May 4, 2015

A History of Exclusion in Oregon

Photo: Anita Yap on the far right, with her family. Credit: Anita Yap.

by Anita Yap
APANO board member and long time community leader in Portland

Have you ever heard of Oregon’s Sundown Law? Did you know it was against the law for a person of color to marry a white person in Oregon? Did you know that many of our API families continue to be excluded, harassed and threatened daily by people in “Progressive Portland”?


Welcome to my life. Some of you may know of Oregon’s long history of exclusion, white supremacy and violence for API and people of color. While the laws have changed, practices have not. While visiting a friend in Florence Oregon in the late 1970’s, an armed sheriff deputy warned my sister and her friend that they needed to be indoors after dark because there was a sundown law in the city. My parents, who moved to Portland after World War II from Hawaii tell stories of friend that could not marry in Oregon, but were able to get a marriage license in Vancouver Washington. I’ve experienced my share of blatant, racism, sexism, discrimination, threats and harassment. Every job in my adult life, I’ve had to deal with these issues. There are not enough lawyers to investigate all the illegal behavior and racist practices that we experience on a daily basis. We need to build a strong, supportive movement that changes hearts and behaviors.

It’s been over 50 years since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, but we still have a long ways to go. However, my negative experiences have not deterred me from giving up or moving somewhere else. There’s really nowhere to go anyway. I believe in the resilience in our families and communities. I have doubled my effort to work to empower and give voice to our community. I’m thrilled to be working with APANO and in the Jade International District to build economic opportunities for our diverse small business community. We are working on anti-displacement and affordable housing strategies. We are working with committed elected officials that support our work and understand that it’s time to focus and invest on our community. We need this now, more than ever.

Anita is a current candidate for Portland Community College Board of Directors, Zone 3. She is looking forward to helping the state’s largest educational institution meet the needs of our future leaders and growing equity and prosperity for our community. For more information about her campaign, visit her website here.

Read more stories from AAPI Heritage Month here.