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Tattoos were invented by brown and Black people centuries—even millennia—before white supremacy became the dominant global paradigm.

You’ve taken the time, done your research, and decided on your tattoo. You’ve saved up money and investigated tattoo shops for the perfect artist to mark your design. You’re excited, nervous, and eager to get started. But the tattooer takes one look at you and says, “Your skin tone is a problem.” Never mind that you’ve seen tattoos on dark skin, and with color no less. Hell, your brown or Black self has beautiful color tattoos which have stood the test of time. Yet here is this artist you respected, admired, and sought out to give them a lot of money to tattoo you, and they’re looking at you like you dragged dog shit into the place. Suddenly you feel sick to your stomach—and not from tattoo nerves. You’ve just been skin-shamed. As a heavily tattooed biracial Sri Lankan American woman, this scenario has played out for me again and again, in context of almost every single tattoo artist with whom I’ve ever consulted. Worse, even brown tattooers who are covered head to foot in designs have frowned at my skin and played that I’m going to be really difficult to tattoo. I’ve had to put my foot down, explain how my particular melanin works and what colors will stick, and hope for the best. Or walk out and start researching artists from scratch.

Portland has shown us a history of Black and brown folks fighting tooth and nail for their spaces, while white Portlanders have taken up that space and gaslighted us by attempting to convince us that this white utopia is just fine as it is.

By Margaret Jacobsen
By now the whole country is aware that our liberal-loving, hippie-supporting, recycling, earth-conscious city of Portland, Oregon, isn’t this utopia it had labeled itself to be. In fact, it’s one of the first times that the whole country has become aware of its large KKK presence dating back to the 1920s. The most common misconception is that racism was bred and raised in the South. We also assume that northern states were more progressive than southern states but that simply isn’t true. When Oregon joined the union in 1859, it was the only state which forbade black people from living within its borders. I have been in Portland for six years and when I first arrived, I didn’t notice how few people of color lived here. I assumed it was just because of the neighborhoods I was spending time in, or the friends I had made. It wasn’t until I met other Black and brown people, that I began asking, “Did you notice that there aren’t very many of us here?” Like me, many of them were transplants and the ones I met six years ago have since moved to the East Coast.

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