Billboard in Portland, Oregon, Blames Gun Violence in Black Community on 'Racism + Self-Hate'

A northeast Portland, Oregon, billboard takes on the effect of gun violence within Black communities, drawing attention to the city's recent homicide rate increase.

The billboard shows an image of a Black man and a bullet with the message, "Racism + Self-hate = gun violence. Reject the oppression." Anti-gun activists and leaders of the group behind the billboard, The No Hate Zone, urged members of the Black community to "destroy white supremacy, not each other" during an unveiling of the sign last Monday. Portland native Elijah Hasan told The Oregonian newspaper that the bullet, much like a slave ship, is a "vessel of trauma for Black people." The founder of The No Hate Zone, Sam Sachs, announced Monday that at least three more nearly identical billboards are planned to go up around the city in the coming weeks.

"The city has said that they have millions of dollars to give to community-led organizations to help in this effort," Sachs told reporters at the Monday billboard unveiling at Northeast Fremont Street and Northeast Sandy Boulevard. "And so far we haven't seen that. So we need that to happen immediately."

"We wanted to put up some imagery and get them to think about some things deeper than what's right in front of them," Sachs added.

Hasan, who helped create the billboards, described the meaning behind the large images.

"We really wanted to get at the core of what we think the issue is, and that is self-hate and the environment that kind of manifested that self-hate, which I believe is white supremacy and decisions that were made back in time that created a cycle and a perpetuation of violence that we're still seeing today," Hasan said.

"It is my intention to remind the Black minds inside these Black bodies that they may think that these bullets fly because someone snitched or even killed a loved one," Hasan continued. "But I am suggesting that this is not the reason you're shooting. But instead, it's a symptom of the environment you find yourself in."

The Willamette Week reported in March that the city of Portland's gun violence numbers had dramatically increased since the start of near daily downtown protests following the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The outlet noted that Portland is currently averaging about two shootings every week in 2021.

Some have criticized the billboard campaign as less of against ending "self sabotage" within the Black community and more of an indictment against "white processors," as right-wing personality Andy Ngo suggested Monday.

"Billboard campaign in Portland by critical race theory group@thenohatezone blames white racism & slavery for black-perpetrated gun violence. Portland is set to break its record on shootings after the police gun violence reduction team was abolished last year for 'racial justice,'" Ngo tweeted.

Newsweek reached out to The No Hate Zone Tuesday morning for any additional details about the billboard campaign.

portland billboard anti-racism gun
The billboard shows an image of a Black man and a bullet with the message, "Racism + Self-hate = gun violence. Reject the oppression." Screenshot: YouTube