Are you somewhere right now? Yeah, sure, you probably are. If so, it's a pretty safe bet that "somewhere" has quite the reputation for ... something. That doesn't mean it's totally deserved, of course, but the fact remains, the place you are and the people who live there have almost certainly been pigeonholed by the rest of the country in one way or another. It's not always a bad thing; sometimes a particular city or region earns a reputation as being a little more forward-thinking and enlightened than the rest of the world. Except, in almost every case, those places are just as bigotry- and hatred-riddled as anywhere else in the world; they're just better about pretending otherwise. We talk about a few famously liberal places that aren't so liberal on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by Cracked writer Amanda Mannen, Cracked editor Alex Schmidt, and from the band Portugal. The Man, Zach Carothers. I'm talking about that same shit here today, too! Go figure!
Californians are ruining Portland! That's what almost every article about the gentrification problems currently plaguing Portland seems to imply. Some especially militant types have even taken to putting "No Californians" stickers on For Sale signs in front of houses that have gone on the market recently.
It's a simple problem to explain, really. Housing in Oregon isn't cheap, but compared to California it certainly is. So people from the Golden State are flocking to the Nike State in droves to live in houses with yards and dye their hair blue and live in exactly all of the other ways people do on Portlandia.
It's obnoxious, and the people of Portland have had enough! That's how articles like this one happen. If you don't have the time or patience to click the link, it's basically an editorial in the Portland Mercury from a lifelong resident that lays out in great detail all of the things people who move to Portland are and aren't allowed to talk about, how long they're supposed to wait before talking about them, and, of course, the myriad transgressions for which this newfound immigrant class should apologize. After all, they're the ones responsible for ruining Portland, right?
Sorry, Portland, but nah. You not only brought your current situation on yourself, you practically demanded that things be this way. See, there's a detail about the Portland gentrification problem that lifetime residents consistently leave out when demonizing California for all of their city's woes. In 1999, home builders in Portland pressured the Oregon Home Builders Association to lobby the state senate to impose a ban on something called inclusionary zoning. What's that? Oh, just a type of zoning regulation that requires developers to dedicate a certain percentage of any new construction project to building affordable housing for residents. Here's a handy chart that explains it in more detail, albeit in a font that's way too small to serve any constructive purpose here.
The only other state in the nation that bans inclusionary zoning is Texas, if that gives you any idea what realm of progressiveness residents entered into when they decided to "keep Portland weird" by preventing poor people from moving to the hipper areas of their eventual Utopia.
Now, here we are 16 years later, and the people of Oregon still haven't been able to undo the damage that 1999 vote did to the state. The most recent attempt to overturn the law happened and failed in July 2015. Gentrification was all fine and well when it was the people of Portland pushing less fortunate people who were also from Portland out. Only when people started coming from out of state to do the same thing to them did Portland really start frowning on gentrification.
Unfortunately, that's just not how the process works. It happens in every major city, eventually. It's a nearly unstoppable force, and the effects are usually far more harrowing than people bringing the wrong doughnuts to the office. As far as gentrification goes, what's happening in Portland isn't remotely surprising or special, except for the part where it's exactly what the people wanted, no matter how much they complain about it now.
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It would be kind of shitty of me to write all of that about Portland without mentioning that, indeed, California can also be a really terrible place filled with equally terrible people. I've written about it before in an article about things people get wrong about the Midwest. It was there that I mentioned that, despite its lengthy reign as the shitholiest of Midwest shitholes, Iowa is every bit as progressive as California in a lot of ways. For example, they were the fourth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. That in and of itself is impressive when you take into account everything you probably know and believe about Iowa, but it's even more impressive when you consider that, unlike the far more "progressive" state of California, Iowa has not once come close to overturning their state law that made same-sex marriage legal.
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Congratulations, Adam and Steve!
California, on the other hand, can't make that claim. In 2008, the notorious Proposition 8, which sought to outlaw same-sex marriage in California, was voted into law by the people of California. It wasn't lawmakers shoving something down the throats of their constituency by force; this was the will of the people made the law of the land by way of the democratic process that has kept this country running for centuries now. How did this happen? The answer can actually be summed up in one word -- diversity.
See, that's a thing Iowa doesn't have in abundant supply. Lots of white people in Iowa, lots of corn in Iowa, presumably a ton of meth in Iowa, but very few minorities in Iowa. If you're wondering why that matters, please look back and make note of what year this all happened. The 2008 presidential election was Obama's first, and everyone everywhere knew that, if nothing else, the black vote would be unprecedentedly huge and influential. Unfortunately, homophobia was and still is a major problem in black communities, and a rabid group of Mormons were able to tap into that come election time to accomplish the unthinkable -- making gay marriage illegal again in California. Proposition 8 was repealed almost as soon as it was implemented, but still, that they were able to outlaw it for even a short amount of time should give you some insight into the fragile nature of California's perceived progressiveness.
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It's as precarious as our ability to not be perpetually on fire.
The idea that having a massive pool of minority voters to influence played a part in their success might still be open for debate to some, but it shouldn't be. During that same election, the same group tried the exact same thing at the polls in Colorado and failed miserably.
Or, if none of that does anything to change your mind about California, please also keep in mind that Orange County is racist as fuck. So much so that there are "Top 5" lists online about which city in that area is the most racist. I don't mean that in the "rich people treating their Guatemalan housekeeper shitty" kind of way, although I'm sure there's plenty of that as well. No, what I'm talking about is a straight-up, neo-Nazi kind of racism. In fact, not too long ago, a neo-Nazi group based in Pomona took to the streets of that city to protest the California Dream Act, a law that basically just promises immigrants that the state won't round up their entire family and ship them back to where they came from just because their kids try to enroll in school. Or something along those lines. What it's not is a reason for the vehement racists of the world to march on a sleepy little town in California, but that's exactly what they did.
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Keep California free of Nazis!
It's since come to my attention that Pomona is actually in Los Angeles County. So, you know, it's even worse than I said previously. For more OC (people who live there hate when you call it the OC, almost as much as they hate minorities and poor people) adventures, have a look at this terrifying and sad story about a black family that was basically run out of town by constant taunts and threats emanating from the area's long-thriving racist community. Does all of this surprise you? Are you shocked that a neo-Nazi group could actually take hold somewhere like California? It shouldn't. At the time of the Pomona incident, California had the highest rate of active hate groups in the nation, with an astounding 84.
Sure, California does have its moments in terms of being ahead of the curve on social issues, but in the overall scheme of things, the idea that California is the place to go if you want to flee the narrow-mindedness of the Midwest is mostly just a myth.
#3. New York
Much like California, the state of New York earns its status as one of the most consistently Democratic-leaning states on the strength of being home to one gigantic city jam-packed with liberal types. Meanwhile, just as in California (and Oregon), the rest of the state of New York is kind of a backwoods nightmare. That's especially true of Upstate New York.
I actually lived in that part of the world for a few months, and despite having lived in South Dakota for over a decade, I firmly believe Upstate New York is the most racist place I've ever been. It's not a subtle racism, either. It's open and vibrant and people seem proud of it. Watch an NFL game in a bar there sometime and perk your ears up whenever a white person makes a play on offense. There will be comments. They will be loud and shitty and nothing you'd ever say out loud if you weren't completely comfortable in the knowledge that almost everyone around you feels the exact same way.
What's the cause of all the unpleasantness toward non-whites in that area? I have no idea, but I suspect at least some of it has to do with the fact that approximately 133 percent of the population is made up of active and retired NYPD officers. So kind of like the movie Cop Land, and by that I mean it's exactly like the movie Cop Land.
Not sure if you've seen anything about it in the headlines recently, but police seem to have a tense relationship with minorities. So, you know, maybe that has something to do with it.
I know what you're thinking. "But Adam, this is just your experience; how can you base an entire entry in this column on just your feelings?" Well, right off the bat, have you ever read anything I've ever written? My feelings are what drives almost everything in my life, usually for the worse. Still, I understand your concern. Rest assured, I'm not the only person who sees Upstate New York as a racist pit of despair. For example, I definitely have statistics on my side. According to a few recent studies, Upstate New York cracks the Top 5 on the list of the most racist regions in the country. They've clocked in as high as No. 2 at various points in recent history. Like, "this decade" recently.
If statistics aren't enough to convince you that the residents of Upstate New York are way too comfortable hating people who aren't white, have a look at this video, but first, please know that if you're listening to it without headphones, it is very much NSFW:
In case you're curious, that racist tirade was fueled in large part by the object of her aggression starting his car when her kids were standing nearby. It startled them a little. On account of that one "crime," this woman has zero qualms about loudly shouting racial slurs at a fellow human being in the parking lot of a dollar store. What's happening there is more than just a woman being racist. It's a woman being racist while completely at ease knowing that the people around her, even if they feel differently, aren't going to say anything. Repeatedly shouting the n-word at people who cause minor irritations in your life in full view of the public is a thing a person should be ashamed about ... unless they're a disgusting racist piece of shit living in a community that's primarily made up of other racist pieces of shit. That's precisely what's happening here. Make no mistake about it. This is someone being over the top with their racism because they understand that they're in an area where doing so is completely acceptable and safe.