the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Apology to the City of Portland

I have many faults, but I try to own up to my mistakes, and apologize when warranted. I had a wonderful time in Portland. It is a beautiful city with excellent beer and fine citizens. I was especially impressed with Powell’s Bookstore, which I thought was even more impressive than the Strand Bookstore in New York. Unfortunately, I seemed to have angered many Portlandians when I mentioned in a previous post that Sophia and I saw only one black person in the entire city during our four days there, and this was the sax player in a fifteen member big band at a jazz club.


Maybe I was wrong for bringing up this bit of random information on this blog, especially now that I know I was wrong.  There isn’t just one African-American in Portland.  There are TWO —

From the awful Donald Trump-produced Miss USA show on TV tonight — Miss Oregon from Portland


Sophia: “Maybe it’s his daughter.”


  1. Noel

    The only way for you to atone for your error is to provide more pictures of Sharitha Lynn McKenzie. Lots of them.

  2. Miss Syl

    I lived in Oregon for a while (not Portland, but I visited there a lot). While a beautiful place with many positives, Oregon was the only place I have ever lived where 1) I met adult people who told me I was the first Jewish person they’d ever met in their lives and 2) I saw open displays of white supremacy (like a guy in full white supremacist gear sitting across from me on the bus, entirely unselfconscious about the giant swastikas and other badges on his jacket).

    Also in the town I lived in, I was given a lot of shit for publicly laughing about the fact that the local “African-American Dance Troupe” didn’t have one black person on it.

    One of the reasons I left Oregon (among others) was I just wasn’t used to the monocromatic nature of the place. Mind you, I’m not saying that everyone there was bigoted at all. But it’s entirely easy to say you’re open to other races and cultures when you don’t have to live with them. There seemed to be some hypocrasy there to me.

    Mind you, there is *some* minority presence in Oregon, but it is very low, and African-Americans seemed to be the smallest precentage of all miniority groups in that region.

    Though to be fair, I grew up in NJ and I never saw or met a Native American person until I moved to Oregon, so…they could make jokes about NJ or me for that.

  3. The Cynical Girl

    Sofia gets all the best lines.

  4. Two Roads

    I have never been to Portland, Oregon but Portsmouth, NH is not much different – very white although there was a significant Asian presence. It just felt weird not to be in an ethnically diverse community.

  5. Ariel

    What is wrong with telling it as it is Neil? Political correctness is a modern ailment. Sod that!

  6. Mist 1

    Not that I watched the entire pageant or anything last night, but when I saw Ms. Oregon, I was shocked. Then, I was ashamed of my reaction. I should know better. After all, I’m sort of brown and I grew up in MN.

  7. Karl

    At least it can be said that 50% of the black people in Oregon are HOT. You can’t say the same for white people.

  8. girl and dog

    WOAH! Are you sure you weren’t watching Ms. Fitness USA? She looks too ripped to be on a regular pageant!

  9. adena

    Nah, you just didn’t venture far enough from the hotel…

    The part of town that the Kennedy School was in used to actually be a REALLY REALLY bad part of town. Gang central. Then it got all trendified up, and the gangs moved.

    There are black people a’plenty in Portland, you just were hanging out in the trendy white spots.

    As far as there being no minorities in Oregon, as Miss Syl claims….uh, come visit MY town. I live in the country/suburbs of Portland. Where there is a lot of farming.

    Ask me if white kids make up 95% of my daughter’s school district. That’d be a big fat negatory. You just needed to go about 30 miles south, and you’d be in Migrant Worker territory.

    Oregon’s just as diverse as any other state, and probably a lot more than some (*cough…Montana….cough*). It’s just no self respecting black person is going to hang out in trendy white oxygen bars. 🙂

  10. Hilly

    Wow…just wow 😉

  11. Sizzle

    i think i just fell more in love with sophia. 😉

  12. Eileen Dover

    Am I the only person afraid for your life, Neil?

    That woman looks she has enough power between her thighs to squeeze oxygen out of a 250-lb man.

  13. Neil

    Did anyone else see Miss USA? What a boring show. The best part was last year’s winner talking about her alcoholism problem, which was her phony excuse for making out with that other girl in a bar.

    Sign of getting older — I found the evening gowns much sexier than the bikinis. Every woman looked exactly the same in the bikini, except for those with the fake boobs.

    It’s 2007 — why are beauty pageants still so cheesy? At least Miss America was fun when they had the talent competition.

    I don’t want to sound cruel, but is this the best America can produce? I saw better looking women at Tequilacon than some of the State championships. Do women who tend to apply to be beauty queens tend to have that horsey dumb look that does nothing for me?

    Yes, even the black contestants have that horsey dumb look.

  14. teahouseblossom

    Wowza..look at those thighs! Does she have a license for those guns?

    Are there a lot of Asians in Portland? I grew up in the Deep South, where there were 2 of us in my whole school.

  15. Two Roads

    Can you get Miss Oregon’s phone number so I can pass it on to Hardbody? 🙂

  16. Michele

    Wait a minute — alcoholism makes you kiss girls in bars?

  17. Leah

    I swear to god I thought that was a picture of Star Jones.

  18. Erin

    Well, as a girl who grew up in Oregon, I can say there wasn’t much diversity in my town either. That being said, I dated the only black guy in town. And my dad was none to happy about it… But, when I finally joined the Air Force and was stationed in Montana, I dated most of the only black guys in that state (and there were a few in Great Falls, mostly all military types tho). I like to celebrate diversity in my own way I guess. 😀

  19. Neil

    Do I seem obsessed a little too much over black women? Next week, I promise to write something new, maybe about Asian women.

  20. Vicki

    Well, for one, my aunt and her husband lives in Portland, Oregon.

    I’m pure Chinese, and living in Singapore. They’re both Chinese as well. So I’ve always imagined the place to have a big asian community? Gotta ask her more about it.

  21. Ari (Baking and Books)

    Look at the muscles on her! Sexy and yet a little scary. 🙂

  22. churlita

    It looks like Iowa has more diversity than Portland. Who knew?

  23. Tom

    I don’t think an apology is necessary. You’re just callin’ it like you see it, is all, and that’s ok! I live in Southern New Mexico, and honestly, I can go days or weeks without seeing anyone but white people and those of hispanic descent.

    I must admit when I do see someone of African descent, I actually take note because it is a rare occurance.

  24. V-Grrrl

    Looks like a drag queen–a very beautiful drag queen but a drag queen nonetheless.

  25. Dave G

    “What makes Portland so unwelcoming to people of color? Is it the rain?”

    That’s a great question. And why are there so many Irish people in Boston and not in Salt Lake City? But, given this fact, I would be wrong to infer that Salt Lake City has a strong anti-Irish feeling. Let’s not ascribe feelings of hostility where none exists. An absence of an ethnicity in a community doesn’t automatically mean hostility.

    I don’t think it’s *necessarily* a case where a city is unwelcome to certain ethnicities except in some cases where the city is obviously actively hostile – cities where there is a long history of pogroms, lynchings, racially charged violence, etc.

    From what I’ve seen, ethnic groups have a tendency to form tight enclaves and the settlement is pretty arbitrary, except in the original African-American’s case, where it was a forced settlement. People cluster with others who share their language, culture, and history. That’s just the way it is.

    There is a large cluster of Iraqis settled in the Michigan area, which doesn’t strike me as an area very similar to the desert. And a big group of Somalis in Lewiston, Maine(!). So it’s definitely not a climate thing.

    It’s not that Portland is necessarily unaccommodating to black people, they just haven’t settled there. These places become outliers from the main settlement patterns and, once established as such, are difficult to change. And forced integration is usually pretty disastrous. If you don’t believe me, read up about Boston’s busing experiment in the 1970s.

  26. Postmodern Sass

    Tsk tsk, Neil, what do you think you are, Canadian? Don’t you know that in America it’s against protocol to state the obvious when the obvious has to do with people’s skin colour or other visible minority features?

    Years ago I worked in Atlanta for an extended period of time, long enough that I noticed, and began to feel uncomfortable about the fact that in my hotel all the guests were white, and all the serving and working staff were black; that I was the only white person who rode MARTA (Atlanta’s most excellent, clean, and efficient public transportation) to the airport; that only white people shopped at the mall in Buckhead; and that all the managers at the bank where I worked were white, while all the women who processed the cheques in the basement were black.

    (And don’t get me started on Hilton Head, South Carolina.)

    But god forbid as a citizen of a country where every person you meet has a different skin shade and eye shape from the next, I should express how uncomfortable this rampant and obvious segregation makes me feel.

    No wonder you people have to go into therapy to deal with your white guilt.

  27. Eileen

    When I die- I want my body to lie in Powell’s Books.

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