Alright Portland, it's time for The Talk. We may as well get this over with. We need to talk about the "Go Back to California" nonsense.
Before you get mad at me, just hear me out. This sentiment is rooted in some very real issues that are being felt by people all over the city, but directing hatred toward an amorphous group of people from a huge, diverse state with it's own complicated history of mass human migration and displacement is just another form of xenophobia and nativism, two things we definitely don't need any more of right now.
Most of the time the anti-California sentiment manifests in good-natured jabs that aren't more than a mild, unfunny nuisance, but every once in awhile it gets ugly. Earlier this month, a very angry person vandalized the car and home of recent California transplants with gold spray paint because HAHA GOLDEN STATE, GET IT?!?!
I've been living in Portland for more than seven years now and made a firm decision a while back to not be ashamed of the fact that I'm from California because, like literally every single one of us, I had no say in where I was born. Both sides of my family were poor, migrant farmworkers who moved to the northern Sacramento Valley in the 60s because of the abundance of agricultural work. The corner store in my hometown served jojos when I was a kid, and the local antique shop is owned by a really nice woman from southern Washington, so I'm positive we had a good handful of people from the Pacific Northwest make their way down there as well. Just like literally every state in this country, there are good things about it and there are things that aren't so great, and I refuse to feel bad about where I come from.
A lot of the time this anti-California sentiment gets a pass here in Portland because it's usually leveraged by white liberals against other white liberals, but really we need to start pointing out that this in fact, xenophobia and a certain type of nativism.
For those unfamiliar with the term nativism, it's a viewpoint that advocates for the rights of longer term and "native-born" residents over those of undocumented immigrants and other recent arrivals. Nativists aren't Native-with-a-capital-N, but see themselves as having enough claim to a place that they can dictate who is allowed to move here and have access to jobs, housing, education and other resources.
The kinds of nativists that we're usually talking about are the ones who are fine with white, European immigration, and they often place blame on immigrants from non-white countries for devaluing "American" culture by refusing to accept their ethics and belief systems. Some also really like kilts.
However, the anti-California attitude in Portland is it's own kind of nativism. It's usually less belligerent, but it's still nativism and xenophobia nonetheless, and has the similar goal in mind as those who focus their efforts on undocumented immigrants, which is to discourage new residents by creating an environment that's hostile to them. In these time where longtime residents are spending years in jail for minor crimes, being threatened with deportation or being forced to relocate, we really can't afford to misuse any of our energy fighting a perceived symptom, no matter how harmless it may seem.
Even though it appears Portland "isn't as cool as it used to be," Donald Trump is still president, rent is still out of control and one of the only ways to enter the housing market as a first time buyer these days is to have really rich parents, it's important to keep in mind that racism, nativism and xenophobia increase in times of economic distress, and these attitudes are an expression of fear over dwindling resources. However, they do nothing to alleviate the injustices that so many people experience, and while some of the newer people moving here happen to come from wealth, there's evidence to show many of the people moving here aren't, and it's in everyone's benefit to encourage newcomers to do their part in making Portland a livable place for everyone.
So instead of perpetuating a simmering, misdirected hostility disguised as a severely unfunny surfing joke, know the history of your neighborhood, who used to live there, why they no longer are and what you can do to make this city more accessible for it's underrepresented communities.
And seriously, those jokes are bad and surfing really does suck.
That's it for this week, thanks for stopping in and having this talk.