Whenever I travel nowadays, I’m so anxious. I beg my husband to follow all of the laws of driving to the tee, and I’m cautious of where we stop. This summer, we went to Redmond, Oregon on a road trip. As we got further north in California, we started seeing Confederate flags and Trump voter signs and I started to feel super nervous.
Normally I do a lot of research on the history of a state before we visit. I love American history, and usually make it a point to stop at area attractions because I like to envision what life was like for folks back in the day. For some reason I didn’t check out Oregon’s history, not even on Wikipedia. I started to think about it, though. I don’t have any black friends who live in Oregon. As we drove through dozens of small rural towns, I realized I had no idea what to expect in Oregon.
Our first stop when we got into the state was a little breakfast cafe. When we walked in, I saw a sign right in front that said, “We reserve the right to refuse to serve anyone.” My heart started beating so hard in my chest, and I was hoping we wouldn’t be embarrassed if they chose to turn us away. I held my breath.
When the waitress came up to us with menus, politely sat us at a table, complimented Jamie’s hair and asked Ayva how old she was, I finally exhaled. Then the strangest thing happened. Different patrons kept coming to our table and asking where we were visiting from, and complimenting us on how well behaved our children were and how adorable they looked. The town “Santa Claus” even stopped by to chat for a few minutes.
We made a few more stops before our room was available at our timeshare, and when I mentioned on social media that I hadn’t met any other black people, a friend suggested I do a little research on Oregon. Minutes later and a quick Google search helped me to understand why there were so few people of color in the state. There used to be a law BANNING us! Yup, the Black Exclusion Laws meant that there were little to no slaves in Oregon, but there were other black people, either. Shameful, America. Shameful.
Anyway, even with that shocking discovery about our dear America, our time in Oregon was lovely. We hung out in Bend quite a bit, and went to a brew festival. One day we did a hike a Smith Rock Park. Another day we drove up to Portland for a day, and got ice cream in Sisters, a sweet little town filled with quaint shops. We were the only black people most places we went, but everyone was nice and we had a really good time.
I hate that I have to feel so stressed out whenever we travel, but I’m grateful to the Oregonians we met for being welcoming on our summer vacation. Even if we are black.*
*I added that last line to be dramatic. LOL!