Sep 16, 2011
joined My Stranger Face
Sep 16, 2011
commented on Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race
I grew up in Seattle and for 30 years always thought of it as progressive and diverse. I grew up in an area that was white and lower income so there was a different kind of opression - the opression of poverty. For the longest time I had little empathy for people who suffered from racial injustices because I felt like economic inequalities were the primary obstacles to be attacked.
Today I realize that things are more complex than my youthful oversimplifications.
It wasn't until I left Seattle for about 12 years that I saw and lived in more integratied cities. New York and London are extemely diverse, more integrated, more racist, yet more open in their dialog. Seattle seems to care more yet do less in terms of openly acknowledging and trying to address segregation in the city. I've been driving around the last two months reaquainting myself with Seattle and it's segregated. Fact. Weirdly, after living in Hackney in London and Jackson Heights Queens, two of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in either city, I find myself here, feeling uncomfortable in traditionally non-white neighborhoods.
Why? I'm trying to figure this out. Why is it that in Seattle, with its progressive idealism and liberal values, I don't feel like I'd be welcome in a neighborhood that doesn't have a white majority? Why is it when I mention looking at houses outside of a certain area the realtor rolls her eyes and says, "you have to think about the property values in THAT neighborhood? Why do I worry that if I bought a house where I could afford I might be looked at as part of the next wave of "gentrifiers" and am suddenly burdened with guilt.
I know the Seattle you write about that thinks that racism doesn't exist here because I was that person. Racism completely exists here and in this place where everyone is polite, non-confrontational, and guardedly friendly, I can imagine that most people find it more convenient to ignore.
Thank you for writing this article.