn't aware of this rule about solicitor permits. Technically, it does exist but I also watched my entire life as Jehovah's Witnesses and other white solicitors worked all the neighborhoods with no one even thinking to press them for ID. That's to say nothing of the variety of kids who sold magazines, wrapping paper, and other random goods, either presumably through school or some other program that white parents never felt the need to question. Strange how the rules suddenly matter when the melanin levels change.  

Insinuating the Black person is running a scam. If left at that, it might just be suspect. Then we get the "threatened" talk. Subtle...

"'Das racist!' Lol." Classy.

Telling everyone a different story? Aggressively pounding on doors? Seems a little far fetched considering Lake No Negro, excuse me, Lake Oswego, has had its reputation for decades and random white people in similar places are shooting Black people for far less. Nonetheless, we'll put a pin in that for now.

And speak of the devil, there go the gun threats. That train is never late.  

 

So now he's soliciting people to hire his friends from jail and accusing them of being racists for refusing? Totally seems like the type of thing Black people do...

Directions for reporting Black strangers and the rare, sympathetic Fox News narrative. Nice.

I really want to think the Space Force reference is tongue-in-cheek, but I've seen much dumber things said with a straight face lately.

Umm...

When you do a search for incidents that resemble this in LO, the closest thing you get is a 2012 sexual assault committed by a 19-year-old white man. Casting Black magazine salesmen as potential rapists, and at the very least "suspicious individuals," because of the actions of a white man is almost poetic in its whiteness.

 

More rallying cries to get the police on the lookout. Can't think of how this could possibly turn out bad... 

And the LOPD is on the job. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. No more will LO neighborhoods fear that a scary Black teen in a shirt and tie will viciously attack them with magazines and random accusations of racism. Phew.

Anyone want to take bets that it was actually the same guy? After all, no one in LO would make that kind of mistake...

And there it is. "Aggressive black 'subscription seller.'" Lest we be too subtle. And if that wasn't enough, theorizing that the salesman is mentally ill? Now that is talent.

A friendly conversation? Genuine human interaction? Not writing a young man's life story in your mind before you so much as exchange one word? Is this allowed? I almost want to end this post here, on a hopeful note. Unfortunately, that's not how the world (and this town especially) works. So we continue on.

 No assumptions at all...

Cool story bro... 

Another person who saw the same salesman a month ago. Want to take another bet that it's actually not the same guy? What happened to all the guys staying at the motel? They don't rotate at all?

 

And there you have it ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folks. From accusations of being "threatening" to increasingly outlandish descriptions of an alleged scam to outright threats of violence, this is how a large segment of the LO community responds to Black people in their neighborhoods that they don't recognize. While some will undoubtedly claim this has nothing to do with race, the fact is, the uproar is different (see: non-existent) when the solicitors are white, even if they're not from familiar institutions like the Jehovah's Witnesses. Furthermore, there are plenty of stories of Black youth receiving this same kind of treatment and hostility walking through neighborhoods in LO that they actually live in. Efforts to rile people up and get the police involved could very realistically result in a tragic situation and yet it's telling that many people's first instinct is to do exactly that. Every time a clearly racist incident happens, everyone is quick to jump up and claim it doesn't represent our values or that it's not who we are, but look at the responses above. Yes, it is. Even when people try to be polite and sanitize their bias for public consumption, it's still unmistakable. Those of us who have been on the receiving end of that bias know that all too well. As long as this town collectively continues to deny how it treats non-white people (because as the screenshots above display, clearly white people wouldn't stand for that kind of treatment), we will continue holding up the mirror until people have no choice but to face the truth.

 

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