So you thought
Portland just happens to be largely white today by accident?
That's not the case. This
is why it's white today:No free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this State, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws, for the removal, by public officers, of all such negroes, and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the State, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ, or harbor them.
-Oregon's Exclusion Law, repealed in 1926...
Other common expressions of discrimination were "sundown" laws
which required blacks to be "out of town" or off the streets by sunset and laws against intermarriage which remained on the books until 1951.
Even after blacks were allowed in Portland, there were agreements within Portland's real estate industry to restrict home sales to the northeast section of town, forbidding sales in white neighborhoods and by use of restrictive deeds and neighborhood covenants. The covenant for U.S. Grant Place states, ...no building thereof shall be used or occupied otherwise than for strictly residence purposes, and shall not be used or occupied by Chinese, Japanese, or Negroes, except that persons of such races may be employed as servants upon said premises...
(The quotes above come from Vic Varis' excellent essay: Dixie in the North: Culture Contact Investigation of African Americans in Portland
, which is a good thing to read in full. Another good article is this one
In summary: Portland is white today because of explicit and implicit laws and policies, well into the 20th century, to make
it that way. We are living the fruits of that discrimination, and under the circumstances a little humility would not be a bad thing.