In the above picture of Portland, Ore., from Dustin Cable's breathtaking Racial Dot Map, each blue dot represents a white resident counted during the 2010 census. The city itself is about 76 percent white, making it the whitest big city in the U.S. And diversity has been dwindling in the neighborhoods close to the center of town, as minorities have increasingly moved out to the city's edges.
In an abstract sense, to zoom in a little closer, this is how that demographic reality might appear to you if you're not a blue dot (blacks are represented in green, Asians red, Hispanics yellow):
This picture reflects both the history of the area, home to few blacks since the days of the Oregon Trail, as well as the more recent changes in the city as young college grads from across the country have moved in. Portland's national allure has driven up the cost of housing and displaced some long-time residents.
The below five-minute video, created by Ifanyi Bell and commissioned by the Oregon Humanities organization, offers a beautiful view on how these demographics are experienced by blacks in Portland who feel they're losing what little place they previously possessed in this city. As Casey Parks at The Oregonian points out, the word "gentrification" is never spoken in the video. Freed from its loaded, messy meaning, the short film cuts more deeply to the heart of what it's like to live in a changing city when that change doesn't seem to include you.
"Spaces have always been not only places where we gather, but places where we get sort of fulfilled, where we see each and tell our stories and where we become whole again and we become renewed," one man, Charles McGee, tells the camera. "And when you’re in the whitest city in America, those spaces are even more critical.
"Losing those spaces means you lose a critical element of who you are. It means that you lose your ability to not only share, but to grow."
Watch the full video below:
The video was inspired by an earlier essay Bell wrote on the topic, which you can read here.