The fact that Portland erupted as the epicenter in Trump-era political violence in the U.S. is, in a certain sense, surprising. A liberal nirvana, a crunchy, weed-and-hops city where Republicans and plastic bags alike have been all but evicted, Portland has embodied and outpaced many of the urban trends of the early 21st century: gentrification and co-ops, food trucks and foot-bridges, transitions to a bike-and-pedestrian economy. It is, as a conspicuous show has encapsulated, a progressive paradise.
And yet, as many within and without the city have begun realizing, Portland is a town leavened with a history of rampant racial strife. As the whitest major American city, Portland blossomed in the lone state that constitutionally barred blacks from living there through the 19th century, that acted as one of the primary concentration centers for incarcerating American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II, that redlined as severely as any major metropolis elsewhere. That in 1922 saw its chief of police posing alongside hooded Ku Klux Klan members. That brought Jim Crow to the Pacific shoreline.