munchies.vice.com – While there is cash handed out to attendees, organizer Cameron Whitten says that the distribution of money isn’t really the point.
“I felt so good. That was my best part of the night, just giving out that money,” activist Cameron Whitten told Raw Story. “I feel like Oprah—like, fuck, I’m Portland’s Oprah right now.”
In 2006, Oprah gave $1,000 and a camcorder to each of the 300 members of her studio audience, telling them to take the cash, pay it forward, and then to film the results. Whitten, the founder of social justice organization Brown Hope, had just hosted his first Reparations Happy Hour, an event which involved donations from white Portlanders being distributed in ten-dollar increments to black attendees. Not quite the same thing, but perhaps the same sentiment.
About 40 people of color took Whitten up on his offer and attended the first social, which had collected donations from about 100 white people—although the News Tribune reports that the biggest donor was a black woman who participated andgave $500 to the cause. The event was held at craft beer bar Backyard Social, which donated food and drinks, and also gave 10 percent of its total sales to Brown Hope. (Whitten has since clarified that, despite the name ‘Happy Hour,’ the white donors were not “buying drinks,” nor was getting buzzed the focus of the evening).
This is an ambitious idea that is pre-loaded with tension, considering the city in which it’s being held. Portland is one of the whitest cities in the United States; more than two-thirds (78 percent) of the population is white. And, as the Tribune points out, it has had more than its share of “strained race relations.” (In the past couple of years, the city has been the site of several race-related controversies, including a standoff with neo-Nazis at a bar and the closure of a burrito truck that was accused of cultural appropriation.)
Across America, reparations remain a frequently discussed but contentious idea; according to a 2016 Exclusive Point-Taken Marist Poll quoted by The Hill, 61 percent of Americans opposed the idea of reparations, including 81 percent of whites and 35 percent of non-whites.
Anybody that doesn’t see the vision or has a problem with this is on the wrong side of things and is somebody you don’t need to be associating with. Sounds like a good night for a good cause and hopefully we see more efforts like this across all fronts.