Time to shed the ‘progressive mystique’ and confront racism in Seattle

by Sharon H ChangMar 2, 2015

The 1960 sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, NC is often cited as the beginning of the civil rights movement. At the time many white Greensboro residents considered themselves racially progressive. (Photo from Library of Congress)

By 2011 segregation across Seattle schools was worse than it was in the 1980s, a trend reflected nationally. Then in 2013 Seattle Public Schools fell under federal investigation when it was uncovered Black students were being suspended more than three times as often as white students beginning in elementary school.

But it’s not just in education that Seattle sees broad racial disparities. Seattle is a majority white city yet it’s homeless population, which has grown dramatically, is very disproportionately people of color particularly Black men. Seattle also represents one of the largest concentrated populations of Asian Pacific Islander poor in the nation. In 2010, the Seattle Police Department came under federal investigation after the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver. Investigators found SPD had engaged in excessive force that violated federal law and the Constitution. Seattle’s Police Union has traditionally held the reputation of being hostile towards antiracist efforts (a position which current union president, Ron Smith, only recently disputed). Meanwhile Seattle officers just keep making headlines for racist rants, abuse of power and discriminatory acts caught on camera.


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