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Oregon Newspaper Investigates its Racist Legacy

The Oregonian, Oregon’s most prestigious and longest-running newspaper, recently launched a special project entitled “Publishing Prejudice,” examining its historic complicity in reinforcing white supremacy in the state of Oregon. According to editor Therese Bottomly, the project was launched in the wake of the 2020 public demonstrations against racism after the murder of George Floyd.

Bottomly said, “Some institutions, including a handful of newspapers, responded to the moment with sustained examinations of their histories in pursuit of strengthening the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, The Oregonian looked inward as well.”

Part of the problem is that many residents aren’t aware of Oregon’s history. Bottomly continues, “Oregon was founded as an exclusionary state openly hostile to people of color, and Portland today remains the whitest major city in America.” Investigative reporters were dispatched to review the archives and document the various ways that the paper has reinforced the ugly stain of racism as part of its legacy. The series of articles reviews the paper’s coverage of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s, and many other contentious issues in its more than 170 years of existence.

Bottomly said, “I thought we would find the newspaper had missed stories, ignored major cultural movements, and been behind the times. And, yes, we found sins of omission, to be sure. But the gravest mistakes were sins of commission.”

It was surely a difficult decision for Bottomly and her staff to delve this deeply into such sordid chapters of their history. But she has no regrets. “This has been a painful and necessary exercise of self-examination. This history is hard to read but you must. And you must hold us to our pledge to always do better.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Each of us bear a responsibility to tell the truth about our history and the roles we play, not just as individuals but as members of families, organizations, and nations. In situations where we've inherited a godly legacy, we should rejoice. Where there is a legacy of sin, we should repent.

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