Racial Inequality and Black History

Acknowledging historical unfairness, what do Oregonians think could, and should, be done to reduce inequality?

From February 1-7, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including attitudes about racial inequality and Black history. The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q53-61).

A History of Dispossession and Exclusion

Respondents were provided the following background on civil rights legislation and were asked if they viewed it to be fair to African American families: Until the 1960s, when the civil rights movement led to the Fair Housing Act and later, in 1977, to the Community Reinvestment Act, African American families were nearly completely excluded from homeownership in Oregon. Overall, 81% say it was not fair, with 71% responding that it was “definitely” not fair to African American families (Q60).

  • Females are more likely than males to view these conditions as unfair to African American families (85% vs. 76%).
  • Oregonians with a college degree or more formal education are significantly more likely to view these conditions as unfair to African American families than those with a high school diploma or less formal education (95% vs. 64%).
  • A majority of both Democrats and Republicans view these conditions as unfair to African American families, although the percentage of Democrats who say so is significantly higher than the percentage of Republicans (90% vs. 72%).

Respondents were provided the following background on the Donation Land Act and were asked if they viewed it to be fair to Native people and citizens who were not white: The Donation Land Act, which became law in September of 1850, granted 320 acres of designated areas free of charge to every unmarried white male citizen eighteen or older and 640 acres to every married couple arriving in the Oregon Territory before December 1st, 1850. Overall, 79% say it was not fair to Native people and 76% say it was not fair to citizens who were not white (Q58-59).

  • Females are more likely than males to say the Donation Land Act was unfair to Native people (84% vs. 74%) and citizens who were not white (81% vs. 71%).
  • Oregonians with a college degree or higher education are significantly more likely than Oregonians with a high school diploma or less formal education to say the Donation Land Act was unfair to Native people (92% vs. 63%) and unfair to citizens who were not white (94% vs. 61%).
  • Again, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to feel this was unfair to Native people (88% vs. 67%) and citizens who were not white (87% vs. 63%).  

Lost Pathways to Generational Wealth: Support for Recognition, But Not for Repair

Oregonians are split on whether they think there should be financial compensation offered by the State to repair the types of lost pathways to generational wealth to Black Oregonians, who were historically left out of opportunities to “homestead;” to own a home; or to attend universities and who can document these harms, with 39% in support and 46% opposed. A sizable 15% are undecided (Q61).

  • Support from females (40%) and males (38%) is mostly in alignment.
  • Support is higher among Democrats (55%) than Republicans (19%).

Strategies Oregonians Think Could Help Reduce Inequality

Among a list of potential strategies to reduce inequality between Black and White people in Oregon, only two of the strategies are viewed by a majority of Oregonians – albeit a slim majority – as likely to have a significant impact: Limiting the scope of policing to focus on serious and violent crimes (54% believe this would have a lot/some impact) and redrawing school boundaries to create more racially and ethnically diverse schools (52%) (Q56-57).

  • Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to think limiting the scope of policing to focus on serious and violent crimes would have a lot/some impact on reducing inequality between Black and White people in Oregon (70% vs. 35%) (Q56).
  • Democrats are also significantly more likely than Republicans to think redrawing school boundaries to create more racially and ethnically diverse schools would have a lot/some impact on reducing inequality (68% vs. 35%) (Q57).
  • Additionally, college graduates are more likely than Oregonians with less formal education to think redrawing school boundaries would have an impact on reducing inequality in Oregon (62% vs. 47-49%) (Q57).

The other potential strategies to reduce inequality between Black and White people in Oregon receive more mixed results, including:

  • More white people participating in training on diversity and inclusion (49% a lot/some impact vs. 39% not much/nothing at all) (Q55).
  • Companies and organizations taking race and ethnicity into account in decisions about hiring and promotions (48% vs. 39%) (Q53).
  • Colleges and universities taking race and ethnicity into account in decisions about admissions (46% vs. 40%) (Q54)
  • Notably, males and females, show no significant differences of opinion on these strategies to reduce inequality between Black and White people in Oregon.

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us, Understanding What Divides Us

Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, urban and rural Oregonians, and age groups. Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives. 

  • Notably, Oregonians of Color and white Oregonians are largely in agreement on these questions and proposals related to racial inequality, with very few meaningful statistical differences between these two groups (Q53-61).
  • Geographically, there are some significant differences of opinion on these questions and proposals related to racial inequality. For example, when asked if the Donation Land Act was fair to Native people, rural Oregonians are more likely to respond “no” than urbanites (84% vs. 74%) (Q58).
  • Also, when asked if there should be financial compensation offered from the State to repair those lost pathways to generations of wealth to Black Oregonians who can document such harms, urbanites are more likely to respond “yes” than rural Oregonians (53% vs. 30%) (Q61).
  • Finally, a majority of all age groups view the Donation Land Act as unfair to Native people and citizens who were not white and view centuries of being locked out of homeownership as unfair to African American families (Q58-60). Older Oregonians are somewhat more likely to feel the Acts were unfair while younger Oregonians are more likely to be undecided. 

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,584 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.5% to ±2.5%. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (https://oregonvbc.org).