Members of ORD2 Indivisible, a local grassroots activist group, will hold a public forum on racism Sunday. Those who will attend will already be aware of the need to confront hate, oppression and bigotry. They also will be overwhelmingly white.
That's not a criticism. It's a simple statement of fact. Theresa Safay, the event's coordinator, said she lives in "my little, white bubble in Ashland," adding that it's easy not to see racism unless you are a person of color.
That's very true, and not just in Ashland. The U.S. Census estimated Jackson County's population in 2016 was 81.4 percent "white alone, not Hispanic or Latino" (Hispanic is an ethnic category; the Census notes that Hispanics may be of any race). Hispanics, the largest minority group, made up 12.5 percent. American Indian and Alaska Natives alone comprised 1.6 percent, Asians 1.5 percent. Blacks constituted less than 1 percent of the total 216,527 population.
When everywhere you look you see people like yourself, it's easy to believe racism doesn't exist. If you encounter few people of color in your daily life, you're not likely to spend much time wondering whether they are encountering prejudice.
When non-whites are so few, incidents of overt racism tend to stand out and draw attention. Because they are infrequent, it's easy to dismiss them as anomalies, not representing widespread attitudes. That is a mistake.
This state has a history of racism, and it still exists. The lack of diversity just makes it harder to see.