Black Activists Hound Trader Joe’s from Black Neighborhood

Written by Marilyn Assenheim on February 11, 2014

When FLOTUS isn’t indulging in up-market vacations on the public’s dime or droning on about America’s “inherent racism,” it seems that she is vilifying big business for its lack of investment in minority neighborhoods by supplying them with healthy food. To hear her talk, black communities, nation-wide, only have access to fast food chains. Fresh produce is scarcer than hen’s teeth. Perhaps the First Lady should take a whack at lecturing the Portland African American Leadership Forum and give the rest of us a break.

Trader Joe’s, an innovative grocery chain, supplying low-cost food to communities across the country, had been actively seeking to open a store in a depressed area of NE Portland (Oregon) since 1999. In partnership with the Portland Development Commission, the idea was for Trader Joe’s to jump-start revitalization of the largely black community.

Two weeks ago the chain, retreating from howls of protest against them, mostly from PAALF, jettisoned their plans to build in that neighborhood. Why was PAALF fighting development? Because, according to’s headline last week: “Black Activists and Politicians Force Trader Joe’s Grocery Out: Claim It Would Attract Too Many Whites.” The report continued:

The Portland African American Leadership Forum, along with the Mayor Charlie Hales, sent letters to Portland Development Commission citing that (Trader Joe’s) were “contributing to the destructive impact of gentrification and displacement of the African American community.” These naysayers said that they wouldn’t back any project that wouldn’t “solely support African Americans.

Their lies, unfortunately for distressed residents, have guaranteed that outcome. Trader Joe’s pays the highest wages of any grocery chain in the country, from part-time employees to management. Those jobs would have gone directly to the community in question.

Additionally, reported:“The construction project, which was to include two large anchor buildings and 10 retail shops, was promised to an African American owned construction company.” The Oregonian reported: “…the small business owners who bought into the first phase were thrilled. Neighbors were, too.”

The New Pittsburgh Courier supplied additional information: “… Trader Joe’s… announced that it no longer plans to open a store in a predominately African-American neighborhood in Portland after activists claimed the store’s prices weren’t affordable for Black families.” Not affordable? Trader Joe’s undercuts most grocery store prices, nationally. The Courier continued: “Local community leaders and activists said on Feb. 3 that opening a Trader Joe’s in the historically Black neighborhood would ‘increase the desirability of the neighborhood for non-oppressed populations’ and risk gentrifying the neighborhood.”

Oh, non-oppressed populations need not apply. Integration can only be permitted one-way…Finally, race pimps supply an agenda that skates dangerously close to the truth.

The bottom line was perfectly expressed by LibertyNews:

There is something terribly wrong in a nation where one race can openly reject a company because…it might attract members of another race. Can you imagine what would happen if a predominantly white community kicked a business out because more black Americans were buying its products than white Americans? In that scenario the DOJ would come in and ensure charges were filed, people were publicly punished and would make a national story of racism out of it. But what if it were a black community and the business might (theoretically) bring in white shoppers? …This is blatant racism and discrimination. And it appears Oregon society is perfectly fine with it.

Yes, blatant racism. Such travesties persevere because no one has yet had the stones to insist that minorities can’t have it both ways. Clearly, “Oregon society” is not alone in being “fine with it.”

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Marilyn Assenheim
Marilyn Assenheim was born and raised in New York City. She spent a career in healthcare management although she probably should have been a casting director. Or a cowboy. A serious devotee of history and politics, Marilyn currently lives in the NYC metropolitan area.