My hometown became a foodie paradise starting a decade or so ago, when I lived in California. At first it was beautiful. With each visit home, I noticed new food carts selling everything from Korean tacos and Thai-Hainanese chicken and rice to Texas-style pulled pork. Later came breweries, exotic doughnut shops and haute-hipster ice-cream parlors.
But these days politics is ruining the scene. One of the first victims,
in 2016 opened a bistro, Saffron Colonial, featuring historical recipes from the British Empire. Furious social-justice warriors accused her of racism and glorifying colonialism. Mobs gathered outside the establishment, and detractors swamped its
page with negative reviews and insults. Suppliers boycotted her. Eventually Ms. Krantz gave in and changed the name to British Overseas Restaurant Corporation.
Blood was in the water. In the spring of 2017,
were accused of “stealing” Mexican culture—by selling burritos from a truck. They received death threats and shut down their business and their social-media presence.
Then an anonymous Google spreadsheet began circulating warning about restaurants that served ethnic cuisine: “These white-owned businesses hamper the ability for POC”—people of color—“to run successful businesses of their own . . . by either consuming market share with their attempt at authenticity or by modifying foods to market to white palates.”
an “equity director” at the state Education Department, entered Back to Eden, a vegan bakery, a few minutes after closing time. She recorded videos accusing the bakery of refusing to serve her because she was black. Using the hashtag #LivingWhileBlack, Ms. Green—a doctoral student at Lewis and Clark College—took to
to demand that Back to Eden fire the clerks.
The bakery obliged, issued a 3,400-word apology, and offered Ms. Green a job training the remaining employees in “racial inclusivity.” “In this situation it doesn’t really matter that the two staff members working are not themselves racist because the call they made to deny Lillian service caused her to feel like she had been discriminated against,” co-owner
wrote in a now-deleted Facebook statement. “Sometimes impact outweighs intent and when that happens people do need to be held accountable.”
Last week the Backyard Social tavern hosted a “Reparations Happy Hour,” during which “Black, Brown, and Indigenous people” were each given $10 and a drink paid for by white donors—who were asked not to attend. When conservative college students do something similar under the rubric of an “affirmative-action bake sale,” they are typically condemned as racist and shut down.
who organized the hour, told the New York Times that, in the paper’s paraphrase, “it made attendees feel as if their pain were valued and understood.”
When I was growing up here, I adored the city’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Portland weird.” Nowadays it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Mr. Ngo is a graduate student in political science.