The owners of the Dixie Mattress Company at SE 33rd and Belmont had the unfortunate experience of showing up to work this morning to find their property sign had been altered. Where two confederate flags once adorned the awning, were two images of Dr.Martin Luther King, affixed with clothes pegs.
The (anonymous) people responsible phoned to leave a message here, saying only something about "an image of hatred" this morning, and sent me a couple of jpgs while I was out taking photos of the shop, and talking to Judie, the owner, who wouldn't give her last name. Here's what it looked like before:
"They're coming down tonight," Judie said. "They've got the nerve to spray paint on your building, now they think they can do whatever they want. If people don't like the sign they don't have to look up there. They think we're stupid?"
Judie described the signs as "harassment," and didn't respond when I asked whether she thought the people responsible might have been trying to make a political point.
While I'm tempted to applaud the gesture for its direct-action feistiness (YAY! Portlanders did something confrontational based on their beliefs!!!), I'm in two minds. Yes, the confederate flag brings up images of the South, and of "civil war racists," for many Americans, judging from the quick straw poll I just did around the newsroom (i.e. I asked Amy Ruiz)—before moving to this country from England, I only knew it as the flag from Dukes of Hazzard, so I'm hardly an expert on the image.
What I do think, however, is that the Dixie Mattress Company has been on Belmont for years. The people running it seem like hold-outs from before the time when politically ambitious young people with too much time on their hands and, evidently, plenty of energy, started moving in round the corner. Since before there was a Zupans right opposite. When local blogger Ask Steve took on the issue in December 2006, he had this to say:
I've lived in this neighborhood for eight years now. I've watched great new businesses like Laughing Planet, Blue Monk, Missing Link and Kaiju Cafe come in. I've watched existing businesses make improvements. All the while Dixie Mattress Co.'s storefront has just gotten uglier and uglier. And it was bad when I first moved here.The list of those businesses reads like the rundown from Stuff White People Like. While the confederate flag stands for segregation in a different time, Belmont's recent history and this protest, perhaps, stand for segregation of a different kind. Of those with class privilege from those without it. Of the gentrifiers from the gentrifiyees.
Bottom line: It's bullying. Leave the poor bastards alone. Right? As I mentioned, I'm conflicted, here. Help.