Oregonians show strong interest in black history, advocacy

As protests over police brutality and systemic racism continue, there is evidence of increased support among the mainstream public.

Posted: Jun 11, 2020 5:51 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2020 6:22 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- As protests over police brutality and systemic racism continue, there is evidence of increased support among the mainstream public.

According to Oregon State University associate professor of political science Christopher Stout, polls show that public opinion has shifted dramatically towards the support of programs addressing racial equality.

"People are more concerned about this than they have been ever. So I think there's an interest that we may not have seen since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s," he said.

Eugene bookstore J. Michaels Books hasn't been able to keep titles like "How to Be an Antiracist," "White Fragility," and "Me and White Supremacy" in stock over the past weeks.

Owner Jeremy Nissel said that books ranging from histories to children's books have been popular.

"A lot of them speak about how it's not enough just to believe you're not a racist. You need to look at the patterns in your life you can't understand yet without looking at them more closely," he said. "Many people are just on board now with fixing the racism problem in this country and that's why they are looking for this material."

He is keeping a waitlist as publishers reprint the books. He expects to be able to meet demand by the end of the month.

According to the Lane County History Museum, the community is also looking to local history to help illuminate the concept of systemic racism. 

Archivist Allison Fischer-Olson said that Oregonians are mostly familiar with the state's white pioneers. Many collections, including the Lane County History Museum's, underrepresent communities of color throughout history.

"There are members of our community who may come in seeking services and not see themselves in the stories we tell here. That alone is kind of a huge hurdle and will be the most worthwhile if we can truly buckle down now," she said.

According to Fischer-Olson, the museum has been posting about Oregon's black history on social media and working with organizations whose collections depict more diversity to share the stories that people are seeking out in this time.

"If we can circle back and look deep into our history I think that we can understand that it's not just a matter of making reparations for this moment, but it's generations of reparations," she said.

Fischer-Olson also added that the museum is figuring out how to collect accounts and materials from the protests that are taking place across Lane County.

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