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Black activists reject Trader Joe’s store because it would attract whites

Black Activists Be Trippin’ 

PORTLAND, OR–Stories that focus on the polarizing issue of racism are pounced upon immediately by the mainstream media and dragged out for weeks. Yet a recent situation in Portland has gone largely unnoticed since its occurrence last week. The reason? African-Americans are the ones resisting an increased white presence in their neighborhood.

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The popular grocery-store chain Trader Joe’s had plans to build a new store in the heart of the city’s historically African-American neighborhood. That is, until African-American activists and politicians forced them out.

Even though the chain has stores in urban neighborhoods, Trader Joe’s declined to press the matter due to the community’s resistance. “We open a limited number of stores each year, in communities across the country,” it said in a statement. “We run neighborhood stores, and our approach is simple: If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.”

The incentive to build a store in the area was high, as the Portland Development Commission had offered to cut the price of the two acre lot from $2.9 million to $500,000. The lot has stood vacant for years, but that is apparently preferable to what a Trader Joe’s store would bring to the area, besides jobs.

Apparently, critics of the new store said the development would displace residents and perpetuate income inequality. The Portland African-American Leadership Forum said the development commission had in the past made promises about preventing projects from displacing community members, but hadn’t fulfilled them.

It sent the city a letter saying it would “remain opposed to any development in N/NE Portland that does not primarily benefit the Black community.” It said the grocery-store development would “increase the desirability of the neighborhood,” for “non-oppressed populations.”

Even though a company owned by African-Americans in Portland was slated to build the store, the opposition was still fierce enough that no one us pushing the issue. This fact is disheartening when one takes a look at Trader Joe’s revolutionary business model. It’s one of the highest paying grocery stores in the world, with new employees earning 10.20/hr starting. Supervisors also do well, making 45k-75k/yr.

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