Scot Nakagawa posted on Facebook a moving commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the racist murder of Mulugeta Seraw. And he was correct in highlighting the deep reservoir of racism that existed then and continues today. While I agree with his stated aim, I take issue with the term “Mississippi of the North” in his post.
I don’t recall Portland, Oregon ever being labeled as such–notwithstanding that the murder of Mulugeta Seraw alone could prove strong evidence that it has earned it. But something seems off with this designation. I did a quick search, and nothing. Perhaps you can find something I missed. But even if you find something in ‘the national media’, the phrase just doesn’t work. Boston or Chicago are far better suited for such a moniker. And there is the part about Portland being, well, west of Mississippi–way west of Mississippi, and somewhat North. And that Mississippi is a state, Portland a city.
Call me tone deaf, tactless, irascible or just get right to it–an asshole. I’m all that. But I’m also right. And, while it is undoubtedly true that in the world of politics one has to be ‘more than just right’, it also helps to be mindful of history and language. For instance, I have a long-standing aversion to the term ‘populism’, especially when it is used within a framework that equivocates all radical politics–extremism of the left and right are both the problem. Fuck that. From the left and below is the solution, not the problem. And that solution must extend beyond resistance to rebellion.
So part of the history of Oregon I uphold is that history of rebellion, reflected in another nickname for Portland, Oregon, ‘Little Beirut’.
Therefore I also stand with, and raise a toast to, the Portland, Oregon that is ‘Little Beirut’. If you don’t know what that nickname means, read this.
“Big Trouble In Little Beirut”, by John Locanthi, Willamette Week, May 4, 2016.
And this from The Oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2016/04/little_beirut_legacy_20_of_the.html
It sucks to cite two print papers that got so much wrong back then, before and after the murder of Mulugeta, and I’m sure get so much wrong now. But I don’t have an alternative at hand. Both articles will give you a flavor of the protests and acts of militant anti-racism and resistance that preceded and followed the murder of Mulugeta Seraw.
I want that history–a history of militant resistance and rebellion–to be remembered and continued. Many of you on this thread (see Scot Nakagawa’s Facebook page) will remember because, like me, you were there.
And while it may be presumptuous of me to point this out a few days after the anniversary, I also believe that a dash of rebellion with our resistance is also a fitting tribute. Here’s to making the Mississippi of the West (if you must) Little Beirut (again).