The residents of a black community in Portland, OR, have rejected a Trader Joe’s that would have attracted more income and jobs in their neighborhood because they felt the chain would attract too many white people. The Portland Development Commission was set to move forward with the development and even gave the grocer a much-reduced rate on the property, but the Portland African American Leadership Forum vehemently rejected the idea and Trader Joe’s bowed out due to the controversy.
In their open letter to city leaders, the leadership forum said they were opposed to any development in North/Northeast Portland that does not primarily benefit the black community.” The group felt having a Trader Joe’s would price residents out of the neighborhood by “increasing the desirability of the neighborhood” for “non-oppressed populations. “This decision] reflects the city’s overall track record of implementing policies that serve to uproot, displace and disempower our most vulnerable community members.”
Many Portland residents have since expressed their anger over the situation. “There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of Old Town Brewing Co. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s said in a statement that “if a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.”
Portland has a reputation for being one of the most homogenous cities in America. Out of the more than 603,000 residents living there, 76 percent are white and just 6 percent are African-American.
(Photo: Trader Joe’s)