Seattle Still Has to Overcome

We're Not as Post-Racial as We Think

Seattle Still Has to Overcome


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The Martin Luther King Jr. Day March through the city on Monday was heavy with support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but events last weekend drove home the important housing, educational, and economic crises threatening African Americans in Seattle.

At a panel for the Rise Up! Restore the Dream MLK workshops at Garfield High School on Monday, Dr. Thad Spratlen, professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Washington, provided hard numbers on economic inequality. Census data for 2010 reveals that the median household income for African Americans in Seattle is only 45 percent of the median for whites, averaging $30,116 versus $66,380, which heavily impacts the ability of African Americans to access housing and buy things the same way as white consumers. Coupled with a 16 percent unemployment rate (almost double the 8.5 percent rate for whites), this paints a bleak picture of the way African Americans are struggling to survive in a city with a tremendous amount of wealth and economic inequality.

Mayor Ed Murray attended an African and African American Diaspora event at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute on Saturday, where leaders of the black communities gave him specific calls to action on issues affecting youth, education, housing, arts, digital access, and community development. Community organizer Karen Toering asked that internet and computer access be placed high on the list of priorities. Producer and director Lola Peters received a standing ovation when she asked Murray to pay attention to all of the people telling him how they can strengthen their own community, giving power to their voices instead of the voices that often speak for them.

And Murray listened. He was quiet throughout the event, taking notes and speaking for only 10 minutes at the end. Most of us can manage that on a regular basis, but it was pretty cool that a new mayor didn't come with the bluster of his own agenda and legitimately came to hear what everyone had to say. recommended


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As a co-convenor of the African American African Gathering along with Mohamad Sheik Hassan, on Saturday Jan 18, we thank Mayor Murray for listening. We presented to him a full spectrum of who we are as a distinct population, some here for many generations, some more recently arrived.

We know that for Seattle to be a great City we must be great African Americans and we are and will get even better with a Mayor who has a vision for full inclusion, expected resident engagement, and improved experiences for African Americans. What a relief to have a leader of this great City see that equality is not yet in place and that African Americans have taken a major blow.

We invited other decision makers to come and listen to African Americans our inspirations, innovative solutions to problems others have not been able to solve, to action items that will take work only those who have the most to gain have the energy to do the work. Young African Americans have the most to gain, and they are already doing the work. All of Seattle should step up and help us build the capacity needed to get Seattle to equity and excellence.

The world is watching us and we can do better than what what we have allowed ourselves to become. How can we think having a dividing line that has a name makes us a great city. "North of the Ship Canal and South of the Ship Canal" should not make us feel any better than "North of the Mason Dixon Line and South of the Mason line did."

I was a freshman State Representative with Mayor Murray, he works hard and Saturday, we committed to work hard with him. We gave him a standing ovation because he came, he listened, and we know that he knows what hard work for equal justice entails. Others, non African Americans came to be with us. They wanted also to listen. A white woman told me this. There was a time when black women cared for white children and they never harmed them. We as whites should create the same level of safety for black children, we have not been so loving. We have work to do.

That was the sentiment of the day. We have work to do.

Posted by Dawn Mason on January 23, 2014 at 2:50 AM · Report this
Don't you mean "post-racist"?
Posted by 5th Columnist on January 28, 2014 at 7:50 PM · Report this

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