Racist Hit List at Oregon High School

Is it Christmas break for high school and middle school youth yet? Because it seems to me with all the racially charged incidents happening from Coast to Coast, these youth need a break if for nothing else than to get some body armor together.

Parkrose High School mural (moves from Egypt to Rome to Enlightment to wagon trial to cowboys & pic of Khan)/Larry Kagas

This morning, Oregon high school Park Rose joined the list of schools with racist incidents this semester. An African-American freshman reported that he saw his name written on a stairwell wall surrounded by swastikas and the word “Kill”.  The school confirmed that there were at least 5 student’s names written under the word “kill” and surrounded by racist images. They also said they were taking proactive steps to deal with the situation. So far those steps include:

  1. an ongoing investigation of who was responsible for the graffiti
  2. notifying the parents of the targeted students
  3. an existing safety plan for “incidents such as this”

There was no reference to racial tensions at the school or addressing any climate of racial conflict. However, African Americans in the community have indicated that Parkrose High School has “never been a particularly safe place for African American students.” While they have pointed to no particular incidents to back these claims, people seemed confident in believing that both the school and the neighborhood in which it is located have not traditionally been particularly “friendly areas of town.” The presence of swastika graffiti in the area is one indicator; it was not only present in the current hit list incident but also spray painted near Portland Christian High School, another Parkrose neighborhood school, by arsonists who tried to burn the school down. In that incident, both students and police minimized the presence of both racist and sexist graffiti as “the work of punks who probably did not know any better” (see East PDX News for full story on PCHS). The neighborhood was also one of a handful embroiled in the rise of neo-nazis in Oregon in the 1980s.

Parkrose has been the site of racist incidents in the past as well. In 2003, an Asian American student yelled racial slurs at an African American student off school grounds. The African American student found the Asian American student at lunch with several of his friends and a fight broke out. Several other fights primarily between African Americans and Asian Americans erupted throughout the end of the day as a result. By day’s end, a white student had threatened to kill all the African American students in the school. (oregonlive has taken down its free link to this story and the only copy is on a white supremacist site, where a white Parkrose student used the incident to disparage African American students and to a lesser extent Asian American ones, hoping they would kill each other so the school could “go back to being majority white.” He was also proud that he and his friends were known around the school as “the racist kids.”)

At the same time, Parkrose High School administrators point to the fact they crowned an African American this past Spring as the Rose Festival representative of their school. They also note that the school has been becoming increasingly diverse not less so. Both the current Principal and Vice Principal of Parkrose High School are also women of color, though none of the people of color in administrative roles are African American.

At least one mother has said she does not feel safe returning her child to the school and it is unclear if he, and others named, will in fact return.

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