By Cameron Whitten of Portland, Oregon. Cameron is a 21 year old student and community activist. He is most known for his leadership in Occupy Portland, and ran for Mayor of Portland in 2012.
I remember the Willamette Week interview, where Mark Zusman told me I sounded bitter, after lamenting how I was being snubbed by the media and forum organizers, despite my endorsements, rising familiarity, and service in the community. I replied, "Not bitter, just stating the facts."
It was the biggest lie I told during the entire campaign.
I entered the race because I felt betrayed by our Mayor and Police Chief who had misinformed the general public in order to take the easy route in dealing with America's budding social movement. My first impression of the political scene was the lack of diversity between the front-running candidates, whether it was creed, race, class, sexuality, age, etc., there was a huge void of representation within our 'representative democracy'. I quickly became obsessed.
My biggest dismay was the lack of empowerment I endured from Portland's progressive community. Most notably, by organizations who were founded on achieving social justice for marginalized demographics. When I informed Pride Northwest that I was the only queer identified candidate, they responded that I would not be invited to their Evening with the Candidates, that it had nothing to do with me. The Skanner refused to return my calls and emails, despite being the only African American running. Street Roots, which advocates for the houseless community, never published an article, despite knowing that I had experienced bouts of homelessness while living in Portland. My biggest disappointment was the Urban League, who initially invited me to participate on their forum of equity, diversity, and inclusiveness, then ultimately decided that I shouldn't be included. These are only a few examples of injustice, but as a whole, the lengths that many of these institutions went to neutralize the voice of their community was extensive.
It was not all disappointing, and I thank organizations and community leaders like the Portland Observer, PQ Monthly, the Q Center, the Working Families' Party, Bruce Broussard, and Eileen Brady for their commitment to a more equitable society.
But when it comes to Portland's claims as the most Progressive City in America, I was clearly in want of more.
I scratched my head when I overheard others say that twenty three was a lot of candidates, as Portland contains a population well over 500,000, and in this recession, our society is in desperate need of leaders who will respond to the call of civic duty. In the aftermath of the Primaries, media outlets and nominees who survived the ax boasted that Portlanders don't respond to big money candidates, although in truth, the only options they had to choose from were big money. In absence of VOE, candidates without heavy outside contributions were treated as invisible, despite their unique proposals and commitments to civic responsibility. The ninety-nine percent is constantly disenchanted by this political apartheid, which I believe is the main reason why there is always a low voter turnout in local elections.
In my strong, five month run, our energetic team achieved milestones, whether it was making news, meeting influential figures like Ralph Nader and Rocky Anderson, or challenging other candidates on their priorities and standards. My gratitude is boundless for the people who believed in me, and I am inspired to continue with my head held high, due to your rare qualities of courage and understanding. This isn't going to be my last appearance on Portland's political stage, but I hope in sharing my experiences, we might all learn a little, and become better from it.
Pragmatism is the bane of an evolved society.