Oregon Transit Killings Traced to ‘Collapse of Inhibition’

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The fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans who intervened when a man on a Portland, Or., commuter train shouted slurs at two African-American women, one in Muslim dress, has reawakened bitter memories of Oregon’s past and revived a debate over what people call the “two Oregons,” where islands of tolerance abut places awash in frustration and rage, the New York Times reports. “Oregon hasn’t resolved its history,” said Dani Ledezma of the Coalition of Communities of Color, a group based in Portland. “The xenophobia, the racism, the caustic narrative that has been fomented at the national level are also having an impact here and adding to that legacy here in Oregon.” Until the early 2000s, Oregon’s constitution contained language excluding blacks from residency, though its legal clout had been eliminated decades earlier. “The lid is off,” said Detective Elizabeth Wareing, the bias crimes coordinator at the Seattle Police Department. Free-form self-radicalization, picking this or that from the heaping smorgasbord of hate on the nation’s plate, is becoming the norm.

The Portland train attack suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, fits no obvious mold in the white-supremacist world. Last year he supported Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the presidential primaries before turning to support President-elect Trump in December. After his arrest, Christian raged against immigrants, Saudi Arabia and liberals. Of the nation’s 30 largest cities, Portland remains the whitest, with 72.2 percent of its population classified as non-Hispanic white. Police officers in Seattle track encounters that do not appear to be about race or religion, such as traffic accidents that grow to include “bias elements” as tempers flare. The number of these events is up. Instances of hateful graffiti are on the rise, too. Portland residents reported more bias-fueled vandalism in the three months after the presidential election than in any other comparable period in five years. The short explanation, said people who track hate crimes, is a collapse of inhibition. More open hate speech in politics, street demonstrations and social media, they said, loosens the floodgates for people exposed to it, diminishing the sense of impropriety or social taboo.

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