Because Portland Is White

This Washington Post articles fails to mention that Portland has the highest percentage of white people of any American city. That’s the only way it can sustain all these cool quirky collaborative ventures. Imagine public vegetable gardens in the downtown of a city filled with blacks? Imagine a tool sharing economy? A bike sharing economy in Detroit? It would not work.

America’s new sharing economy will only work as long as it remains the overwhelming province of whites and asians. If blacks begin using Uber and AirBNB in high numbers, the sharing economy will go to hell.

The Washington Post reports: “Of all the Very Portland things that exist in Portland, there is a plot of land next to City Hall, right outside the building’s front portico, where the city is growing its own Swiss chard.”

How much respect would downtown black youth give a Swiss chard garden?

America was a country of neighborliness when it was 90% white (the 1950s and earlier).

There’s not a whisper about race in this Washington Post story. I guess it is too obvious and too boring of an angle.

In another article, the Post writes: “Racial discrimination in housing wasn’t merely commonplace in the 1940s and ’50s; it was government policy. The Federal Housing Administration helped finance the construction of many suburban places like Levittown on the condition that they exclude blacks. And it underwrote mortgages to white families there with the expectation that their property values would only hold if blacks did not move in.”

Now we know better of course about how much the presence of blacks enhances property values and that kindly neighborly feeling.

Jason Richwine writes about Harvard Political Scientist Robert Putnam‘s finding that racial diversity, in particular the presence of blacks and latinos, is inversely proportionate to a neighborhood’s social capital:

Putnam walked us through how he came to his conclusion. At first, it was just a simple correlation. Looking at his list of the most trusting places, Putnam found whole states such as New Hampshire and Montana, rural areas in West Virginia and East Tennessee, and cities such as Bismarck, North Dakota and Fremont, Michigan. Among the least trusting places were the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. The most trusting places tended to be homogenously white, while the least trusting places were highly diverse.

Putnam told us he had been fairly certain the correlation would go away once other factors were taken into account. But it didn’t. He entered a long list of control variables into regression analyses that predict elements of social capital such as neighborly trust and civic participation. Many factors—especially younger age, less education, and higher poverty and crime rates—seem to damage community relations. But none of these factors could explain the robust, negative relationship between ethnic diversity and social capital. Sounding almost defeated, Putnam told us that ethnic diversity is not merely correlated with certain community problems—it causes them.

After finishing his presentation of the data, Putnam began a class discussion. He asked us whether we thought that all relevant scientific findings, no matter how disagreeable, deserve a public airing. Perhaps he was just trying to get us to think about difficult issues, but Putnam seemed genuinely conflicted himself. His concerns were rooted, understandably, in his personal politics. A man of the Left, he told us that he was deeply worried about being seen as advocating some form of “ethnic cleansing,” or being associated with the far Right in general.

From Robert Putnam’s Wikipedia entry:

In recent years, Putnam has been engaged in a comprehensive study of the relationship between trust within communities and their ethnic diversity. His conclusion based on over 40 cases and 30 000 people within the United States is that, other things being equal, more diversity in a community is associated with less trust both between and within ethnic groups. Although limited to American data, it puts into question both the contact hypothesis and conflict theory in inter-ethnic relations. According to conflict theory, distrust between the ethnic groups will rise with diversity, but not within a group. In contrast, contact theory proposes that distrust will decline as members of different ethnic groups get to know and interact with each other. Putnam describes people of all races, sex, socioeconomic statuses, and ages as “hunkering down,” avoiding engagement with their local community—both among different ethnic groups and within their own ethnic group. Even when controlling for income inequality and crime rates, two factors which conflict theory states should be the prime causal factors in declining inter-ethnic group trust, more diversity is still associated with less communal trust.

Lowered trust in areas with high diversity is also associated with:

Lower confidence in local government, local leaders and the local news media.
Lower political efficacy – that is, confidence in one’s own influence.
Lower frequency of registering to vote, but more interest and knowledge about politics and more participation in protest marches and social reform groups.
Higher political advocacy, but lower expectations that it will bring about a desirable result.
Less expectation that others will cooperate to solve dilemmas of collective action (e.g., voluntary conservation to ease a water or energy shortage).
Less likelihood of working on a community project.
Less likelihood of giving to charity or volunteering.
Fewer close friends and confidants.
Less happiness and lower perceived quality of life.
More time spent watching television and more agreement that “television is my most important form of entertainment”.
Putnam published his data set from this study in 2001[4][5] and subsequently published the full paper in 2007.[6]

Putnam has been criticized for the lag between his initial study and his publication of his article. In 2006, Putnam was quoted in the Financial Times as saying he had delayed publishing the article until he could “develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity” (quote from John Lloyd of Financial Times).[7] In 2007, writing in City Journal, John Leo questioned whether this suppression of publication was ethical behavior for a scholar, noting that “Academics aren’t supposed to withhold negative data until they can suggest antidotes to their findings.”[8] On the other hand, Putnam did release the data in 2001 and publicized this fact.[9] The proposals that the paper contains are located in a section called “Becoming Comfortable with Diversity” at the end of his article. This section has been criticized for lacking the rigor of the preceding sections. According to Ilana Mercer “Putnam concludes the gloomy facts with a stern pep talk”.[10]

In 2007 he briefly met Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to discuss the role of civil society in the Libyan political context.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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