Southern Oregon University students plan a march today from the campus to the Plaza to bring attention to what they say is real racism in Ashland. Although this march is not in response to any specific incident, that doesn't mean racist attitudes are not alive and well here.
Organizer Ahsante Foree, an SOU senior and co-chairman of the university's Equal Rights Alliance, says he has experienced being followed around in grocery stores and being stereotyped publicly while filling in as a DJ. During last year's demonstration, he said, a man told him, "I'm going to go get my gun."
This may surprise Ashlanders who like to think of their town as a haven of tolerance and inclusion. If so, the march will serve its stated purpose of raising awareness.
The march will take place a year after a similar march in response to the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the decision of a grand jury not to indict the officer involved.
Here in Oregon, racism may be less noticeable than in other parts of the country, primarily because the minority population is so small. But in Portland, racist threats made anonymously on the social media app Yik Yak targeted students at Lewis and Clark College last month, and a black student was physically attacked by three white students who used a racial slur and told him he would "die tonight."
Clearly, racist attitudes persist. Today's march is a timely reminder of that reality.